Gerard Baker, until recently the superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Monument, has retired from the National Park Service.
Baker, a true gentle giant, rose from a worker who cleaned restrooms and did other menial work to being in charge of a magnificent and, to some, controversial national monument. I spent some time with Baker and came to like and admire him. Some felt he strove too hard to include a Native American perspective at Rushmore and I admit I was surprised when he told me his favorite view of the monument was from behind the faces, so he could see it as it was before the sculpture was in place.
Baker, a Mandan-Hidatsa Indian, also worked as superintendent of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and was the first superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Trail. His brother was the superintendent at the Badlands and for a time they worked in the same state.
He told me he didn’t want to remove the history and impact of white people but wanted to offer people a look at the Native Americans who also lived in the area and contributed to its story. He set up a tipi and Indian village at Rushmore and I toured it with him one day as we walked around the monument, admiring the famous four faces.
Here’s Baker talking about his service and the message he tried to deliver. I wish him the best and a long, pleasant retirement.