By CARSON WALKER
Associated Press Writer
MOUNT RUSHMORE NATIONAL MEMORIAL, S.D. - The huge granite faces of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt evoke the ideals of the country's leaders as America changed from rural republic to world power.
To many American Indians, though, the imposing monument in the Black Hills is a painful symbol of treaties broken by the federal government. And they want their story told.
The man doing that is the park's superintendent, Gerard Baker, himself an American Indian who
completes his first year on the job May 31. His potential audience is 3 million annually, the number of visitors to the memorial each year.
''What I want to do is educate America, including Indian people, children mainly, as to how the Indian people lived before the coming of the white man,'' Baker said.
A member of North Dakota's Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, Baker acknowledged he doesn't like controversy but deals with it because of his desire to educate people and challenge them to learn more about different cultures.
One of the memorial's most ardent opponents is Charmaine White Face, who heads Defenders of the Black Hills.
''Many of us consider this our treaty territory,'' White Face explained. ''Mount Rushmore is an insult because the Black Hills are sacred.''
White Face complimented Baker for his education philosophy but said she has conflicted feelings about him holding the park's top post.
''His presence implies to the millions of tourists that we agree with that monstrosity, that desecration,'' she said.
Before coming to Mount Rushmore, Baker had overseen Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Oklahoma, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana and the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail.
Baker said he took the job only after talking to his family and elders at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, where he grew up.
In the end, he said he decided he could use the position for good by informing people about a part of U.S. history they may not be familiar with.
Baker said he wants to teach people about ''not only tepees and horses and battles, but families,'' he said. ''What did Grandma do? What did Grandpa do? What did the kids do?''
Baker said changes at the park will come in ''baby steps.'' He said he plans eventually to include information about the government's breaking of treaties with American Indian tribes.
''We know about the breaking of the treaties, the taking of the Black Hills,'' he said. ''I'm not too concerned at this point in time to get that message out right away.''
Baker said his first goal has been to introduce visitors to a variety of cultures through presentations and he has already invited Norwegians, Russians and people from some American Indian tribes as presenters.
''The people loved it,'' he said. ''The people are hungry for this.''
Baker said he hired a cultural demonstrator to head up the effort and wants to open walking trails on the 1,000-acre memorial to use nature as a classroom.
However, ''you also have to tell the negative side of the story,'' he said. ''I don't think we've ever done that.''