Gerard's Open Road

  • INTERVIEWED BY:

    Central Route

  • INTERVIEW LOCATION:

    Mt. Rushmore, SD

  • AIRED ON:

    Public Television: Season 2

  • ON DVD:

GERARD BAKER

Park Superintendent
Mount Rushmore

“I was told by a nun at Catholic boarding school, ‘You know, the best thing you can do with your life is to get a good job pumping gas in a gas station and stay with it.’ The highlight of my life was going back to that same school as the graduation speaker and telling the audience, ‘I’m not working at the gas station.’”

INTERESTS:

Environment & Nature

THEMES DISCUSSED:

Culture Determination Education Failure Hard Work Negativity Pressure Struggle Passion Family

FOUNDATION:

Upholding a cause I believe in

TAGS:

American Indian, basketball, catholic school, challenge, cleaning toilets, educating, grunt work, ignorance, intelligence, marriage, minority, natural environment, partying, picked up trash, preservation, proving yourself, pumping gas, reservation, respect, stubborn

BIOGRAPHY:

  • Grew up on a reservation; his father was a rancher so his goal for most of his life was to follow the same path.
  • Got into college on a basketball scholarship but spent too much time partying, flunked out; was married with kids at a very young age.
  • His father and grandfather told him “You’re not a warrior...you can’t even beat a pile of books,” this fired him up.
  • Remembered how much he loved his visit to a National Park, realized he wanted to work in the Park Service, took a park job cleaning toilets.
  • Worked his way up, applied to a job at Little Bighorn Battlefield; had to try four times then finally got the job.
  • The park only celebrated General Custer, who’d actually lost the battle; Gerard insisted that they bring Native American history into the story.
  • By the time he left, he’d had seven confirmed death threats and a petition for removal; people didn’t know how to deal with the change.
  • He stayed stubborn, fought for his culture; was offered a job at Mount Rushmore, became the first American Indian to hold superintendent position.

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