A group of protesters, reportedly mostly Native American, blocked the road to Mt. Rushmore several hours before the president was set to speak.
Yet another senior Donald Trump advisor has tested positive for COVID-19.
Mount Rushmore, which depicts U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, has not hosted a fireworks spectacle since 2009 because of environmental concerns.
"If you make something mandatory, particularly for the younger age groups we're talking about, many of them will rebel and do the exact opposite", he said Friday on NBC News.
Trump said media outlets "slander" him and "falsely and consistently label their opponents as racists".
Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend is the third person close to the president that has contracted the virus.
After months of declining to wear a mask in public and mocking those who did, including the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden - Trump seemed to change his tune on Wednesday.
Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania, can expect a warm welcome in South Dakota, a state he won easily in 2016.
The couple was in South Dakota to hold fundraisers for Trump's reelection. Four decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the lands had been taken illegally in violation of an 1868 treaty between the United States government and the Sioux Nation.
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Former Intelligence Community attorney Susan Hennessey said additional intel leaks were caused by the administration's "lies". During a press conference Wednesday, he said the media has twisted the narrative to stoke outrage against the White House .
Trump says, "Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America's destiny".
"The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites", Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, told AP.
On Friday, more than 100 protesters, many Indigenous, lined the road leading to Mount Rushmore holding signs and playing Lakota music in 35C-degree heat. "It's an injustice to actively steal Indigenous people's land then carve the white faces of the conquerors who committed genocide".
The president's event has also faced backlash for bringing a massive crowd - which issues 7,500 tickets for the fireworks display - in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic as the country struggles to keep cases from spiking during the reopening phase.
Several people who once oversaw fire danger at the national memorial have said setting off fireworks over the forest was a bad idea that could lead to a large wildfire.
The White House provided excerpts of Trump's remarks before he was to deliver them at Mount Rushmore Friday night.
Trump's list of those to be memorialized also singled out two recently deceased conservative icons, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and evangelist Billy Graham, as well as former President Ronald Reagan.
The event took place despite concerns from the city's mayor, but the crowds gathered at the National Mall for the air show and fireworks were reportedly thinner than those of previous year.
During the second annual "Salute To America" event held on the South Lawn, the president drew a comparison between historic American wartime victories and stopping the "radical left".