One of the most memorable sites that I saw on my adventure to South Dakota! Yes Mount Rushmore is here too! As you will more likely know? But just a few miles down the road is the incredible Crazy Horse Memorial. The unfinished monument is and will be a fitting tribute to the Indian Chief, but let’s rewind and find out how it all began…
The year is 1939 at New York’s world fair and self-taught sculpture Korczak Ziolkowski has just won first prize for his “study of an immortal” When Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear learnt of this, he invited Korczak to the Black Hills of Dakota to start a quite astonishing task! To carve a staggering 563 foot high by 641 foot wide monument of Crazy Horse in a mountain side. Korczak started work on the craving in 1949; he was now 40 years old with just 174 dollars to his name. As time went on over the years Korczak battled racial prejudice as well as injuries and age! He also faced financial ruin as he was a big believer in the free enterprise system. He felt that Crazy Horse should be built by the interest of the people and not the taxpayer; he wanted the monument to be educational, nonprofit and cultural. With Korczak twice turning down government money of 10 million dollars a time! He was a man of his word. From the outset Korczak knew he wouldn’t finish the carving in his lifetime. So he and his wife Ruth made three books containing plans and scale models of what the project should look like, to make sure it continued well after his death. Sadly Korczak passed away in October 1982, but the Crazy Horse project is as active as ever. There are special events been held all year round from controlled blasts to Legends in Light Laser Show. The museum is excellent and well-presented and the gift shop is great for getting a few souvenirs.
But my final thought is with the men that made it all happen, Korczak Ziolkowski and Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear. Their vision of this incredible monument is amazing and their loyalty to what they believe and stand up for is a tribute to these fine men.
Written by Korczak Ziolkowski May, 1949
Crazy Horse was born on Rapid Creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota in about 1842. While at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, under a flag of truce, he was stabbed in the back by an American soldier and died September 6, 1877 age 35 (?)
Crazy Horse defended his people and their ways of life in the only manner he knew.
ONLY after he saw the Treaty of 1868 broken. This treaty, signed by the President of the United States, said, in effect: As long as rivers run and grass grows and trees bear leaves, Paha Sapa – the Black Hills of Dakota – will forever be the scared land of the Sioux Indians.
ONLY after he saw his leader, Conquering Bear, exterminated by treachery.
ONLY after he saw the failure of the government agents to bring required treaty guarantees, such as meat, clothing, tents and necessities for existence which they were to receive for having given up their lands and gone to live on the reservations.
ONLY after he saw his people’s lives and their way of life ravaged and destroyed.
Crazy Horse has never been known to have signed a treaty or touched the pen.
Crazy Horse, as far as the scale model is concerned, is to be carved not so much as a lineal likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse – to his people. With his left hand thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive.