Our trip through Yellowstone National Park, Theodore Roosevelt NP, Devils Tower Memorial, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Wind Cave NP was exciting for me as I was seeing so many iconic places for the first time. In addition to these, a very pleasant surprise was our visit to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is a stop not to be missed when in this neck of the woods, or Black Hills.
Crazy Horse was a Sioux Indian chief who fought to preserve the ways of the Oglala Lakota Indian tribes in South Dakota. Although some facts are in dispute, he played a material role in the defeat of Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills and eventually the power and force of the American military led to the demise of this mythical Native American leader.
The force behind the carving of Crazy Horse, was sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, [core-chalk jewel-cuff-ski] who was initially in the Black Hills in 1939 helping Gutzon Borglum carve Mount Rushmore. In 1947, after winning several awards at the New York World’s Fair, and at the invitation of Chief Henry Standing Bear, Korczak Ziolkowsk returned to the sacred Black Hills to create a monument of Crazy Horse. Not all Lakota Indians are in favor of this extravagant project. Many local Native Americans feel the idea of making a sacred mountain into a statue of Crazy Horse is a pollution of the landscape. They believe it to be against the spirit of Crazy Horse, who refused to ever be photographed and never signed a single government document. Regardless, this world’s largest mountain carving slowly continues. The finished, carved head of Crazy Horse is 87 feet tall, compared to about 60 feet in height for the Mount Rushmore Presidents.
In the early days, Korczak Ziolkowski worked on the mountain alone, climbing many ladders and then having to climb down when the generator would cough and die. It made me wonder, where were the helpful locals during this time? Seems like they could have been of some material help in these early days. The on-site video almost makes it seem like part of Korczak’s plan was to have enough children to create a work force of his own. Six of his ten children, five boys, five girls and 23 grandchildren work on the project today. Since Korczak Ziolkowsk’s death in 1982, his wife Ruth and children have led the project. It is totally funded from donations and admission fees.