The Crazy Horse Memorial is as much about the history and preservation of the American Indian culture and heritage as it is about the endurance and dream of the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski.
Storyteller in Stone
Korczak’s extraordinary story started in Boston in the early 1900’s where he grew up in various foster homes. He was contacted by Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear after gaining recognition as a sculptor at the 1939 World’s Fair.
The Chief sent him a letter stating, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also.” After much correspondence back and forth, Korczak accepted the invitation to come to the Black Hills of South Dakota to begin what would become the world’s largest mountain carving in progress.
“Every man has his mountain, I am carving mine.” ~ Korczak Ziolkowski
He was 40 years old with $174 to his name when he started the remarkable undertaking. He had lived half of his life already and it wasn’t until the second half that he was married, fathered ten children and began a memorial that will be forever embedded into the minds of anyone that has had the opportunity to witness its grandeur.
The project became his everything and he focused on its creation until his death in 1982 at the age of seventy-four. His enthusiasm and motivation toward finishing the monument has trickled down to the lives of his children, with many of them still part of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation today.
Crazy Horse Memorial – A Richly Deserved Tribute to the American Indians
America has a dark past of encroachment and invasion that most of us forget about. The New World wasn’t new to some as the Native Indians had been on this land for hundreds of years first. During the western expansion, tensions rose between the natives and settlers. The American government forced the natives to move onto reservations.
Crazy Horse, a war leader of the Oglala Lakota, never gave up his ideals that the land belonged to his people. He fought against the government in various battles including the Battle of Little Bighorn in June 1876. The memorial is not necessarily to honor Crazy Horse himself, but the spirit of Crazy Horse and his people.
When asked, “Where are your lands now?” He replied with an outstretched hand, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.” ~Crazy Horse
Be Part of History in the Making
One of the unique things about the Crazy Horse Memorial is that the massive sculpture is not complete and has years to go. It is privately owned versus a federal project like Mount Rushmore which poses various challenges including funds. The completed memorial will be Crazy Horse on his steed, pointing his finger in the distance. The face is completed, but it is an ongoing development. The current effort is focused on the hand and the horse’s mane.
The Crazy Horse Memorial Experience
Start your visit in the Orientation Center with watching the “Dynamite and Dreams”
movie, an introduction to the memorial and its history. The movie presents clips of interviews with Korczak, his wife, Ruth and some of their children. It is an informative and entertaining short film.
After the film, make your way through the Indian Museum of North America and Native American Cultural Center to learn about the American Indian heritage. Many artifacts, arts and crafts are on display in both areas.
The veranda has a great observation deck for views from a distance, but for an additional $4 a person you can take a bus to the bottom of the monument for close up views.
Wander around Korczak’s log studio home and workshop for an insider glimpse into mountain life and his carving creativity.
Before you go, don’t forget to stop at the information desk for a return ticket for the “Legends in Light” laser light show (in season) shown at 10 pm on the rock formation. It’s included in the ticket price and shows from May 27th to September 30th.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is a must-see when visiting South Dakota. Once completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world. Be captivated by its story and take part in history in the making.
“Never forget your dreams.” ~Korczak Ziolkowski
Crazy Horse Memorial Details
Between Hill City and Custer
SD Hwy 16/385
2016 Rates: $11 per person (or $28 per carload)
Thank you South Dakota CVB for providing us tickets to the memorial. All words and opinions, however, are my own.
Have you visited Crazy Horse? What did you think?
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