The Crazy Horse Memorial Story

The Crazy Horse Memorial in The Black Hills of South Dakota in many ways reminds me of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, begun in 1882 by the designer and architect Antonio Gaudi still unfinished today but progressing with an expected completion in 2026. Crazy Horse’s sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, distrusted the government maybe, after observing their treatment of the Indian people. Consequently The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation takes no federal or state funding. That and the great enormity of the project, the harsh weather, including lightening storms & blizzards, and the mountain’s high iron content, causing it to be much harder to carve, makes it very unlikely the carving will be completed in my lifetime or yours.

  La Sagrada Familia

A 1/34th scale model of the Crazy Horse Memorial (above) and the memorial as it appears today (below).

Note the tiny bulldozers & other heavy equipment on top of what will become Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm. You can also just make out the horse’s head sketched below and to the right of the hole that will become the space between Crazy Horse’s arm and the horse’s neck. To give you some perspective on the size of the Crazy Horse Memorial, the entire Mt. Rushmore carving would fit inside the space that will be created between Crazy Horse’s chest and outstretched arm and the horse’s neck & mane.

Crazy Horse was born to parents from two tribes of the Lakota division of the Sioux Indians somewhere in the Black Hills around 1840.

In 1877 Crazy Horse and his warriors fought their losing battle against the U.S. Calvary in Montana. This battle was in revenge for the killing of Lt. Col. George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn with his ally Chief Sitting Bull 6 months earlier.

Crazy Horse refused to surrender but he eventually realized the better equipped cavalry troops would eventually hunt down & destroy his cold and hungry people. Rather than leading his people to their inevitable death in hopeless battle, Crazy Horse instead led them, 1,100 Indians, to the Red Cloud Reservation near Nebraska’s  Ft. Robinson. Crazy Horse himself refused to surrender or succumb to the reservation but was eventually killed after resisting arrest by an Indian policeman.

In 1939, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear approached the talented Boston-born sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski who had gained recognition after the 1939 World’s Fair. Chief Standing Bear sent Korczak a letter saying,

“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also.”

After much deliberation Korczak accepted the challenge.

Crazy Horse has never been know to sign 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 linear likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse – to his people.”

Korczak began work on Thunderhead Mountain in 1948. Ruth Ross followed Korczak to the Black Hills from West Hartford, CT to volunteer her assistance on the project. They married in 1950, had ten kids and the memorial became a family undertaking.

Korczak and his wife have both died but several of their 10 children are still intimately involved in seeing to the completion of the memorial. I’m not sure we’ll see it in the future, but if you get the chance to observe what’s been accomplished to date, do not miss it! It’s very close to Mt. Rushmore and Custer State Park and it’s beautiful country.

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out Travel in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.


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