“My lands are where my dead lie buried.” ~ Crazy Horse
Friday morning I left my Kozy KOA Kabin……and drove to the Crazy Horse Memorial only twenty minutes away.
Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse are less than an hour from each other. If you wish to see them both in the same day I would suggest going to Mount Rushmore first. At Mount Rushmore you don’t have to pay at the parking area to get some great photos but simply pull over on the side of the road that traverses the mountain; to learn the history of the Rushmore Mountain carving then you must pay the eleven dollar fee and park at the base, but even that shouldn’t be too time consuming, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the Crazy Horse Memorial. Another reason is the shear size: at 563 feet high the Crazy Horse Memorial is much more than just the world’s largest rock carving in progress — Crazy Horse’s head is large enough to contain all of the heads of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore! Seeing the monuments in reverse might make Mount Rushmore seem…underwhelming. And yet another reason is that Crazy Horse has a laser-light show at night that is displayed on the side of the mountain. There is also a restaurant, theater, numerous art works, live Indian shows and the artist’s log home at Crazy Horse.
The Crazy Horse Memorial has an expansive museum that pays tribute not only to Crazy Horse “Tasunka Witko” and the North American Plains Indians but to all Native Americans who called North America home before the white man invaded and destroyed their way of life. Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Lakota tribe wanted a tribute to be built in the sacred lands of the Black Hills, near Mount Rushmore, to remind “the white man that the red man had great heroes, too.” The museum also pays tribute to Korczak Ziolkowski, the artist who accepted the challenge of building this colossal monolith, his magnum opus, honoring Native Americans.
Korczak Ziolkowski was born in Boston and orphaned at age one. A self-taught artist, he won First Prize at the 1939 World’s Fair for his sculpture of Ignacy Jan Paderewski and then went on to become an assistant on the carving of Mount Rushmore. Korczak researched and planned the Crazy Horse cenotaph for a few years but put the project on hold when he volunteered for service in the United States Army. He was wounded at Omaha Beach, France but later returned to the Black Hills to continue the Crazy Horse project.
The first blast of the Crazy Horse Memorial, located on Thunderhead Mountain, was in 1948 and now, over six decades later, after millions of tons of rock have been removed, the monument is only halfway to completion. They estimate that it will take another sixty years to finish! Korczak knew it would take longer than his lifetime to finish so he created detailed plans and a number of scaled models for his wife and children to carry on the tradition in this multi-generational project. Seven of his ten children work there and his grandchildren will probably finish this amazing project! It is truly a family affair.
It was eleven dollars to enter the site and all monies go to the future development of, not only the mountain but, the Indian Museum of North America and the Indian University of North America, which opened its first classroom in 2010 and is located at the base of the mountain. They are a non-profit organization and all development is privately funded through donations, fees, retail, etc. In fact, Korczak Ziolkowski and his family have never taken any money from the government or the Lakota Indians who offered financial help many times; the government offered twenty million dollars but he refused, preferring to operate in a free enterprise system and when the Lakota offered money, Korczak Ziolkowski said that a monument should not be paid for by those who are being honored.
These are some of the other works on display that Korczak created in his spare time. I asked one of his daughters when he had spare time…? She said, “It’s tough to work on the mountain when it’s buried under a few feet of South Dakota snow.”
I hope this sacred place brings great pride to America’s indigenous people.
The gam continues…