AP Photo/Charles Bennett

Crazy Horse Memorial 63 Years in the Making


Crazy Horse’s face peers out from the granite monolith of Thunderhead Mountain, massive and imposing. This is a face that dwarfs the presidential visages some 17 miles away at Mount Rushmore.  This is a face envisioned by a long dead sculptor some 63-years ago, completed by his wife and children in an effort that included laser scanning, drilling, precision detonation, mucking and finishing. And this is a face that was never photographed or drawn at the request of Crazy Horse himself, making this likeness an homage to his spirit rather then a representation of his features, just another incredible facet of this mythic, controversial effort.

If the Crazy Horse Memorial being blasted and carved in South Dakota is ever completed, and there are a lot of people working very hard to make sure it is, it may be the largest stone carving on earth. Started in 1948, and courting controversy ever since, the monument was the idea of Chief Henry Standing Bear. He contacted Polish American sculptor Korczack Ziolkowski, a Mount Rushmore veteran, and told him that “the red man has heroes, too.” Thus begun Ziolkowski’s incredibleodyssey, devoting the rest of his life to a project so epic in scope his children may not live to see it completed.

If completed as close to specifications as possible, the sculpture itself will be that of the Sioux Leader astride a horse, left arm outstretched and pointing toward his land in the Black Hills. This posture has drawn the ire of Native Americans who state that it would be an unnatural thing for Crazy Horse to do, as pointing was considered rude, while others take umbrage with the context of this pose.  Not to mention those who feel desecrating Thunderhead Mountain goes against the spirit of the man, and that the time, effort, and funds pouring into the construction would be better spent helping the impoverished communities in the area. This is despite the fact that the finished sculpture will be the icon of a massive educational and cultural center, including a University and medical training center for the North American Indian and the Indian Museum of North America. The University has already attracted over a million dollars in scholarships with the majority going to Native students in South Dakota.

28-years after the death of its original sculptor, and 71-years after Chief Henry Standing Bear’s original idea, construction carries on. There are even blasting experts commending the relative speed with which the memorial is being built. This past Veteran’s Day, visitors were welcomed (for a fee of three cans of food per person for the KOTA Care & Share Food Drive) to watch a 1,000 ton dynamite blast at the carving site.  The event honored both the memorial of the venerable warrior and the history of the warrior spirit in Native Americans in general, who have one of the highest rates of military service of all ethnic groups by population percentage. When the memorial and its educational and cultural complex will be complete is still very unclear, but if the turnout at the blast event is any indication, it’ll be an impossible attraction to miss.

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Submitted by myche on
I was two years old and living in the Black Hills when this project was started. I left when I was thirteen and still don’t remember much having been done. At least today you can see some features in part of the project. Maybe it will take 200 years to finish or they are working on "Whenever time."

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