Crazy Horse, SD — On any given day — weather permitting — the sounds of heavy machinery echo through the Black Hills just outside Custer, South Dakota. Little by little, the spirit of Crazy Horse emerges from atop Thunderhead Mountain, along with his stone likeness.

Chief Crazy Horse was a badass—and I mean that with the utmost respect. The Oglala Lakota leader was a fierce warrior who fought to preserve his peoples’ traditions and way of life. Together with Hunkpapa Lakota Chief Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and his men defeated General George Custer and his troops in the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, a battle popularly known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

It was a dark time in US history. White European settlers’ relentless hunger for expansion forced the Indians from their ancestral lands and onto reservations. Treaties and agreements were made, then broken. Shattered dreams and broken promises mark the so-called “Winning of the West.” Even today, Native American communities continue to battle for respect, facing such challenges such as high unemployment, alcoholism, drug abuse, and poverty.

Korczack Ziolkowski was an emerging east coast sculptor in 1947 when he accepted an invitation to carve the stone tribute out of a Black Hills mountain. Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear invited Ziolkowski to carve the memorial, he wrote, because “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also.”

Ziolkowski made the monument his lifelong mission, and although he died in 1982, his family continues his dream. The nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation does not accept public funding, and is entirely dependent upon donations and admission fees, so the memorial’s completion date is uncertain, at the mercy of the whims of the economy and the weather. When finished, the chief astride his stallion will be the world’s largest mountain carving at 641 feet long by 563 feet high.

The memorial attracts over a million visitors a year, many of them attendees of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August. At $5 per rider, it’s a bargain, and a Black Hills must-see.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Crazy Horse Memorial

12151 Avenue of the Chiefs
Crazy Horse, SD 57730-8900
605.673.4681

www.crazyhorsememorial.org

About Glen Abbott
Glen Abbott is a Florida-based travel writer & photographer specializing in motorcycle touring and travel. He is regular contributor to Harley-Davidson's HOG Magazine, and his travel features appear regularly in motorcycle magazines and other publications.

View all posts by Glen Abbott »

11 Comments
  1. diamond56

    October 26, 2011

    I have been waiting a long time to see this finished! I remember when they were first planning it out and the joke in the area was that crazy horse had the wrong finger extended towards Mt. Rushmore 🙂
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  2. sasuke05

    October 9, 2011

    I remember when they were first planning it out and the joke in the area was that crazy horse had the wrong finger extended towards Mt. Rushmore.. | 😛
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  3. jade

    January 31, 2011

    Had no idea this existed, but incredible story.

  4. adventureswithben

    January 31, 2011

    Seriously, this thing isn’t done yet? I did a family road trip with my dad like 12 years ago and it looked exactly the same.

  5. Laurel

    January 31, 2011

    I haven’t heard of this either, but fascinating story. I hope enough private funding comes through.
    Laurel recently posted..Best Way to Learn a Language – Besides Speaking It

  6. Renee King

    January 31, 2011

    Glen,
    I had no idea about this. Thank you for educating me about this beautiful story. I hope that they secure enough private funding to complete the project. It’s long overdue.
    Renee King recently posted..Why its just plain wrong to see a McDonalds Restaurant across from the Roman Pantheon

  7. Adam

    January 31, 2011

    I didn’t know a whole lot about this either. Very cool story. It’s going to be interesting to see when this finally gets finished.
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  8. Todd | Todd's Wanderings

    January 31, 2011

    I have been waiting a long time to see this finished! I remember when they were first planning it out and the joke in the area was that crazy horse had the wrong finger extended towards Mt. Rushmore 🙂
    Todd | Todd’s Wanderings recently posted..Compromising Travel Photo Contest- Win a 50 Itunes Gift Card

  9. Christopher

    January 31, 2011

    Enjoyed this. I knew almost nothing on this subject, but now I know lots. Thanks 🙂

  10. inka

    January 31, 2011

    Another great find, Glen and you have such an entertaining way to tell the stories.
    inka recently posted..The world’s weirdest gym

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