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