Things To Do In The Black Hills of South Dakota: Crazy Horse Memorial
After the start of the carving of Mt Rushmore, the Native Americans of the Black Hills wanted to have a sculpture celebrating their own heroes. They wrote to a sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski.
My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes too, wrote Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear when he invited Korczak to the Black Hills to carve the Crazy Horse memorial.
Korczal arrived in the Black Hills on May 3, 1947 to accept their invitation. When he started work on the mountain in 1949, he was almost 40 and only had $ 174 left to his name. Over the decades he battled financial hardship, racial prejudice, injuries, and advancing age. For years he and his sons were the only ones working on the monument.
Work on the sculpture continues today. When it is finished it will be 563 feet tall and 641 feet long. Much larger than Rushmore. The story of how and why the colossal memorial is being created is told at the visitor center.
If you go to the memorial at night in the summers, you can watch the Legends in Light show. It is a multimedia laser light show with photos and animation projected on the 500 foot mountain side.
The following was written by Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in May 1949.
Crazy Horse was born on Rapid Creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota in about 1842. While at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, under a flag of truce, he was stabbed in the back by an American soldier and died September 6, 1877.
Crazy Horse defended his people and their way of life in the only manner he knew.
Only after he saw the Treaty of 1868 broken,
This treaty, signed by the President of the United States, said in effect: As long as rivers run and grass grows and trees bear leaves, Paha Sapa the Black Hills of Dakota will forever be the sacred land of the Sioux Indians.
Only after he saw his leader, Conquering Bear, exterminated by treachery,
Only after he saw the failure of the government agents to bring treaty guarantees, such as meat, clothing, tents, and necessities for existence which they were to receive for having given up their lands and gone to live on the reservations.
Only after he saw his peoples lives and their way of life ravaged and destroyed.
Crazy Horse has never been known to have signed a treaty or touched a pen. Crazy Horse as far as the scale model is concerned, is to be carved not so much as a lineal likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse to his people. With his left hand thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by the white man, Where are your lands now? he replied,
My lands are where my dead lie buried.
They made us many promises, more than I can remember. They never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it! Red Cloud, Lakota, 1891
The Memorial is a great place to go for a history lesson. It is a memorial to a proud people that continue to thrive under harsh conditions. The memorial is run by a non-profit organization. All fees go towards building and maintaining the memorial.