It Was a “Crazy” Kind of Day

It rained our plans out on the day we went to Mount Rushmore (see previous post). We were also going to go to the Crazy Horse Memorial that day. Because of the rain, we didn’t go. Yesterday provided us with another opportunity.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills of Custer County, South Dakota. When finished, it will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

The memorial was commissioned by Lakota elder, Henry Standing Bear. In November of 1939, Standing Bear wrote to a Polish-American sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, who had been working on Mount Rushmore under Gutzon Borglum (the man in charge of sculpting the four presidents on Mount Rushmore). In his letter, Standing Bear informed Ziolkowski “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes,too.”

Standing Bear also wrote to the Department of the Interior offering all of his fertile 900 acres of land in exchange for the barren mountain for the purpose of honoring Crazy Horse. The government agreed to issue a permit for the use of the land with a commission to oversee the project. Standing Bear did not want the government to have any say so over the project, so he chose not to seek government funds. He, instead, relied upon influential Americans interested in the welfare of the American Indian to privately fund it.

Korczak Ziolkowski, a well-known sculptor, started work on the monument in 1948. After 71 years, it is still not completed. There are many project unknowns that affect its completion: lightning storms, blizzards, and the mountain’s high iron content which makes the rock harder to carve to name a few.

Another factor is funding. The Crazy Horse sculpture is a nonprofit project which is funded entirely on admission fees and donations. There have been offers of state and federal funding over the years, but Ziolkowski turned them down. He did not believe the government would complete the carving.

Ziolkowski died in 1982 and was buried at the foot of the mountain. At that time, his wife, Ruth, took over the project as director of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Ruth died in 2014 at age 87. All ten of their children and two of their grandchildren have continued the carving of the monument or are active in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

Ziolkowski had plans for more than just a mountain sculpture. There is the Indian Museum of North America, The Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and the Indian University of North America. There are also plans for a medical center.

There is so much to see and do here, so plan to stay at least half a day, or, better yet, all day.

Yes! Those are people on top of the mountain. Five years ago when I was here with my dad, I don’t think they were letting people go to the top.

This model of the sculpture is 1/34th the size that the completed memorial will be (see the mountain in the background).

We decided to take a different route home than the one we took going to Crazy Horse. Everyone had told us about the beauty of the drive on Needles Highway (actually it’s Highway 87). We were excited to take that drive until ….. it started raining. We stopped at the Custer State Park entrance to ask one of the workers about taking the road in the rain. They said the road would be fine, so we headed down Needles Highway. Words cannot describe the beauty of the rock formations the higher up we got. I’m sure my photos would have been prettier had the sun been out, but you can’t change the weather.

After we finished traveling along Needles Highway, we headed home. The highways we had to take went through the middle of Custer State Park. This is a beautiful park that I hope we get to go through another day, and at a more leisurely pace.

However, there are some big horn sheep that seem to think they “own” the Highway. They were in the middle of the road in the morning, and they were (still???) there that afternoon (you can see the road is wet from the rain).

I wish I knew what was so “tasty” on that road.

It was a great day!

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


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