Crazy Horse Memorial, near Custer, South Dakota, is a huge work-in-progress mountain sculpture of Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse… riding a horse. A similar creative endeavor to the four presidents’ faces on Mount Rushmore (only 17 miles away), the sculpture is being carved into and blasted out of Thunderhead Mountain in the Black Hills.
Mount Rushmore, this sculpture isn’t finished yet – and might not be
finished for another 50 years or longer. The other difference: this work
of art, memorial and tourist attraction is not financed by any
government but is a private family endeavor!
Originally commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, Polish-American artist Korczak Ziolkowski
began work on the mountain sculpture in 1948. He has since passed away –
but his family continues the work of getting the monument finished.
They also manage the memorial, which includes the Indian Museum of North
America, the Native American Cultural Center, a restaurant, and several
other smaller sculptures, like the Nature Gates, the Fighting Stallions
and a tribute to 9/11 victims and first responders.
was a lot more excited to see the Crazy Horse monument than those Mount
Rushmore heads. As many Germans are, I’m very fascinated with Native
American culture and its heroes and was very moved by Henry Standing
Bear’s statement “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to
know the red man has great heroes, too.”
Yet, when we arrived at Crazy Horse Memorial
after just having explored Mount Rushmore, I was quite disappointed how
far away the area where you’re allowed to be (museums, shops, theater)
is from the actual monument. For a lot of money, you could take a bus up
onto Crazy Horse’s arm and stare him right into his huge face. It
didn’t fit into the Moving Postcard budget. By the time we realized that
for only a few dollars you could take another bus to the bottom of the
mountain, we had already spend more time than planned there and were
eager to explore some nature before having to head back to Colorado that
day. I do regret not seeing the monument a little bit closer-up – but I
have no regrets about what we got to see instead that afternoon and
evening… which I will share another week…
What was really cool
is to see such a large-scale work in progress and to know that it’s
been worked on for over 50 years and probably won’t be finished for as
many decades. This visit, the whole trip and including the day at Bear
Lodge (aka Devils Tower) have made me contemplate the situation of the
Native Americans (past and present) even more than before and will be
something I’ll continue to explore.
I think it’s great that this
monument is being built to give us pause and contemplate issues of
Native Americans and their status within history and today and to remind
us of their heroes. Unfortunately, it also turns out that this memorial
is rather controversial for various reasons, including outrage over the
sculpture being carved into a sacred mountain.
When the Crazy
Horse monument is finished, it will be the largest sculpture in the
world (unless someone else builds something taller). Already, the head
of Crazy Horse is bigger than the four presidents.
If you’d like to see more from the Black Hills trip, please check out these previous videos: