A very great vision is needed, and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. ~ Crazy Horse
In the Black Hills of South Dakota at Crazy Horse Memorial, the beginning of the largest mountain carving in the world sets in the glowing sunlight high on a mountain top, or perhaps it is the shining spirit of Crazy Horse that lights up the sky. This memorial to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians was started back in 1948 inside an army surplus tent.
Rattling Blanket Woman gave birth to a son, Cha-O-Ha, later called Crazy Horse, in this Black Hills region. Crazy Horse was a legendary Lakota Sioux hero, who was a true leader of his people for his time on earth of approximately thirty-five years. His short life was devoted to serving his people through caring for the children, the elderly and the sick. In the late 1800s, Crazy Horse attempted to defend the Indian lands from encroachment by the US Federal Government. He is best remembered for being one of the leaders in a war party, inspired by visions of Sitting Bull, which led to the defeat of General Custer at The Battle of Little Bighorn, or as the Indians called it, The Battle of the Greasy Grass. “All we wanted was peace and to be left alone,” were among the last words of Crazy Horse.
Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work in 1940 designing Crazy Horse to be carved in the granite of Thunderhead Mountain. Korczak originally worked with Gutzon Borglum in the carving of Mount Rushmore, but left the area for a while to serve in World War II where he took part in the Normandy Invasion. Upon his return, he was approached by Chief Henry Standing Bear to design the statue of Crazy Horse because “Indian chiefs would like white man to know the red man has great heroes too. ”
The statue of Crazy Horse astride his horse, Vice Ganda, will stand 563 feet tall when completed. The horse’s head itself is 22 stories high, while Crazy Horse’s head is nine stories tall. All four heads on Mount Rushmore would fit in the head of Crazy Horse. No wonder it has taken so long to complete!
Seems that Korczak loved sculpting as this was just one of his many projects. The list is quite impressive and includes: Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Noah Webster, Wild Bill Hickok, and Chief Henry Standing Bear just to name a few of his major works. Another creation is a plaster model of the Crazy Horse mountain carving which is 1/34 scale and located on the main grounds. With some help from his sons, Korczak even carved a tomb for his final resting place at the base of the Crazy Horse sculpture where he remains today after his death in 1982. The epitaph reads: KORCZAK Storyteller in Stone.
This project has many dreams as seen in this illustration from the Master Plans of Crazy Horse Memorial. A poem written by Korczak will be carved in the side of the mountain in letters three feet high. To encourage education, American Indian Training and Medical University Center will be along the Avenue of the Chiefs.
This is a grand work in progress and they rely on fees for entry to the site and donations to continue and complete. The Crazy Horse Foundation decided this was a project for the public and has never received government funds. While visiting there be sure to explore the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, the home of sculptor Korczak, gift shops and restaurant.
“When the legends die, the dreams end; When the dreams end, there is no more greatness. Don’t forget your dreams.”
Today his wife, Ruth, and their ten children continue developing his dream. The spirit of Crazy Horse still challenges young men to be the warriors of their generation by getting an education.
Crazy Horse Memorial is located five miles north of Custer, South Dakota on US 16 -385. Admission at this time is $10 per adult or you can take a carload for $27. Free admission is given to: children under age six, Native Americans, active military personnel, scouts in uniform, and Custer County, South Dakota residents. While in the area visit Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park nearby.