Crazy Horse Memorial

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Crazy Horse Memorial
A model of the planned statue, with the Crazy Horse Memorial in the background.
Coordinates43°50′12.44″N 103°37′27.79″W / 43.8367889°N 103.6243861°W / 43.8367889; -103.6243861Coordinates: 43°50′12.44″N 103°37′27.79″W / 43.8367889°N 103.6243861°W / 43.8367889; -103.6243861
LocationCuster County, South Dakota, United States
DesignerKorczak Ziolkowski
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Crazy Horse Memorial
A model of the planned statue, with the Crazy Horse Memorial in the background.
Coordinates43°50′12.44″N 103°37′27.79″W / 43.8367889°N 103.6243861°W / 43.8367889; -103.6243861Coordinates: 43°50′12.44″N 103°37′27.79″W / 43.8367889°N 103.6243861°W / 43.8367889; -103.6243861
LocationCuster County, South Dakota, United States
DesignerKorczak Ziolkowski

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument complex that is under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in Custer County, South Dakota. It depicts Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a private non-profit organization.

The memorial consists of the mountain carving (monument), the Indian Museum of North America, and the Native American Cultural Center. The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles (27 km) from Mount Rushmore. The sculpture's final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (27 m) high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high.

The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion.[1] If completed, it may become the world's largest sculpture, as well as the first non-religious statue to hold this record since 1967 (when it was held by the Soviet monument The Motherland Calls[2]).


Crazy Horse Memorial

In 1939, Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, initiated the project to honor Crazy Horse by writing to the Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, saying in part, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too."[3] The American sculptor had worked on Mount Rushmore in 1924 under Gutzon Borglum. Standing Bear and Ziolkowski scouted potential monument sites together. Ziolkowski suggested carving the memorial in the Wyoming Tetons where the rock was better for sculpting, but the Sioux leader insisted it be carved in the Black Hills, which are sacred to Lakota culture.[4] After making models, Ziolkowski started blasting for the monument in 1948.

The memorial is a non-profit undertaking, and receives no federal or state funding. The Memorial Foundation charges fees for its visitor centers and earns revenue from its gift shops. Ziolkowski reportedly was offered $10 million for the project from the federal government on two occasions, but he turned the offers down. He felt that the project was more than just a mountain carving, and he feared that his plans for the broader educational and cultural goals of the memorial would be overturned by federal involvement.[5]

Ziolkowski died in 1982. His widow, Ruth Ziolkowski, took charge of the sculpture, overseeing work on the project from the 1980s to the 2010s.[6][7] Ruth Ziolkowski decided to focus on the completion of Crazy Horse's face first, instead of the horse as her husband had originally planned.[6] She believed that Crazy Horse's face, once completed, would increase the sculpture's draw as a tourist attraction, which would provide additional funding.[6] She also oversaw the staff, which included seven of her children.[7]

Sixteen years later in 1998, the face of Crazy Horse was completed and dedicated.[8] The entire complex is owned by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Ruth Ziolkowski and seven of their ten children carried on work at the memorial.[3] Ruth and their daughter, Monique Ziolkowski, a sculptor, has modified some of her father's plans to make the sculpture work better. The foundation commissioned reports from two engineering firms in 2009 to help guide completion of the project.[9] Work commenced on the horse after two years of careful planning and measurements.[6] Ruth Ziolkowski died May 21, 2014, at the age of 87.[10]

Completed vision[edit]

The memorial is to be the centerpiece of an educational/cultural center, to include a satellite campus of the University of South Dakota, with a classroom building and residence hall, made possible by a US$2.5 million donation in 2007 from T. Denny Sanford, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota philanthropist. It is called the University and Medical Training Center for the North American Indian and the Indian Museum of North America. The current visitor complex will anchor the center.[3] Sanford also donated $5 million to the memorial, to be paid $1 million a year for five years as matching donations were raised, specifically to further work on the horse’s head.[9]

Paul and Donna “Muffy” Christen of Huron, South Dakota in July 2010 announced they are donating $5 million in two installments to an endowment to support the operation of the satellite campus. It holds classes in math, English and American Indian studies courses for college credit, as well as outreach classes. The memorial foundation has awarded more than $1.2 million in scholarships, with the majority going to Native students within South Dakota.[9]

Fundraising and events[edit]

Welcome ceremony for the UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter

The foundation sponsors Native American cultural events and educational programs. Annually in June, the Memorial hosts a Volksmarch, when the public is permitted on the mountain. Attendance has grown to as many as 15,000.

Much of the earth-moving equipment used is donated by corporations. The work on the monument has been primarily supported by visitor fees, with more than one million people visiting annually. The visitor center contains many pieces of rock blasted from the mountain: visitors may take samples in exchange for a small donation.

The Memorial began its first national fund drive in October 2006.[1] The goal was to raise $16.5 million by 2011. The first planned project was a $1.4 million dormitory to house 40 American Indian students who would work as interns at the memorial.[11]

Periodically the memorial publicizes blasting events, which attract thousands of people from all over the region. They may wait for hours as the clock counts down. The gala ends in numerous near-simultaneous detonations, and a great tumbling of rocks and dust down the mountain.


Crazy Horse resisted being photographed and was deliberately buried where his grave would not be found. Ziolkowski envisioned the monument as a metaphoric tribute to the spirit of Crazy Horse and Native Americans. He reportedly said, "My lands are where my dead lie buried." His extended hand on the monument is to symbolize that statement.[3]

Elaine Quiver, a descendant of Crazy Horse, said in 2003 that the elder Standing Bear should not have independently petitioned Ziolkowski to create the memorial. She believes that Lakota culture is based on getting a consensus from family members for such a decision, and no one asked the opinions of the descendants of Crazy Horse before the first rock was dynamited in 1948.[12] She said,

They don't respect our culture because we didn't give permission for someone to carve the sacred Black Hills where our burial grounds are. They were there for us to enjoy and they were there for us to pray. But it wasn't meant to be carved into images, which is very wrong for all of us. The more I think about it, the more it's a desecration of our Indian culture. Not just Crazy Horse, but all of us.[12]

Seth Big Crow, whose great-grandmother was an aunt of Crazy Horse (the Lakota are a matrilineal culture), said he wondered about the millions of dollars which the Ziolkowski family had collected from the visitor center and shops associated with the memorial, and "the amount of money being generated by his ancestor's name". He said,

Or did it give them free hand to try to take over the name and make money off it as long as they're alive and we're alive? When you start making money rather than to try to complete the project, that's when, to me, it's going off in the wrong direction.[12]

Other traditional Lakota oppose the memorial. In his 1972 autobiography, John Fire Lame Deer, a Lakota medicine man, said: "The whole idea of making a beautiful wild mountain into a statue of him is a pollution of the landscape. It is against the spirit of Crazy Horse."[13] In a 2001 interview, the Lakota activist Russell Means said: "Imagine going to the holy land in Israel, whether you're a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, and start carving up the mountain of Zion. It's an insult to our entire being."[14]

Having the finished sculpture depict Crazy Horse pointing with his index finger has also been criticized. Native American cultures prohibit using the index finger to point at people or objects, as the people find it rude and taboo. Some spokesmen compare the effect to a sculpture of George Washington with an upraised middle finger.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Walker, Carson (June 2, 2008). "Crazy Horse Memorial turns 60 with no end in sight". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-07-17. 
  2. ^ Karg, Barb; Sutherland, Rick (2010). Secret America: The Hidden Symbols, Codes and Mysteries of the United States. Adams Media. pp. 232–233. ISBN 978-1440505539. 
  3. ^ a b c d Crazy Horse Memorial Frequently Asked Questions
  4. ^ Obidinski, Eugene. "Storyteller in Stone". Polish American Journal. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  5. ^ Crazy Horse Memorial, Press Release, April 21, 2003
  6. ^ a b c d "Ruth Ziolkowski obituary: Driving force behind a decades-long project to sculpt a vast memorial to Crazy Horse out of the Black Hills of Dakota". The Guardian. 2014-05-27. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  7. ^ a b Griffith, Tom (2014-05-23). "Ruth Ziolkowski of Crazy Horse Memorial mourned". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  8. ^ Higbee, Paul, "Carving Crazy Horse", American Profile, April 27, 2001
  9. ^ a b c Soderlin, Barbara. "Progress quiets Crazy Horse doubts". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Crazy Horse Memorial fund drive to begin", Associated Press, August 21, 2006
  12. ^ a b c "Crazy Horse Memorial Generates Mixed Feelings", Voice of America News, 13 September 2003, accessed 21 June 2011
  13. ^ Lame Deer, John (Fire) and Richard Erdoes. Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions. Simon and Schuster, New York, New York, 1972. Paperback ISBN 0-671-55392-5.
  14. ^ Roberts, Chris. "Russell Means - American Indian Movement activist - Interview", The Progressive, September 2001, retrieved September 16, 2007
  15. ^

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