Archaeology

History of the Carving of Crazy Horse Monument



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The Crazy Horse Memorial is currently under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota approximately 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. Construction began on the mountainside monument in 1948, under the direction of Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish American sculptor. Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear initially contacted Ziolkowski, who worked for Gutzon Borglum on the famous Mount Rushmore monument, in 1939 expressing his interest in commissioning a sculpture to honor the famous Oglala Lakota warrior. After searching many different locations, Ziolkowski had argued for locating the monument in the Wyoming Tetons due to the type of rock available there but Indian leaders were adamant about not moving it outside of the sacred Black Hills. Thunderhead Mountain was chosen as the monuments location. And when finished, it will earn the title of the world’s largest sculpture, measuring 563 feet (172 m) high and 641 feet (195 m) wide. The scale model of the monument depicts Crazy Horse riding his galloping horse, with wind blowing his hair back as points ahead to a point in the distance.

The sculptor spent his remaining days working on the monument, until he passed away in 1982. Since then his ten children and wife have remained closely involved with the project, whose land is owned by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. A dedication ceremony was held in 1998 in honor of the completion of the face of Crazy Horse. The University and Medical Training Center for the North American Indian is also located at the site of the monument, and it was opened in 2010. While there is no completion date known, the goal is to make the area a cultural center for the North American Indian.

Work at the monument is funded entirely through private donations and visitor fees, and it takes no federal or state money for its operations. They also hold an annual event every June that has grown to over 15,000 visitors. During this event, the public is allowed access to the mountain to participate in the Volksmarch. Before his death, the federal government twice offered to give Ziolkowski $10 million for the project, but he turned them down both times.

The work is not without its criticism though. Some Native Americans and Lakotas object to the desecration of their sacred land by carving the leader out of the mountainside. They argue that Crazy Horse, who objected to his picture being taken and took steps to keep his burial site a secret, would consider it offensive to the natural beauty of the landscape.

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