Crazy Horse Memorial. They made us many promises - more than I can remember. They kept one. The promised to take our land and they did. Red Cloud Nothing lives long. Only the Earth and Mountains. White Antelope
Seventeen miles southwest from Mount Rushmore is the colossal Crazy Horse mountain carving.
Lakota Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear had heard about a man named Korczak Ziolkowski. Ziolkowski had earlier won first prize at the 1939 New York World's Fair for his sculpture of ... Paderewski, the Polish patriot and composer. Korczak Ziolkowski then carved the Noah Webster statue in West Hartford, Connecticut. (Am I the only one who sees the ET vibe going on here?) After that, Ziolkowski helped Gutzon Borglum carve Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills. That's how Chief Henry Standing Bear learned about Ziolkowski. The Lakota Sioux chief repeatedly wrote Korczak
on behalf of other tribal leaders.They had seen the development of Rushmore and invited Ziolkowski to carve a mountain in the sacred Black Hills to honor all tribes of American Indians. "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also." Ziolkowski and Standing Bear scouted potential monument sites together. Ziolkowski wanted to carve the memorial in the Wyoming Tetons where the rock was better for scultping, but the Sioux leaders insisted it be carved in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota. Enter a woman named Ruth Ross. Ross and friends had helped Ziolkowski carve the Noah Webster statue. Standing Bear visited Ziolkowski in Connecticut and spoke to classes at Ross' school. He was the first Native American they'd met and they learned he was related to Crazy Horse, the famous fighter at the Battle of the Little Big Horn against George Armstrong Custer and the cavalry troops. Ruth Ross thought coming to the West would be an adventure. She traveled halfway across the country, following Ziolkowski on his quest to carve a mountain, and stepped into the edges of wilderness in South Dakota's southern Black Hills. In the Black Hills, Ross could see a lot of rocky outcroppings, but which mountain was the right mountain? There were no roads. Just a lot of pine trees. It was June 21, 1947. Ross was five days shy of her 21st birthday. As I said, Ruth Ross thought coming to the West would be an adventure. It was. And still is 63 years later. Ruth Ross is Mrs. Korczak Ziolkowski. Ruth and Korczak raised 10 children together, 5 boys and 5 girls, and started the world's largest artistic undertaking - the Crazy Horse Memorial mountain carving. Today, Standing Bear's dream has grown into an enormous reality. Crazy Horse Memorial is mankind's largest art project in progress. 641 feet long. 563 feet high. Carved in the round with a 219-foot high horse head. The memorial is a non-profit undertaking and receives no federal or state funding. Ziolkowski actually was offered $10,000,000 from the federal government on two occasions, and both times he turned the offers down, fearing that his plans for broader educational and cultural goals for the memorial would be lost with federal involvement. Much of the earth-moving equipment used, as well as a lot of the dynamite, has been donated by corporations. Work on the monument is primarily supported by visitor fees, with more than 1 million people visiting annually. Ziolkowski tackled Standing Bear's challenge and started work on the mountain in 1948. Fifty years later, 1998, the face of Crazy Horse was unveiled. By the way, Ziolkowski was born on September 6 and Crazy Horse was stabbed in the back and died on September 6.
Ziolkowski started with chisels and hammers, doing backbreaking work by hand. The first blast on the mountain was on June 3, 1948 and took off 10 tons of granite. Since then, over 8 million tons of granite have been blasted off. Upon completion, the in-the-round figure of Crazy Horse astride his horse will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long. The nine-story-high face of Crazy Horse is complete and the 90-foot face was dedicated in 1998. The face itself is large enough to engulf the four faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. Korczak Ziolkowski died in 1982 at the age of 74. His wife, Ruth, and seven of their ten children, along with a dedicated staff, took on the monumental task of making the dream come true. One wonders what the three black sheep are doing with their lives. Crazy Horse's face was completed in 1998, giving lasting human form in granite to a once lofty wish. Crazy Horse looks out across his arm, pointing to the sacred Black Hills, saying, "My lands are where my dead lie buried." I hope I live long enough to see this finished.