By Patricia Grady Cox
September 16, 2015
When you’ve wanted to visit a place ever since you first heard of it (and that would be decades ago), how wonderful it is that you are not disappointed when you get there!
The Crazy Horse Memorial held the number one spot on my list of places to visit during my 2015 Epic Road Trip. A giant sculpture of the Lakota leader is a Native American response to the four presidents carved into the Black Hills not far away. Henry Standing Bear, when arranging for the project’s sculptor, stated, “”My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also.”
Korczak Ziolkowski, who had worked on carving Mount Rushmore, responded to this plea. Construction began in 1948 with the first blast into the rock wall. According to the Memorial’s web page, five survivors of the Battle of the Little Big Horn were in attendance.
Crazy Horse’s face, 87 feet high, is the only section of the sculpture that is completed (June 1998). And it is spectacular. But the mountain is not the only thing to see. The visitor center contains two theaters
showing videos about the history of the monument, including footage of the sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and his wife Ruth (both now deceased). On the day I went, the spacious exhibit-filled center featured an artist-in-residence, Mr. Arthur Short Bull, selling original paintings and prints of his inspired water colors on paper. Three are now hanging in my hallway.
The memorial honors all North American Indian Tribes in the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, both part of the memorial. There are also exhibits honoring the sculptor and his family (6 of his 10 children continue to work on the project as well as many of his 23
grandchildren). Future plans for the memorial, in addition to someday completing the sculpture, include construction of the Indian University of North America® and Medical Training Center.
There is much to see at this memorial—the sculpture is just one part of a huge project funded entirely by contributions. No federal or state money is accepted. Anyone interested in Native American history, culture, and art will be fascinated by the story of this memorial as well as the exhibits. Anyone interested in how American Indian leaders forged such a close and beneficial friendship with a Polish sculptor from Massachusetts will also be fascinated. In the meantime, their webpage is well worth a visit, if for no other reason than to look at the photographs.
I hope to return someday. I will try to plan my visit to coincide with the bi-annual Crazy Horse Volksmarch (an organized hike). Participants get to hike up the construction site roads on the far side of the mountain, all the way to Crazy Horse’s face. All the way to where you can see the lands he points to.
Dog lovers: Mustang Sally was allowed on the grassy grounds and on the deck between the visitor center and the restaurant, but not in the visitor center or the museums. The rule was “Only dogs that can be carried are allowed inside.” My friend and I contemplated each taking an end and hauling Sally in with us, but she weighs 43 pounds and that would have restricted our visit even more than just taking turns going inside. Sally got to enjoy the bronze statues in the grassy areas and the deck between the gift shop and the restaurant.
If you’d like Mustang Sally’s observations on her 7,000 mile road trip, you can find photographs and commentary on her facebook page HERE. Please “like” while you’re there!
What place is on your “Must See” list?