Located about four hours from the Lewis and Clark Welcome Center and Museum in Chamberlain, South Dakota, is Crazy Horse Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This is the world’s largest in-progress mountain carving. Upon completion, it will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing to his tribal land. The memorial has been in progress since 1948 and it’s operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization.
The memorial master plan includes the mountain carving monument, an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Center. The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota. Henry Standing Bear (“Mato Naji”), an Oglala Lakota chief, and well-known statesman and elder in the Native American community, recruited and commissioned Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to build the Crazy Horse Memorial. Standing Bear wrote a letter to Undersecretary Oscar Chapman of the Department of the Interior, offering all his own fertile 900 acres in exchange for the barren mountain for the purpose of paying honor to Crazy Horse. The government responded positively, and the U.S. Forest Service, responsible for the land, agreed to grant a permit for the use of the land, with a commission to oversee the project. Standing Bear chose not to seek government funds and relied instead upon influential Americans interested in the welfare of the American Indian to privately fund the project.
In the spring of 1940, Ziolkowski spent three weeks with Standing Bear at Pine Ridge, South Dakota, discussing land ownership issues and learning about Crazy Horse and the Lakota way of life. According to Ziolkowski, “Standing Bear grew very angry when he spoke of the broken Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868). That was the one I’d read about in which the President promised the Black Hills would belong to the Indians forever. I remember how his old eyes flashed out of that dark mahogany face, then he would shake his head and fall silent for a long while.”
In 1998, both the head and face of Crazy Horse were completed and dedicated; Crazy Horse’s eyes are 17 feet wide, and his head is 87 feet high. The foundation commissioned reports from two engineering firms in 2009 to help guide completion of the project. Work commenced on the horse after two years of careful planning and measurements. Since the completion of the head and face, much of the monument’s sculpting work has been dedicated to the much larger horse portion.
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Crazy Horse Memorial, 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, South Dakota 57730, United States