Monday, February 03, 2014

A Story Told In Stone

As we drove up the driveway we knew what we were looking for but surprised that we couldn't see it. It was big. We knew that. So where was it? 

Then we saw the mountain, and as we got closer what we were looking for became clear.
We were at the Crazy Horse Memorial.  And it was an entirely different kind of Crazy Horse than we'd seen in the past.  
When I zoomed in with my camera, I was able to see the face of Crazy Horse, the Lakota leader who was born on Rapid Creek in the Black Hills of South Dakota about 1842.  His face and what's going to be his arm and finger pointing out across the land of his people are the only discernible parts of the sculpture.  The memorial represents the spirit of Crazy Horse to his people, and the left hand pointing out to the distance, is in answer to a question that was posed to him by a white man.  That white man asked in a mocking tone, "Where are your lands now?"

His answer:  "My lands are where my dead lie buried."

The mountain is massive.  The hole that you see in the middle is 100 feet high by 110 feet wide, big enough to fit a ten-story building in.  The face alone is nine stories high.  The first blast to start the carving was done on June 3, 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who was almost 40 years old when he began.  The information in the brochure states that  Korczak was completely self-taught and never took a formal lesson in art, sculpture, architecture, or engineering.  He came to South Dakota with $174 in his pocket and dedicated the rest of his life to the project.  He knew he'd never see it completed in his lifetime - he died in 1982 - so he left detailed plans for it to be continued.

They've made very slow progress, for many reasons.  One, the entire project is privately funded.  No federal funds have been used for this sculpture.  In fact, the artist twice turned down offers of $10 million dollars from the federal government.  He wanted the project to be for the people, paid for by the people enjoying it, not by taxes.  And he didn't want his plans for the project to be derailed by a government making decisions regarding it.

Another reason for the slow progress is that most of the work was initially done by Korczak alone.  He did have ten children, and today seven of the ten work on the mountain or for the mountain.  We were told by a gift shop employee that there are currently only seven people who work on the mountain, every day, Monday through Friday.  And there are times when the visiting public can even watch the blastings.

Zooming in further still, you can see the completed face.  It's really quite amazing, the size of it.  To give you an idea of how big it is, the four faces of the Presidents on Mt. Rushmore can fit inside just the head of the Crazy Horse carving. 

There are big plans for the future of the memorial location, including an American Indian University and Medical Training Center.  The Indian Museum of North America is housed at the Welcome Center on the property.  The interior of the building, glossy wood in all directions, is beautiful. The website states the museum incorporated Korczak’s love of wood and natural lighting, and it's certainly obvious.  This room has a wall of windows, overlooking the mountain.
Across from the window wall, are pictures of Native Americans, many who were part of or witnessed the Battle of Little Bighorn, commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand.  I didn't know those were the same thing - so much for my history lessons.
The majority of these Native Americans - with names like James Come Again, Henry Little Soldier, Joseph High Eagle, and John Sitting Bull, adopted son of the famed Hunkpapa Sioux Chief Sitting Bull - lived well into their eighties and nineties. 
Here you can see part of the Tribal Flag Collection, in one of the rooms of the museum.  There are currently more than 125 flags in the collection.
On the back porch area is the 1/34th scale model of the sculpture, which weighs 16 tons.  Other rooms in the museum house equipment used to carve the mountain, and there's even a bin where you can get a piece of the stone from the mountain to take home with you.
The carving has not been without some controversy, and many wonder when it will be finished, but no matter who says what, it doesn't really take away from the fact that it's really a spectacular sight.   

I'd say you can pretty much guarantee, barring the decimation of the earth, that it'll be standing long enough to take your children and grandchildren to see. 

Hopefully by then, they'll be a little further along in the carving process. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2013: Eddie Sandwich
2012: Finally – Freight To Buzz About!
2011: For The Crybabies
2010: Chillin’ In Utah
2009: Taking The Peas For A Ride In A Cozy Little Shell
2008: Wyth Jane’s Kin In Wytheville
2007: Color In Architecture
2006: Living On
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!


MAE said...

This is one of the most spectacular displays I have ever seen. What determination and skills gave this gift to the world. Thanks for bringing new information to me. I like 'traveling' with you.

Mick said...

Just astonishing. Its so hard to give that project any idea of scale. When we got home from the vacation where we saw it, so many people didn't even know of it's existence. Looks like you had beautiful weather-was it cold?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I hope to make it there one day. So thank you for the wonderful pictures. It is always great to see from someone else's view.

Safe travels,
Your NA Friend :)

The Daily Rant said...

MAE: It really is spectacular. And you would love it because you're so interested in Native Americans. The photos of the Indians were amazing, there was a family tree on one wall that was very cool, and they have over 11,000 artifacts in the museum which include clothing, pipes, stone arrowheads, jewelry, etc. Very cool.

MICK: It's really hard to convey how big it is. We saw a video at the Welcome Center that compared its size to other monuments - like the Washington Monument or Statue of Liberty - it gives you perspective. You can probably Google it. And I read one piece that compared its existence to Stonehenge - maybe someday people will come across these mountain carvings and wonder who did it - long after any documentation is gone, of course. LOL

NA FRIEND: Isn't it truly amazing? You would really enjoy visiting, especially the Indian Museum of North America. So much to take in. All the flags from each nation, the maps, everything. You'd enjoy it.

The Daily Rant said...

MICK: Forgot to say - the weather was beautiful. Nice and sunny and not too cold, about 35-40 degrees. And no wind, which was nice. :)

Gil said...

Thanks for posting this. It is one of the places we skipped on our cross country tours.

Unknown said...

Would love to explore such places and i am sure during these times we get to take care of so much 3 days trip from new york is working majorly to me and in all these ways its all acceptable.