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.
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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!