Within the Black Hills of South Dakota in the United States, the world’s largest sculpture is slowly being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain. The Crazy Horse Monument has been under construction since 1948.
When completed it will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse while pointing into the distance. The Crazy Horse Memorial is the eighth stop, in the series Off The Beaten Path.
The final dimensions of the Crazy Horse sculpture is to be 563 feet (172 meters) high and 641 feet (195 meters) wide. The face of Crazy Horse alone, is 87.6 feet (26.70 meters) high. The nose itself is 27 feet long. The eyes are 17 feet wide.
Some of the other dimensions of the sculpture include, the outstretched arm which will be 263 feet, the horse’s head at 219 feet high (22 stories) and the horse’s mane at 62 feet high. The opening under the warrior’s arm will be 70 feet wide and 100 feet high.
The closest comparison in size that can be made is to Mount Rushmore, which is just 17 miles away. The heads of the four sculpted American Presidents, are each 60 feet or (18 meters) high.
Mount Rushmore was completed in 14 years and the total cost was less than $1 million USD (United States Dollar).
Construction on the Crazy Horse Monument consumes near $1.75 million annually, which is about one quarter of the yearly budget of the foundation established, for the decades long project. The final date of completion remains unknown.
The site is privately owned, despite being one of the major tourist attractions since the late 1990s, when the face was finished. It is located on land considered sacred, by some of the Oglala Lakota people.
The memorial was originally commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, and elder of the Lakota nation in late 1939. He engaged the services of the famous Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who had previously worked on Mount Rushmore under Gutzon Borglum.
In his original letter to Mr. Ziolkowski, he informed the sculptor My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes too.
Standing Bear later decided to write a letter to the then Undersecretary Oscar Chapman of the Department of the Interior. He proposed offering all his own 900 fertile acres of land in exchange for the barren mountain, in the purpose of paying honor to the legendary warrior Crazy Horse.
The United States government responded with a permit through the National Forest Service, agreeing to the project.
There was also a commission set up to oversea the project, but Standing Bear chose not to seek government funds. He instead wanted to rely upon influential and wealthy Americans interested in the culture of Native Americans. These individuals would hopefully, privately pay for the project.
In the first half of 1940, Ziolkowski would spend three weeks with Standing Bear, at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
During this time he learned about the legend of Crazy Horse and the Lakota way of living. It was at this time that he began the new journey, that would consume the rest of his life.
At the commencement ceremony in 1948, with the first blast of rock on the mountain, five survivors of the Battle of the Little Bighorn attended.
From the beginning the entire project was a non-profit undertaking. Sculptor Ziolkowski was reportedly offered $10 million USD from the federal government, on two different occasions. He would turn down these public funds.
Ziolkowski felt the project was more than just a mountain carving, and feared his plans for the more extensive cultural and educational goals of the memorial, would be overturned by intrusive federal involvement.
The Memorial Foundation charges fees for its visitor centers and earns a constant stream of revenue from its gift shops. Over a million tourists arrive every year from both the United States and abroad.
The master plan includes the monument, an Indian University of North America, an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Center.
After Mr. Ziolkowski died in 1982, his widow Ruth took over the project and leadership of the foundation. She made the wise decision to focus on the completion of the face of Crazy Horse first, rather than the horse, as her husband had originally planned.
The judgment was made by Mrs. Ziolkowski, because she believed the face once completed, would increase tourism, which would then provide increased funding for the project. After completion of the face in 1998, Ruth and seven out of her 10 children, would carry on with work on the memorial.
Daughter, Monique Ziolkowski herself a sculptor, began a slight modification of her father’s original design. She wanted to be sure the outstretched arm when completed, would have sufficient support.
The foundation would also commission reports from two engineering firms in 2009, to help guide completion of the project.
Ruth Ziolkowski would die in 2014 at the age of 87, but the work will continue with family members still in charge. Monique has been CEO, since the death of her mother.
Crazy Horse was a Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota. He fought against the federal government of the United States, to preserve the territory of his people and their way of life.
He is known for his action against the United States military in the Fetterman Fight in 1866 and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in June 1876.
Crazy Horse would later surrender to American troops under General Crook in May of 1877. He was fatally wounded by a military guard, while allegedly resisting imprisonment at Camp Robinson, in what is today the state of Nebraska.
There is no known likeness of Crazy Horse known to exist, so the sculpture on the mountain is that of a generic Native American warrior.
Today, the Crazy Foundation sponsors a number of Native American cultural events and educational programs. Every year in June and in October, the Memorial hosts a Volksmarch, when the public is permitted on the mountain. As many as 15,000 have attended these annual events.
On the second Monday in October, there is also a celebration of Native American’s Day, a state holiday since 1990.
The gift shop has many unique items related to the monument and Native American culture.
Crazy Horse Memorial is located at 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs Crazy Horse, South Dakota. The Zip-code is 57730-8900. The phone number is (605) 673-4681
The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets are $28.00 USD (United States Dollar) per car with more than 2 people.
The cost is $22.00 USD for 2 visiting adults.
Single visitors will be charged $11.00 USD.
Visitors arriving by bikes and motorcycles will pay $5.00 USD per person.
Children 6 and under are admitted free.
Free admission is provided for Native Americans, Active Military, Custer County residents and Boy or Girl Scouts in Class A or B uniforms.
Admission includes the Indian Museum of North America, the Mountain Carving Room, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski’s Studio-Home and Workshops, Sculptures, Artwork, Antiques, and the Laser Light Show at dark (when in season).
Visitors are able to witness the colossal carving in progress from the Viewing Deck, juxtaposed with Ziolkowski’s model.
From Memorial Day through September, visitors can interact with Native artists, lecturers, and performers representing numerous indigenous Nations.
Additional Optional Tours include a rustic bus ride to the bottom of the mountain for a close up view (weather permitting) for $4.00 USD per person. A trip to the top of the mountain is possible with a gift of $125.00 USD per person. Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult.
There are a number of special events throughout the normal tourist season, so visitors may wish to contact the foundation for additional information or use the provided website: https://crazyhorsememorial.org/crazy-horse-memorial-special-events.html
Amenities include free parking
How To Get There The entrance would be along US Highway 16/385 (the Crazy Horse Memorial Highway) 9 miles south of Hill City, South Dakota and 4 miles north of Custer, South Dakota.
Days and Hours of Operations
The Crazy Horse Memorial is open daily:
From January 2 through March 14 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
March 15 – May 16 from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.
May 17 – October 09 from 7:00 am to 30 minutes after laser light show.
October 11 – November 11 from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.
November 2 – November 15 from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
November 16 – November 29 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
November 30 – December 13 from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Holiday Hours for December from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Christmas Day from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
For Bus Tours call (605) 673-4681.
Is available in nearby communities surrounding the monument and other nearby attractions.
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