Crazy Horse Memorial

By Kelsey Thompson, Devin Dibbern, Cheyenne Mcmillin, Martina Juhlin

We visited Crazy Horse National Monument the second weekend in October and it was a gorgeous day. We were lucky it was such a nice day so we could see the monument from the visitor center. We were all left in awe of the man in the rock and the amount of time it has taken the family and the other builders to get that far.

Figure 1: Present Crazy Horse & Future visual, (Photo by Cheyenne Mcmillin)
Figure 1: Present Crazy Horse & Future visual, (Photo by Cheyenne Mcmillin)

One thing that really intrigued us was why Crazy Horse was chosen to represent the monument. Crazy Horse was chosen to be the Native American to represent the Black Hills because his tenacity of purpose, his modest life, his unfailing courage, and his tragic death set him apart and above of all other Native Americans. The Crazy Horse museum was full of native American history and artifacts. It was almost like we went back in time walking around the museum.

Crazy Horse defended his people and their way of life in the only manner he knew, which was battle but only after he saw the treaty of 1868 broken. This treaty was to bring peace between the whites and the Sioux who agreed to settle within the Black Hills reservation in the Dakota Territory. The treaty of 1868 was signed by the President, Andrew Johnson who said, “As long as the rivers run and the grasses grow and the trees bare leaves, the Black Hills will forever be the sacred land of the Native Americans.” Crazy Horse began a warpath after he saw his friend, Conquering Bear killed. Crazy Horse saw a failure of the government agents to bring required treaty guarantees such as meat, clothing, tents and necessities for existence to his people. In the battle that followed, Crazy Horse would rally his warriors with the cry, “it is a good day to fight, it is a good day to die.” This is the main reason why the Native Americans chose Crazy Horse to represent their land was because of his undying bravery.

Figure 2: Crazy Horse Monument. (Photo by Cheyenne Mcmillin)
Figure 2: Crazy Horse Monument. (Photo by Cheyenne Mcmillin)

The biggest impression this trip left on us was probably the history of it all, from the Native Americans to the beginning of the sculpting of the mountain. After learning that long ago an Indian war chief called Crazy Horse was killed right underneath a peace flag at Fort Robinson, Henry Standing Bear, one of Crazy Horse’s good friends, wanted a memorial of him.

Figure 3: Standing Bull with Korczak Ziolkoski (Photo by Cheyenne Mcmillin)
Figure 3: Standing Bull with Korczak Ziolkoski (Photo by Cheyenne Mcmillin)

So he went to a sculptor named Korczak Ziolkowski, asking him to create a memorial of their fallen Indian chief, and they chose a mountain in the Black Hills, which are considered sacred to the Sioux tribes. Once they had a mountain chosen, Korczak began climbing the mountain and building stairs, climbing back and forth with hand tools. Soon with the development of hydraulic and electrically ran tools it would become easier for Ziolkowski. Korczak was married to Ruth Ziolkowski, and together they had ten children. Once the children became old enough, they would assist their parents with the project in any way they could. Whether it was the carving the mountain or helping around the tourist site, almost every family member had a job to be done. Today, it is still a family owned business and project. The monument is privately funded by the people’s donations, entry fees, and gift store purchases. The area attracts nearly 1.2 million visitors each year.