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What Is the Crazy Horse Memorial?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated May 17, 2024
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Carved into Thunderhead Mountain in South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Memorial is a giant statue of the famous Native American warrior. The memorial includes the statue — still under construction — of Crazy Horse and also has educational and cultural facilities and several museums, including the Indian Museum of North America. Construction on the monument began in 1948, and as of 2011, only the head of the Oglala Lakota warrior has been completed.

The statue will eventually depict Crazy Horse sitting astride his horse, his left arm extended, pointing to where his "dead lie buried." The Oglala Lakota are a Native American tribe associated with this region, who hold this area and Thunderhead Mountain sacred. It is located 17 miles (about 27 km) from the famous Mt. Rushmore monument, which depicts four American Presidents.

Upon completion, this Native American monument will become the largest sculpture in the world; however, this may still be very far down the road. It's been under construction for over 60 years. When it finally emerges from the rock, it will be the first statue of nonreligious origin to hold the status of the largest statue in the world.

The Black Hills of South Dakota, where this monument resides, is a famous North American region known for the picturesque beauty associated with the rocky peaks of this mountain range. The Crazy Horse Memorial hopes to add even more historical significance to this already attractive area. It is very expensive to construct a memorial of this magnitude, and there are a plethora of ongoing fund-raising activities involved in acquiring the resources necessary for its completion.

This project is rooted in a 1939 letter from Henry Standing Bear to famous sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Standing Bear's letter included a reason for wanting this sculpture built, stating, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too." Ziolkowski, who was of Polish-American descent, agreed to the project after being persuaded to use sacred ground over the more fitting Tetons of Wyoming.

This memorial is a not-for-profit endeavor without much federal and state financial support. The monument is overseen by the Crazy Horse Memorial foundation, which the late sculptor's widow and many of her children oversee. The completed monument will include educational facilities for the University of South Dakota in addition to a cultural center, museum, and sculpture itself.

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Discussion Comments
By Logicfest — On May 06, 2014

@Melonlity -- there have been millions of dollars donated to the project over the years and fundraising efforts continue. Perhaps one of the reasons there hasn't been more money flowing to the project is that it is controversial with some members of the Oglala Lakota. The notion of essentially transforming a mountain into a statue is, frankly, offensive to some.

Still, it seems that the main reason for this project is to honor a Native American warrior. That's not a bad goal at all and one can only imagine the project will be completed at some point.

By Melonlity — On May 05, 2014

This sounds like a project that would be embraced by some private group with money to spend on such things. Yes, some money has been raised and some work has been completed but this project is far from finished.

It is quite odd that someone hasn't rallied behind this memorial. Anyone know why this has happened yet?

By Soulfox — On May 04, 2014

It is important to mention that Ziolkowski was, apparently, offered federal government support on two occasions but turned it down. Why? The people involved with the memorial allegedly believe their educational goals as originally stated when the projected was started will be done away with completely if the government is involved.

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