The History Behind the Crazy Horse Memorial

One of the most interesting tourist attractions in the Black Hills of South Dakota is the Crazy Horse Memorial.

It is a well known and popular place and is fun to visit.

While those who go there do get some history about the place, few know the back story.

I only know it because several years ago I decided to do further research on it for a paper I was writing for a class I was taking.

The Crazy Horse Memorial

Some History

In 1868 the Fort Laramie Treaty between the US Government and the Lakota Sioux was signed,  It gave Paha Sapa (The Black Hills) to the Sioux tribe and forbade white settlers from moving into the area.

Much to the sorrow of the Lakota Sioux, this most revered and religious place for their culture became the same area where gold was discovered in 1874 when General Custer brought an expedition to the area.

This began a major rush for the gold which marked the end of an important era for the Lakota Sioux.   The US reneged on the treaty and reassigned many of tribe members to other reservations.

This led to a series of battles that finally ended the Great Sioux War of 1877.  The final result was that today, the Lakota Sioux of the Black Hills mostly live on reservations or in Rapid City.

The Plans for the Memorial

In 1929 a Lakota elder contacted Korczak Ziolkowski.  He wanted Korczak to create a memorial to the great chief Crazy Horse.

Mount Rushmore was already under construction, and the Sioux wanted their own memorial to show the world that they, also, had wonderful leaders.

The only stipulation was that there was to be no involvement from the US government or any state government. Crazy horse was to be funded solely from contributions and sales from its gift shops and entry fees.

Not for Sale At Any Price

Blasting began in 1948, and twice over the years the US Government tried to buy the project from Korczak for ten million dollars.

He refused.

This was more than a sculpture.  This was a memorial to the Sioux as a remembrance for their many struggles.

Today the memorial is still under construction.  

Korczak is dead, but his wife and ten children continue his work with the help of the designs he created.

This book is a photo history of the work that is being done to carve the 8th wonder of the world out of a mountain.

The Bigger Story

The bigger story about Crazy Horse Memorial is that despite every effort of the United States Government, the Lakota Sioux have managed to retain their presence in the Black Hills.

Their Memorial is larger and much more sophisticated than Mount Rushmore, and when completed, will be the eighth wonder of the world.

Mount Rushmore is two dimensional.  Crazy Horse is three dimensional.

When it is finished, more than 4,000 people will be able to stand on Crazy Horse's arm.

Eventually the grounds will house a hospital as well as a university mostly for the use of members of the Lakota Tribe.

The Beautiful Vision of the Lakota Sioux

If you look at the sculpture, you see a warrior whose arm reaches beyond the head of a horse that rises forward from the mountain.

The warrior points towards Paha Sapa and lets the world know that, finally, the Sioux have reclaimed their rightful place on their sacred land.

The Crazy Horse Memorial

There is something truly inspiring about this story and the mountain itself. 

It's good to know that there still are people who have passion and vision, and who are willing to do things on their own without the help (or interference) of the US Government.