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Crazy Horse Memorial: Seventy Years in the Making!

A Stunning Tribute to Native American Son Crazy Horse

A towering monument to one of the most revered figures in Native American history is slowly taking shape in South Dakota. Crazy Horse was among the leaders of the Lakota Sioux who attacked and destroyed a U.S. Army regiment in 1876 -- a two-day battle that went down in history as Custer’s Last Stand.

The sculpture’s creation began in 1947 and is likely to take more than a century to complete. For nearly 70 years now, workers have toiled on a mountain. Crews are carving the history of the Oglala Lakota and their fearless warrior, Crazy Horse. Soaring over the dense woods of the Black Hills is a monument to a Native American legend and to a dream deferred.

“There’s a really harsh history of how our Black Hills were taken from our people,” said Helene Gaddie, a member of the Lakota tribe. “So I’m fortunate that the monument here, that the mountain here, gives us Natives an opportunity to educate the general public about our culture and about proper respect when they come into our land.” And the education is just beginning. The memorial’s master plan includes an Indian University of North America, museum and cultural center. “This isn’t just about a mountain”, the sculptor's daughter Monique Ziolkowski’s said. “The mountain, dad said, was the smallest part of the whole project. The mountain is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t what really will help people. It’s the knowledge, and knowledge comes from learning, and so that university and the museum here, those are the most important things.” The devoted sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski never took a day of sculpting lessons and yet, for more than half his life, he carved a masterpiece for the ages -- and not once taking a salary. And when he died in 1982 at age 74, he still wouldn’t leave. Orphaned as a child, he had found his home.

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