MONUMENTAL MEMORIAL OF CRAZY HORSE HAS BEEN UNDER CONSTRUCTION FOR THE PAST 70 YEARS
Did you know that the second largest sculpture in the world is being built in South Dakota's Black Hills near Mount Rushmore? On the sacred land of the Lakota, workers have been working on the Crazy Horse Memorial for over 70 years. This magnificent tribute to the legendary 19th Chief of the Oglala Lakota Tribe is far from complete, but it already looks amazing.
Crazy Horse is an important figure for the Lakota when he rebelled against the US government to prevent white settlers from encroaching on Native American territory and threatening their way of life. Although he led several battles, he is best known for his victory at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Here, the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes defeated the US Army in what became known as "Custer's Last Stand." .
The Crazy Horse Monument has a rich history that began in the 1930's at the request of a Lakota chief. Henry Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota chief and respected leader in the community when he took it upon himself to erect a monument to Crazy Horse. Work was being done on Mount Rushmore at the time, and Henry Standing Bear felt it was unfair that a great Indian leader should not be a president. He approached Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum on several occasions, but that didn't stop him.
He wrote to the Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski back in1939 . Ziolkowski worked on Mount Rushmore under Borglum for some time and was fascinated by the project. After Henry Standing Bear sold all of his land—900 acres in all—to the government in exchange for use of the mountain, the project went ahead. The sculptor began his work in 1948 and refused state funding because he was skeptical about external participation. So he set out to realise his vision alone, with no electricity, water or roads. To get to the top, he used a wooden staircase with 741 steps. But he still didn't resist.
Ziolkowski thought the project would take about 30 years, but he was wrong. The concept sees Crazy Horse riding his horse and pointing into the distance where many Native Americans are buried. And he worked hard on granite to achieve his dream before he died in 1982 at the age of 74. At this point, his widow, Ruth Ziolkowski, took over management of the project. She made small changes to the original plans, such as initially focusing on sculpting Crazy Horse's face rather than the horse as Ziolkowski had intended. She correctly assumed that the face jewellery would attract tourists and that these ticket fees would help fund the project. Given that there is no government funding for the creation of the sculpture, this was a smart move.
Seven of his children also worked on the sculpture during this time, and Crazy Horse's face was discovered in 1998. Of course, this isn't an accurate representation of Crazy Horse, who was notorious for refusing to photograph, but rather the image of a great leader. Crazy Horse's 87-foot head is much taller than the 60-foot portraits on Mount Rushmore. When complete, it will rank behind India's Statue of Unity as the second largest sculpture in the world.
The non-profit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is currently led by Ziolkowski's daughter, sculptor Monique Ziolkowski.. She took over after Ruth's death in 2014. Three of Ziolkowski.'s children, as well as three of his grandchildren, work with her as part of the staff. The project has been expanded to include a University of South Dakota satellite campus that functions as an educational and cultural centre. Known as the Indian University of North America and the Indian Museum of North America, they complement the Visitor Center.
However, the Crazy Horse Memorial is controversial. Many of Crazy Horse's relatives opposed the project, stating that Henry Standing Bear did not consult family members before going ahead with the project. Some members of the community also speculate that Crazy Horse won't like the giant statue given its modesty. Others believe the memorial is more dedicated to the sculptor and his family than to Crazy Horse and his legacy.