The Crazy Horse Memorial - History and Facts | History Hit

The Crazy Horse Memorial

Amy Irvine

05 Sep 2022
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Glenn Perreira

About The Crazy Horse Memorial

The Crazy Horse Memorial is an as-yet incomplete memorial carved out of a mountainside in the Black Hills of South Dakota dedicated to ‘Crazy Horse’ – one of the most iconic Native American warriors.

History of The Crazy Horse Memorial

One of the most iconic Native American warriors, ‘Crazy Horse’ – Tasunke Witco – is famous for his role in fighting the US federal government as part of the Sioux resistance to the encroachment on the northern Great Plains by white American settlers. Crazy Horse’s fighting skills and participation in several famous battles such as the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 earned him great respect from both his enemies and his own people.

In 1933, a Ponca chief, Standing Bear, learned that a monument was due to be constructed at Fort Robinson, Nebraska to honour his maternal cousin, Crazy Horse. Standing Bear wrote to James Cook who was steering the planned project and explained that he and many fellow Lakota leaders had formed the Crazy Horse Memorial Association and were instead promoting a carving of Crazy Horse in the sacred Black Hills – the only place they thought was appropriate for such a memorial.

Standing Bear was determined to honour his people in the Black Hills, and stated that there needed to be a Native American memorial in response to nearby Mount Rushmore equally as large in scope and vision. Eventually Standing Bear found sculptor Korczak Ziółkowski (who had also worked on Mount Rushmore). Work started over 70 years ago, in 1948 and is still in progress.

The likeness created of Crazy Horse was developed by descriptions from survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn and other contemporaries of Crazy Horse. At the dedication ceremony, Standing Bear proclaimed that the memorial would serve to create cross-cultural understanding and help mend relations between Native and non-Native Americans.

The Crazy Horse Memorial today

The Crazy Horse Memorial will be the largest sculpture in the world when it is finally complete. At over 171 metres high it is also considered the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ in progress. If the president’s heads at Mount Rushmore were all stacked on top of each other, by comparison, they’d reach just over halfway on Crazy Horse!

As well as in tribute to Crazy Horse, the memorial is also designed to honour the values Native Americans stood for. However, the memorial has caused some controversy and friction within the Native American community due to the difference between the Crazy Horse project now and how it was originally envisioned.

The next phase of progress (5-10 years) includes carving Crazy Horse’s left hand and forearm, right shoulder, hairline, and part of his horse’s mane and head.

Getting to The Crazy Horse Memorial

Situated in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota, the entrance to the memorial is found along US Highway 16/385, 9 miles south of Hill City and 4 miles north of Custer. The memorial is 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and open all year round.

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