Did you know that the second-largest statue in the world is currently being constructed in the Black Hills, South Dakota? It’s located just a few miles from Mount Rushmore.
Over 70 years of work have been done on Crazy Horse Memorial, the sacred land of the Lakota tribe. Although this magnificent tribute to the 19th Oglala Lakota leader is far from complete, it already makes a striking impression.
Crazy Horse, a significant figure in Lakota’s history, was a rebel against the U.S. government. He fought to stop white settlers from taking over Native American territory and threatening their way of life.
Although he was a leader in many battles, his victory at Little Bighorn in 1876 is the most famous. In what is known as Custer’s Last Stand, the United States Army was defeated here by the combined forces of Northern Cheyenne, Lakota, and Arapaho tribes.
Crazy Horse Monument is a monument with a rich history. It was established in the 1930s by a Lakota chief at his request. Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief who was a respected leader in the community, decided to honor Crazy Horse.
Henry Standing Bear felt it unfair that the great Native American leader wasn’t included in the list of presidents. He tried to appeal to Gutzon Borglum, the Mount Rushmore sculptor, several times but was not stopped.
He wrote to Korczak Ziolkowski, an American-Polish sculptor in 1939. Ziolkowski was interested in the Mount Rushmore project after he had briefly worked under Borglum.
The project was able to move forward after Henry Standing Bear gave all his land, which totaled 900 acres, to the government. He began his work in 1948, but he refused all government funding as he was skeptical about outside involvement.
He worked alone to realize his vision, without any electricity, water, or roads. He used a wooden 741-step staircase to reach the top. He was not discouraged.
Ziolkowski believed that the project would take around 30 years. But he was wrong. Crazy Horse would ride his horse while looking in the distance toward the land where many Native Americans are buried.
He worked tirelessly to achieve his dream, and he died in 1982 at the age of 74. Ruth Ziolkowski, his widow, took over the project. She made minor changes to the original plans.
For example, she decided to focus on Crazy Horse’s face rather than the horse. She correctly predicted that tourists would be attracted to Crazy Horse’s face and those ticket fees could help finance the project. It was smart, considering that there is no government funding involved in the sculpture.
Seven of Ziolkowski’s children worked on the sculpture, and Crazy Horse’s face emerged in 1998. This isn’t a true representation of Crazy Horse. He was notorious for refusing to take photographs.
It’s merely a representation. Crazy Horse’s head, which stands at 87 feet tall, is much larger than the 60-foot portraits on Mount Rushmore. It will be the second-largest sculpture worldwide, after India’s Statue of Unity.
Ziolkowski’s daughter Monique Ziolkowski, a sculptor, is currently running Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. After Ruth’s death in 2014, she took over. As part of her staff, three of Ziolkowski’s grandsons and three of his children work alongside her.
The project now includes a satellite campus of the University of South Dakota that serves as an educational and cultural center. They are also known as the Indian University of North America or the Indian Museum of North America.
However, the Crazy Horse Memorial isn’t without controversy. Crazy Horse’s family has spoken out against the project. They claim Henry Standing Bear didn’t consult with their relatives before he commissioned the project.
Some in the community believe that Crazy Horse would not be happy with such a large statue, considering his humility. Others believe that Crazy Horse’s legacy and the sculptor have been forgotten in the memorial.
No matter your political affiliation, it’s impossible to deny the extraordinary power of the story that led to the creation of the statue.
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