Not everyone knows that in the Black Hills of South Dakota, one of the world’s largest sculptures is under construction. This monument is erected not far from Mount Rushmore, where the faces of four American presidents have been carved. For more than seventy years, workers have been working on the Crazy Horse Memorial, on the sacred land of the Lakota tribe. It is a huge tribute to Native Americans, and in particular to one of the wisest Indian chiefs: Crazy Horse. Although this work by the chief of the Oglala Lakota tribe is still far from complete, it is already impressive.
image credit: Jonathunder / Wikipedia
The history of the Crazy Horse monument began in the 1930s at the behest of a Lakota chief, Henry Standing Bear. A story that mingles with that of the social redemption of the Amerindians who were annihilated by the occupation of settlers from European lands.
In 1930, work on Mount Rushmore was still in progress, and Henry Standing Bear felt it was unfair that his people did not have a monument to celebrate its importance. This is why he tried to contact Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum, but without success. Stubborn, he did not stop at this refusal. In 1939, he began a correspondence with the American-Polish sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. Ziolkowski had worked on Mount Rushmore under Borglum for a short time and seemed immediately interested in making this huge project a reality.
In order to secure a suitable mountain from the government, Indian chief Henry Standing Bear ceded all of his land, 900 acres in total, so that the project could begin
image credit: Osservastro / Wikipedia
The work immediately turned out to be a political as well as an artistic affair. The sculptor – who started working in 1948 – stubbornly refused any public funding in order to be able to work without government constraints. This meant, of course, working with a small staff and modest means. Ziolkowski started working alone, without electricity, with very little water, and on dirt roads. To understand the difficulties he encountered, a wooden ladder of 741 steps was used to reach the top.
image credit: Jim Bowen / Flickr
The original drawing shows Crazy Horse riding his steed and pointing to the land where many Native Americans are buried . The sculptor was convinced that he could complete the work in thirty years, but he was wrong. Ziolkowski personally worked on the granite materials used to create this project before he died in 1982 at the age of 74.
image credit: Mike Tigas / Flickr
At that time, the widow Ruth Ziolkowski took over the project with her seven children. Ms Ziolkowski made sure that the work focused on sculpting the face of Crazy Horse rather than that of the horse, as her sculptor husband had envisioned. This means that today we already have an impressive view of the sculpture – albeit partial – which allowed a first influx of tourists. This made it possible to maintain the initial financial plan, which excludes public funding for this immense project. An ambitious sculpture in its conception and astonishing still today which – after 70 years – is still in its embryonic state.
source used: smithsonianmag