This Day In History: Construction Begins On The Crazy Horse Memorial


On June 3, 1947, construction began on the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, which when finished will be the second largest statue in the world. Yes, even after 75 years, it has a long way to go, although it is a blink of an eye how long Native American people have been waiting for due recognition. It took an unexpected friendship between an Oglala Lakota chief and a Polish-American artist to make the Crazy Horse Memorial a reality.

Mount Rushmore Controversy

Mount Rushmore was intended to be a "pilgrimage to democracy," but for the Native American peoples who made the Black Hills their home for generations, the colossal carvings of the four US presidents into the granite hill were slightly less impressive. After several protests failed to stop the build-up, Oglala Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear declared, "My fellow chiefs and I want the white man to know that the red man has great heroes as well." He was thinking in particular of Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota War leader who fought against the American government when he broke his promises to Native Americans, surrendering at Camp Robinson in 1877. done and died.

Mad Horse Monument

Chief Standing Bear's brother wrote to Gutzon Borglum, head of the Mount Rushmore project, in 1931 to suggest adding the Crazy Horse's face, but after Borglum failed to respond, Chief Standing Bear decided to build a standalone monument. started a campaign. He scouted around the Black Hills and found an ideal location, but ironically, the mountain sat on land controlled by the US government. He wrote to the Department of the Interior, offering 900 acres of fertile land of his own in exchange for the barren mountain, and the department happily agreed. With the space secured, he recruited Korzak Ziolkowski, a Polish-American sculptor from Boston who had worked on Mount Rushmore. At the invitation of Chief Standing Bear, Zolkowski traveled to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to meet him in person and learn about Crazy Horse and the Lakota people.

Mad Horse Monument Status

With all those pieces in place, construction may have begun on the Crazy Horse memorial, but there was still one problem: funding. The US government actually offered to fund the job, but the main standing bearer declined, preferring to finance the project through private donations. Those donations have been slow to roll in, meaning progress on the monument has been just as slow in the 75 years in between. Zoilkowski and Chief Standing Bear have passed away, but others have carried on their legacy, eliminating Crazy Horse's head and face and starting work on adding an outstretched arm and horse. Despite being unfinished, the monument attracts thousands of visitors every year.

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