I suppose one of the craziest things we ever did was to visit Crazy horse memorial located along U.S. Highway 16/385, between Hill City and Custer, South Dakota just 20 miles from the world-famous Mount Rushmore and just outside Custer State Park. This was in 2010, when we visited the Badlands and Mt Rushmore.
I call it crazy because we had a lot of expectations to see the world’s largest mountain carving dedicated to the American Indian Nation. However, on finding that it was not even 10% complete (only the face) our hopes were shattered. Definitely was expecting more than that.
It is dedicated to Crazy Horse, a warrior of the Oglala Lakota tribe, and shows him riding a horse and pointing into the distance. I read a lot about it in the internet before the trip and thought it would be fascinating to see the giant sculpture which when finished would stand 641 feet wide and 563 feet tall. The scale of the project is however pretty awesome. By comparison, each head on Mount Rushmore is approximately 60 feet tall. Crazy Horse’s head will be 87 feet tall. But unfortunately the work still remains incomplete even after 70+ years since it first started in 1948 by Korczak Ziolkowski. He died in 1982, but his wife and seven of his ten children are continuing his dream. They accept no state or federal funds and depend on the fees and donations from visitors, the reason for its incomplete state.
I was even more disappointed when we were told we need to pay $125 tour to go to the top of the monument(to see just the head) as we had already paid $10 at the entrance and another $4 per person for the 25 mins bus tour to take a closer look. So we dropped the idea of going to the top. There are various lookout points where you can see a side view of the crazy horse monument.
The incredible story behind this major project is that Crazy Horse was a legendary warrior and leader of the Lakota Sioux, celebrated for his battle skills as well as his efforts to preserve Native American traditions and way of life. Resisting efforts to force the Sioux on to reservations, he fought alongside Sitting Bull and others in the American-Indian Wars, and was instrumental in the defeat of George Armstrong Custer’s forces at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. After surrendering to federal troops in 1877, he was killed amid rumors of a planned escape.
The museum had a collection of different stories of Crazy Horse as well as other Native American memorabilia. The expansive gesture of Crazy Horse is interpreted as something Crazy Horse once supposedly said: “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”
There are a lot of plans for this monument, but as this is a privately funded project, I doubt it will be finished in the near future. The informational video is interesting, the information center is full of Native American artifacts, and of course lots of items “for sale”.
If you are in the area, there is no reason not to stop by and see this amazing engineering feat.