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Monday, December 30, 2013

Crazy Horse - Monument of Spirit

"My lands are where my people lie buried." - Crazy Horse

So speaks to the spirit of the Lakota and the Native Tribes of the land.  To the Lakota the Black Hills are sacred.  Known as the Paha Sapa, they are a place of spiritual connectivity that should be revered and protected.  One of the true great Lakota heroes, that inspires generations of Americans today is Crazy Horse, a man of great spirit and determination.  He was a renowned war general who fought bravely for the victory at The Battle of Little Bighorn. 

Crazy Horse and the Lakota felt betrayed that their sacred land was unfairly stolen by the Federal Government through improper treaties.  This dark time serves as a reminder for future generations to respect and honor one another and the land. Perhaps it is that spirit that makes Crazy Horse a figure of inspiration for Native Americans and non-Native Americans, like myself.  He died after being stabbed in the back with a bayonet after being captured by U.S. forces (might have been on purpose or part of the heat of the moment...)  His body was buried by his parents in an undisclosed location.

With the advent of Mount Rushmore, members of the Lakota tribe commissioned sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to create a monument in stone to Crazy Horse, so that the public would know that the Lakota have heroes of value too.  For the reminder of his life, Korczak dedicated himself entirely to the cause of seeing the dream of 'Crazy Horse' realized.  It is a dream that is still in motion...

Korczak Ziolkowski was born in Boston of Polish descent.  Orphaned at age one, he grew up in foster homes.  He was completely self-taught and never took a formal lesson in art, sculpture, architecture or engineering. That is striking considering his talent in art and sculpture!

Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear learned of the sculptor when Korczak's Paderwski: Study of an Immortal won first prize, by popular vote at the 1939 NY World's Fair. "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also..." - Standing Bear wrote to Korczak asking him to the Black Hills to carve Crazy Horse.  It is unknown what Crazy Horse looked like (reports of a photograph of Crazy Horse are highly contested), so this is a monument to his Spirit and the spirit of the Lakota and Native American who are a foundational core of the fabric of American culture.

Korczak arrived in the Black Hills on May 3 1947 and started work on the mountain in 1948.  He was almost forty with only $174 to his name.  He worked until his death in 1982 carving, blasting with dynamite to create Crazy Horse.  Upon his death, his wife Ruth and family continued his legacy.  Each year working in concert with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, work concludes, a new layer emerging in the sculpture.  When completed it will be the largest sculpture in the world!  It is already larger than Mount Rushmore.

Crazy Horse is more than the monument, it is a memorial to all Native Americans.  The Indian Museum of North America  features a history of the Lakota and other tribes, Native American art and a film 'Dynamite & Dreams' about the monument.  You can visit Korczak's studio and view many of his sculptures.  Eventually Crazy Horse Memorial hopes to have a hospital, college and other resources for Native Americans.  It is supported 100% by admission and donations.  They host the Volksmarch in the summer and have spectacular laser shows through the year under the Dakota night sky.  Stay tuned to their FB page and website for info about dynamite detonations - which you can witness - as they continue work on Crazy Horse.

I have visited Crazy Horse twice and each time I'm thrilled - it is a work in progress as dynamite and dreams continue - visit Crazy Horse - you won't be disappointed.

Crazy Horse Memorial Website -

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