In a letter to the editor in Wednesday’s Star-Exponent, “A counter-suggestion to Johnston’s column on Native Americans,” Frank Sardina suggested that Donnie Johnston “activate a GoFundMe account” for the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It isn’t a bad idea, but I think Mr. Sardina needs to be updated, as his visit to the monument was nearly fifty years ago.
In 1939, Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Oglala Lakota approached the Polish sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski (who had worked on Mt. Rushmore with Gutzon Borglum) to build a monument to their hero—Crazy Horse.
A mountain on Indian lands was donated for the purpose, but I doubt that even the chief imagined that Korczak would turn the entire mountain into the sculpture; however, that’s the plan that Korczak conceived.
It is sculpture by dynamite. Today, his children and grandchildren continue the work. The head and face, nine stories tall, is completed, and visitors can stand on the 65-foot outstretched arm for a view over the Black Hills.
The project does not accept one dime of government money, but has survived on contributions and visitor center fees—plus entry fees for the twice-a-year 5K public walk up the mountain.
My husband and I have made this walk and stood on the arm four times over the last twenty years and cannot help but marvel at the sheer audacity it took to conceive such a project. (An Indian Museum of North America lies at the base of the mountain and is worth the trip alone.) It is truly a “Wonder of the World” in progress.
Naturally, detractors have sprung up, questioning motives, criticizing the use of sacred lands for the project, etc., but no one can deny that it was a Lakota chief who spearheaded the whole tribute to Crazy Horse or that he found the right person to carry it out.