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Crazy Horse Memorial
17 miles South West of Mount Rushmore
This site is not a National park so there is a charge of $10 per adult or $27 per car load but children under 6 are free. It is worth noting that this project is entirely funded by donations and entrance fees, nothing comes from the government.
The site is open all year round from 7am till dark in the summer and 8 am till 5 pm in the winter. There is a special laser light show 'Legends in Light' which shows every night after dark from Memorial Day week end till Native American Weekend in October ( 10th October).
STANDING BEAR'S DREAM
This is a dream in the making. The monument is unfinished and will in all likelihood not be finished in my lifetime. Standing Bear, a Lakota chief wanted to have a memorial to the Native Americans that would be as imposing as Mount Rushmore. The Black hills where these two monuments are have always been a place of special spiritual significance to the American Indians tribes and so a monument as tribute to these people in the Black Hills is specially fitting.
HE FOUND A DEDICATED ARTIST
The sculptor who started this ambitious project was a man called Korczak Ziolkowski and he was asked to do the carving by Lakota leaders including Standing Bear. Korczak was a self taught artist from Boston stood in the middle of this wilderness in 1946 and decided that despite having virtually no money the project would be begun. He felt that hard work and perseverance would see the job done.
For many years Korczak worked on this project alone and was not paid a cent. He had an old drilling machine that would cut out frequently after he started it. He would start it up then climb up the rope ladders and often this would cut out just as he got to the place where he was going to work, he would then have to climb down again to start it. Some days he might do this a dozen times, I'm afraid I would have given up years ago.
The Korczak family lived under the mountain in a house he built himself, between carving the mountain and producing children. They had a big family and seemed to live on virtually nothing as for years he was not paid any salary. The family have taken over the project as sadly Korczak died in 1982 having roughly blocked out the contours of the carving and created a sculpture as a model. He so inspired his family that his wife and seven of his ten children are continuing the work having created the non profit Crazy Horse memorial Foundation.
VISITING CRAZY HORSE
When you visit this site you see far more than a partly complete carving and more than 1 million a year are coming to visit the site annually now.
Since 1948 when the project began the Ziolkowski family and the Foundation have worked to create the world's largest sculpture. When complete the carving will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high. So far the 87.5 foot head of Crazy Horse was dedicated 1998 and at the present time they are working on the horse's head which will stand at 219 feet high.
When you visit the site you can pay a bit extra to go in a special bus close to the mountain itself. You get a commentary with the tour and get to go pretty close to the action provided they are not actually blasting. If you become a member supporter of the organisation which requires more money to be paid but then you are able to ride up the mountain to the arm and see the face up very close.
The carving is pretty impressive and when you hear how Korczak did so much by himself over the years it is remarkable. He must have been so proud to have his family continue his work.
MORE THAN A BIG CARVING
The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation funds education for American Indian people and they started university level courses in 1996. In 2010 they opened the Indian University of North America, and the scholarship fund has helped many students since 1978 when Korczak gave the first $250 grant. In 2000 they enlarged the museum complex at the site and built the huge visitor's centre. All this has been done through visitor entrance fees and voluntary donations which is quite an amazing achievement in my view.
We went straight to the enormous visitor's centre to pay our fee then were ushered into a film which was just beginning. The film called 'Dynamite and Dreams' told the story of the monument and Korczak's efforts, the dream and how the family were carrying on the work. It was a really well presented film and I was most impressed as it gave you a real understanding of what huge efforts and sacrifices had been made by Korczak to get as far s they have with the memorial. They say that now there are so many more people working on the carving with far superior equipment that it will move along at a pace and we may see it completed in the next thirty years.
The visitor's centre museum is a tribute to the American Indian and tells of the tribes, how they lived, their clothes, hunting and so much more. There is a huge collection of beautiful paintings and artefacts to see and well explained signs telling about the displays. It does an amazing job of telling the story of the American Indian and educating people about their history and culture.
You are invited to go and visit the original house that Korczak built for his family. How he managed to do this and work on the original sculpture then the carving is a remarkable feat. He must have had tremendous energy and strength to achieve all that he did. The house is an eclectic mixture of antique furniture and pioneer buildings, carvings and art work.
When he first came to the Black Hills in May 1947 there were no roads, no electricity and no water. For the first year he lived in a tent while he started building the house from trees he felled and cut himself. The furniture was brought from his family home in Hartford Connecticut and includes rather bizarrely a Marie Antoinette mirror and then there was a glass topped table that Korczak built from a four legged piano. On the walls you will see a mixture of paintings, some by Korczak and a number of carvings including a horse's head that he allegedly carved in nine days and a huge Polish eagle. In my mind it was rather cluttered, a bit like a cross between an antique shop and a home.
The family still live in the house and obviously you are not invited to see all the house but we did feel a bit like we were intruding so really only had a quick look even though no-one was there watching you we just felt a bit uncomfortable looking at someone's rather personal home while they were still living there.
THE OLD LOBBY
This was rebuilt and many of the original features loved by Korczak were kept including his mural of Crazy Horse. It is in this area that you can see the sculpture which is a 1.34 scale model of his vision of Crazy Horse and if you are careful taking the photograph you can sort of super impose the sculpture onto the mountain carving to get an idea of the finished product. There is a rather large box which contains bits of rock from the mountain and anyone can take a piece. We decided our luggage didn't need to be weighed down by any stones as it was heavy enough! As well as the large statue of the mountain carving there are also models made by Korczak of Crazy horse's head and also the head of the horse.
You can also view an interactive lighted display of how the mountain carving has progressed over the years. I rather liked the small piece of original floor which has been retained and where members of Kotrczak's family have signed their names as I felt this was a very small but personal family memory.
OTHER FACILITIES ON SITE
There is a conference room for talks that seats 300 people. A huge restaurant but we only had a coffee and a cinnamon bun. I have to tell you that the staff were a little casual. It was hard work getting anything as it is pay then self serve but you have to try and work out the different machines and it was not the most relaxing experience. We were almost alone in the place so heaven knows what it would be like if it was busy. I wouldn't want to try and have much more there.
GETTING UP CLOSE
We paid the extra to get a bit closer. We were taken in an old rickety bus to pretty close to the mountain. The driver gave a commentary and he was both interesting and knowledgeable with a sharp sense of humour. The trip took about thirty minutes I would say and we were allowed out of the bus a couple of times for photos but very strictly kept close by for safety as blasting was taking place under the arm and towards the horses head which is the part they are working on at this present time.
Yes there was one as always in these places and it was pretty big. As we are not big souvenir buyers i only take a quick look. There were postcards, Indian artefacts, paintings and models of the mountain carving but not cheap. I am afraid we bought nothing. If anyone is interested in purchasing Indian artefacts or art work then they do have a mail order shop http://www.shop.khonline.biz called Korczak's heritage.
WORTH A VISIT?
Yes, even though the carving of the actual monument is far from complete it is a very worthwhile visit. It is actually interesting to see a work in progress as it does give you an idea of whtat a huge task this one man undertook all those years ago.
The museum and film are also very educational and from the film you learn about the carving of the monument and Standing bear's dream which became Korczak's too. The museum alone is very interesting and you learn a lot about the culture of the American Indian people.
If you are in the Black Hills area visiting Mount Rushmore then it is well worth driving another seventeen miles to visit Crazy Horse which is almost a before and after mountain carving experience, Crazy Horse being the work in progress and Mount Rushmore the finished carving.
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