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8.09.2006 - 34 comments 

As I have often quoted on this blog, I far prefer to blog about things of natural beauty around the world, but occasionally, I am just attracted to manmade art as well. This set of photos is one of those times. I took it a couple of summers ago while we were vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I also don't usually post more than one photo with each post. But this is an exception to both those USUAL things. Many of you have mentioned "Crazy Horse Monument on on previous WALL, South Dakota post. So I thought I would go ahead and tell its story too.

Equipped with only a sledgehammer, a single-jack drill bit and a box of dynamite, Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski went to work on June 3, 1948 creating his 563 x 641 foot sculpture of an Indian man atop a spirited warhorse. This would later be called Crazy Horse Memorial. He would spend the next 36 years of his life doggedly blasting away 7,400,000 tons of granite near Custer, South Dakota to rough out virtually the entire figure, in the round.

Now, 57 years after Korczak started carving, and his death in 1982, work still continues on the world’s largest sculpture. The dimensions are staggering. The mountain-sized statue is as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60-story skyscraper.The story of Korczak and his mountain is told in the $1.6 million Crazy Horse Orientation and Communications Center. This Center has several scale models (both inside and outside of the building) of what the Korczak sculpture is intended to look like when it is complete. Even though you cannot get as close to it as maybe you could at the Mount Rushmore Monument, the size of it is almost over whelming. Born in Boston of Polish descent, Korczak Ziolkowski was completely self-taught. He never took a lesson in art, sculpture, architecture or engineering. Orphaned at age one, he grew up in a series of foster homes.

He began experimenting with woodwork as a teenager, and soon was sculpting in wood and stone. In 1939 Korczak briefly worked as Gutzon Borglum's assistant on Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the same year as Korczak's marble portrait, "Paderewski: Study of an Immortal," won first place by popular vote at the New York World's Fair.

The honor resulted in Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear's invitation to Korczak to carve Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills. In his invitation letter to Korczak Ziolkowski, Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote: ``My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, also.''; The nonprofit educational and cultural project became his life's work and that of his wife, Ruth, and their sons and daughters who today continue the Crazy Horse dream according to Korczak's detailed plans. Below is why the chiefs thought that this red man's chief deserved a memorial too.

~ Crazy Horse ~ Tashunca-uitco ~ (1849-1877) Celebrated for his ferocity in battle, Crazy Horse was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life.

Even as a young man, Crazy Horse was a legendary warrior. He stole horses from the Crow Indians before he was thirteen, and led his first war party before turning twenty. Crazy Horse fought in the 1865-68 war led by the Oglala chief Red Cloud against American settlers in Wyoming, and played a key role in destroying William J. Fetterman's brigade at Fort Phil Kearny in 1867.

Crazy Horse earned his reputation among the Lakota not only by his skill and daring in battle but also by his fierce determination to preserve his people's traditional way of life. He refused, for example, to allow any photographs to be taken of him. And he fought to prevent American encroachment on Lakota lands following the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, helping to attack a surveying party sent into the Black Hills by General George Armstrong Custer in 1873.

When the War Department ordered all Lakota bands onto their reservations in 1876, Crazy Horse became a leader of the resistance. Closely allied to the Cheyenne through his first marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he gathered a force of 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne at his village and turned back General George Crook on June 17, 1876, as Crook tried to advance up Rosebud Creek toward Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn. After this victory, Crazy Horse joined forces with Sitting Bull and on June 25 led his band in the counter-attack that destroyed Custer's Seventh Cavalry, flanking the Americans from the north and west as Hunkpapa warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east.

Following the Lakota victory at the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Gall retreated to Canada, but Crazy Horse remained to battle General Nelson Miles as he pursued the Lakota and their allies relentlessly throughout the winter of 1876-77. This constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population eventually forced Crazy Horse to surrender on May 6, 1877; except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to yield.

Even in defeat, Crazy Horse remained an independent spirit, and in September 1877, when he left the reservation without authorization, to take his sick wife to her parents, General George Crook ordered him arrested, fearing that he was plotting a return to battle. Crazy Horse did not resist arrest at first, but when he realized that he was being led to a guardhouse, he began to struggle, and while his arms were held by one of the arresting officers, a soldier ran him through with a bayonet.

That is why the work on this memorial to Crazy Horse by Korczak is still continuing after almost 60 years. The top picture was one I took from a couple of miles away from the monument, the next was from the visitor center (which is still perhaps) a quarter mile or so from the monument. The white statue in front, is at the vistor center, so that you can stand back from it and picture what the completed memorial to Crazy Horse will eventually look like. The next and final one, was one I took with my telephoto lens. Hopefully my grandkids will get to see it completed someday.

"The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality" - Samuel Johnson Posted by Picasa