Our first full day here in the Black Hills of South Dakota would have us spending time at the Crazy Horse Memorial. We came to the Memorial twice on this day, once during daylight hours then again to see the evening lighting, laser show, and a special “night blast” on the mountain. The photo above shows the mountain as it currently stands with a scale model silhouetted in the foreground. This model is a 1/300th scale version of what the Memorial will one day be.
I found it fitting to visit this site after having visited Little Bighorn Battlefield a couple of days prior. Coming to the Memorial built on what we learned of Crazy Horse, his leadership, cunning, and bravery in battle, not only at Little Bighorn but in so many other battles as well. The Memorial added more to our understanding of how he came to be such an inspiration to those who knew him and fought with him as well as the generations to follow.
We didn’t have the opportunity to go up onto the mountain, an activity normally available as an added tour. On this day the mountain was off-limits for all but those who worked there. They were in preparations for a special celebration in the evening which would include multiple “night blasts” along with the usual daily laser show. We did spend a good length of time viewing the museum as well as a video presentation on the history of and behind the Memorial.
What impressed me greatly about Crazy Horse Memorial was both its scale and that the original artist began an undertaking he knew he would not live to see completed. Hard to imagine. It was pointed out that the entire Mount Rushmore mountain carving would fit within just the head of Crazy Horse Memorial! The mountain’s original artist, Korczak Ziolkowski, agreed to the project at a time when he had less than $200 to his name. He went on to marry and have 10 children, most of whom now work at the Memorial. To this day the project is guided by his family and the vision of the original American Indian leaders who asked him to take it on.
In the evening we were treated to a special show. This happened to be the anniversary of Ruth Ziolkowski’s birthday. She was the wife of the sculptor and passed away just over a year ago. Every night they light the mountain and present a laser show but on this night they would have a special laser show and also a night blast on the mountain. Below are photos of the mountain lit, some laser art, and part of the night blast. It was all quite impressive and worth the evening visit.
For those who don’t already know, the Crazy Horse Memorial is much more than just a mountain carving. The master plan for this facility includes:
- Memorial of Lakota leader Crazy Horse
- Facilities to share and educate the public about Native American culture and history.
- Museum and cultural center for American Indian artifacts, arts and crafts.
- Establishment of the Indian University of North America (already started) as well as a medical training center for American Indians
ALL of these objectives are being undertaken without the use of any U.S. government funds, as outlined by the original American Indian leaders and mountain sculptor at the outset of this project. As such, this is NOT a National Monument, National Historic Site, or National Park. It is completely funded through site admissions from the public and private donations. Incredible.
Last but not least, for any who may be wondering, Flo did visit Crazy Horse with us but she kept a relatively low profile. This is considered a sacred place so she tried her best to be respectful. One quick pose with the mountain and back to the truck for her…