Saturday, June 16, 2012

South Dakota and beyond. Day Three: Part Two: Crazy Horse.

"My lands are where my dead lie buried."
~Crazy Horse

After spending the day at Reptile Gardens and dinner at Desperados in Hill City, we headed to Crazy Horse. Brian had read ahead and learned that we could bring two cans of food (or something like that) and forgo the entrance fee. Leave it to Brian!

Prior to coming to South Dakota, I had never even heard of the Crazy Horse Memorial. Of course, I knew about Crazy Horse and the Lakota Indians and the Battle of Little Big Horn, but the memorial in stone to Crazy Horse is like the best kept secret of the Black Hills.

While there, I learned that maybe that's due to the fact that sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski (1908-1982) never accepted federal funding for the project. He, in fact, twice turned down offers from the government and instead felt Crazy Horse should be built by the interested public and not the taxpayer. Unfortunately, without the powerful financial backing of the state or federal government, I think they are lacking a bit in the marketing department.

For a little background, Korczak Ziolkowski, born in Boston of Polish descent, received a letter from Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear inviting him to the Black Hills to carve Crazy Horse after learning of the sculptor when Korczak won first prize at the 1939 New York World's Fair

Photo found here.
"My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also," he wrote, referring to Mount Rushmore just 15 miles east of the Crazy Horse site in the Black Hills.

Over the next several years, Korczak began preparing and planning for the monument, until June 3, 1948 when the site was dedicated and the first blast occurred. As you can see, the carving is a very slow-going process (no big financial backers) and in the past 64 years, only the face is really carved out. If it's taken 64 years to only do the face, it will take 500 years to do the rest.

This made me very sad, actually. Although Korczak believe in the free enterprise system, and only wanted the interested public to contribute, I feel that his wife and children who work together with the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation Board of Directors in continuing the work, should allow the Federal government to donate, as a way of apologizing for what "the white man" did to the Native Americans by taking their land and killing their people. For heavens sake, Crazy Horse was murdered at Fort Robinson, Nebraska under a flag of truce on September 6, 1877 by an American soldier. He was stabbed in the back, quite literally. Don't you think "we" need to make amends for that? And don't you think the Lakota people (and Korczak's family and the Board) need to accept forgiveness? I do.

While touring the site, I felt a very real, almost tangible, spirit. The Black Hills is sacred land to the Native Americans, and I felt that. The experience was sacred. There was a feeling that I can't quite describe that made me feel very emotional, very connected, and yearning for a brighter day. 

As the evening arrived, I felt the sacred feeling of this area even more. I think this is one reason I feel strongly that they should acceptance financial donations from the federal government. To me that would symbolize forgiveness, giving and accepting. Righting a wrong to the best of our modern-day ability. It would symbolize and hopefully effect a merging of two cultures. We're all brothers and sisters.

We decided to stay for the evening laser-light show, which admittedly, seemed a little hokey. The show tells the story in lights, "illuminates our cultural diversities, celebrates our similarities, and encourages harmony among all people."

See what it will look like someday? I just hope it doesn't take 500 years... that's no way to honor Crazy Horse.
During the show, I dropped my small brown bag with the silver charm of the Crazy Horse Memorial that I had just purchased. I had a really hard time enjoying and concentrating on the show because I was paranoid about my charm.

We were sitting on a raise wooden deck and I thought it had slipped through the cracks. As my Mom has often said, 95% of the things we worry about aren't worth worrying about... after the show, I found the bag. Silly me.

On the way out we walked past one of the old engines used in the project, as well as a pile of rock that has been blasted off the mountain. We were allowed to take a couple home to remember.

This visit was one of the best surprises of the trip.

The vision of the future Crazy Horse includes an Indian Museum of North America, an Indian University of North American and Medical Training Center, as well as the Visitor's Complex, and will look something like this.

Photo found here.

(Written July 13, 2013)

1 comment:

Lindsay RC Wilson said...

They may not have the funding to complete the monument, but they sure eat well (canned food).