Jul 08

Crazy Horse – A Monument to Native American People

George Washington Profile

George Washington Profile

Just 17 miles from Mt. Rushmore is the Crazy Horse Monument.  You can tour both sites in one day but we decided to do them on different days so we could have time to absorb the information and truly appreciate the grandeur of both carvings.

Carving in the backround

Carving in the backround

The initiator of what has turned out to be the World’s Largest Mountain Carving was Native American Lakota Chief Standing Bear who approached Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to come to the Black Hills and carve a mountain, saying “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also”.

Korczak accepted the invitation and started work on the mountain in 1948.  He married his wife, Ruth, in 1950 and they had ten children.   The monument became a family affair.  Korczak worked on the project until his death in 1982 when his wife and children took over the leadership.  They set up the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation and put together plans and scale models of the sculpture.  To this day, not a penny of Federal money has been used for this massive project.

The carving is meant to be more a memorial of the spirit of Crazy Horse than a likeness.  His left hand is reaching out to suggest his answer to a mocking question by a white man Where are your lands now?”  He is said to have replied “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

Native American Dancer

Native American Dancer

We understand there is some controversy among the Native American people as to the appropriateness of this carving.  Apparently the family members were not consulted about choosing Crazy Horse before the carving was started.  Also, the Black Hills are considered sacred by the Lakota people and many feel they were not meant to be carved into images.

Because the Crazy Horse carving is far from finished, we did not feel the same sense of awe as we did at Mt. Rushmore.  However, when complete it will be massive 563 ft (171.6 meters) high and 641 ft (195.4 meters) long and we are sure will be a remarkable spectacle.  It is unclear when it will be finished and since the project depends solely on entry fees and individual contributions, it definitely won’t be in our lifetime!

Iron Mountain Road and The Needles Highway

As we drove through the Black Hills it was easy to see why they are considered sacred.  The scenery is breath-taking and one of the best ways to take it all in is on the Iron Mountain Road  The road was engineered to showcase the best of the landscape as well as Mount Rushmore. Due to the numerous curves, switchbacks and pigtails, the maximum speed we could go was 35 miles an hour which is exactly the point!  Although we saw a couple of RV’s on the road, we were glad we had left Lexy behind and were driving Suzi the Saturn!

TUNNEL Open for suprise

TUNNEL – Open for suprise

There are three one-lane tunnels that frame the Mt. Rushmore monument.  We stopped at all three of them to look and photograph.  We were advised that if we didn’t see it in front of us, we should look back … and we did!  The 17 mile (27.4 Km) road on a normal drive would take about 45 minutes.  While we were there road repairs were in progress which slowed us down even more.  With windows rolled down, waiting for the Pilot car to take us through the repairs, we had time to appreciate the Ponderosa pines, the brilliant blue skies and the bubbling creeks.  This is Nature at its best!

The Needle

The Needle

On our way back from Crazy Horse to our RV Park we drove along 14 miles (22.5 Km) of the Needles Highway which, since it passes through Custer State Park, requires a $15 entry fee. This National Scenic Byway has tight curves, narrow tunnels and impressive granite spires which seem to reach to the skies!  The highlight is the Eye of the Needle, a popular spot for rock climbers. Spectacular vistas appeared round every curve and we took advantage of the many stops along the way for more photographs!  We just couldn’t get enough of it and could easily have spent several more days exploring the area but it was time to continue our westward journey.

American Bison

Where the Antelope Play

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