A Mysterious Warrior
Crazy Horse is one of the greatest of Native American heroes, but much about his life is a mystery. Crazy Horse was quiet and shy. He rarely spoke in public or participated in public ceremonies. He almost never took part in
councils, treaty sessions, or any kind of meetings with whites or Native Americans. He was a feared and respected warrior, but he did not brag about his war deeds. He did not leave behind any letters, diaries, speeches, or account books to tell his side of the story. The longest recorded statement by him is barely 200 words.
Deep in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Crazy Horse Memorial rises out of Thunderhead Mountain. Under construction since 1948, it is a dramatic monument in the form of Crazy Horse, a Lakota Sioux warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. If completed, the sculpture’s final dimensions will be 641 feet (195 meters) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high, making it the world’s largest statue. The memorial to Crazy Horse will
dwarf one of the most popular monuments in the country, Mount Rushmore, located only eight miles (12 km) away. The heads of the presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high, but the head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (26.5 m) high.
Some wonder, however, if it will ever be finished. The carving was inspired by a letter to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who had worked for a short time on Mount Rushmore. In 1939, Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote to Ziolkowski, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.” Ziolkowski began carving in 1948, and the work has been going on ever since. Ziolkowski died in 1982, but his wife and several children remain closely involved with the work. Although the face of Crazy Horse was completed and dedicated in 1998, the entire work is far from completion.
From the book Crazy Horse by Jon Sterngass.