March 17, 2012

Still Carving Crazy Horse

As a Forest Service district ranger in the Black Hills, Dad was present for the creation of Korczak Ziolkowski's huge Crazy Horse monument. I remember seeing it as a little boy, when it was just a ridge with a notch in it created by dynamite and earth-moving. I was familiar with Mount Rushmore, and I could not see how this ridge and notch would ever be anything like that.

From Crazy Horse Memorial website.
Dad always dismissed Ziokowski himself as a nut.

Fast forward twenty years: I go back as an adult and yes, I can see where the warrior's head, his outstretched arm, and the horse's head are supposed to be.

When I visited two years ago, there was a face.

The New York Times visits the Ziokowski family's ongoing project, now in its sixty-fifth year, to build the world's largest sculpture. It's a little like one family deciding to build a Gothic cathedral. Progress is slow.

The Indians' own response has been mixed over the years.
“I’ve never heard a single Native American, not one, ever say I’m proud of that mountain,” said Tim Giago, the founder of Native Sun News, based in nearby Rapid City. 

Thomas Shortbull, president of Oglala Lakota College, which receives a number of scholarships from the foundation, acknowledged the discontent. “But most people see the positive of filling the void of the lack of recognition that we have in this country for Indian people,” he added. 
Giago is a longtime journalist, and I expect that he knows whereof he speaks.  On the other hand, the Ziokowskis say they got a sort of tribal go-ahead back in the 1930s:
Although the idea originated with Indian leaders — “this is to be entirely an Indian project under my direction,” Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota chief, wrote in a 1939 letter to the sculptor — Mr. Ziolkowski discovered after his arrival that the local tribes had little to give, either in money or labor, Ms. Ziolkowski said.
Dad last visited the Black Hills in 1999, a few years before his death. We did not visit Crazy Horse—his agenda of people and places to see was more personal to him. I go by it now when I am in the Hills and realize that as a boy I underestimated the Ziolkowskis' tenacity. Maybe one day the Crazy Horse Memorial will be seen as an important American site.

The motto of "Never Forget Your Dreams" has wide appeal, and meanwhile, Crazy Horse has a webcam.

1 comment:

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

I've been and although i know the site isnt without controversy, i'd heartily recommend a visit, the visitors centre is amazing with the best collection of Native crafts I've ever seen - worth the price of admission on its own.

While we're passing: how crap is Mount Rushmore? I'm no sculptor but really after seeing that I was tempted to have a go myself