Crazy Horse Memorial.  What to Know When You Go!

Year Round

Everyone has heard of the famous carved faces that are Mount Rushmore.  Did you know that South Dakota has another massive mountain carving?  Nestled in the very heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota is the emerging form of Oglala Lakota Indian Chief, Crazy Horse.  Though it's a bit of a jaunt from your comfy room at the Baymont Inn & Suites in Sturgis, you can take beautiful Vanocker Canyon for a scenic drive through our beautiful Black Hills. 

Meet Chief Crazy Horse

Chief Crazy Horse, known as Tasunke Witco in the Lakota language, was a mighty warrior for his people.  In a time fraught with tensions and battles between Native Americans and settlers for the Black Hills, Crazy Horse was revered for his strength, bravery, and cunning in battle.  It was his band of warriors who emerged victorious from the Battle of Little Bighorn, otherwise known as Custer’s Last Stand.  This was the last straw for the US Government, which began sending scouts to force tribes further across the country until they surrendered from desperation.  Under a flag of truce, Crazy Horse traveled to Fort Robinson in 1877 to negotiate for his people.  Discussions quickly fell apart, and Crazy Horse was escorted to the prison.  He drew his knife to try and escape and was bayonetted by an infantryman; he died later that same night, a hero to his people. 

The Dream Begins

In 1948, Chief Henry Standing Bear made a deal with large-scale sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski.  He wanted Ziolkowski to create a soaring likeness of his beloved relative, Chief Crazy Horse, so the Native American legacy would also have a giant carving representing their heroes.  And because of the powerful spiritual ties the Lakota people feel with the Black Hills, Standing Bear believed it was the only appropriate place for such a monument.  The memorial’s inaugural dynamite blast was on June 3, 1948.   While he lived long enough to see his dream begin and start to take form, Standing Bear would never see it emerge to today’s growing splendor; he died in 1953.  So too, with Korczak Ziolkowski.  Having arrived in the West in 1939, the talented sculptor worked on the Crazy Horse project until he passed in 1982. Ziolkowski is entombed under his beloved mountain.  Click here to read more about both Standing Bear and Ziolkowski’s rich and varied lives.

The Ziolkowski Family Carries On

Today, the carving is only a percentage completed.  What Korczak Ziolkowski projected to take 30 years has to-date taken 73 years.  Ruth Ziolkowski, Korczack’s wife, took the project on after his passing.   She dedicated the remainder of her life to fortifying Korczack’s work and enhancing the memorial in every way she could.  Since 1982, Ruth has added a 300-seat theater, a new wing in the memorial’s Indian Museum of North America, a larger parking lot, a viewing veranda, several gift shops, Laughing Water Restaurant, a library, nightly laser shows and night blasts in the summer, and more.  

What to Know When You Go

In addition to all these improvements, the memorial offers multiple cultural and educational opportunities throughout the year.  Native American performers and artists offer their talent and wares; famed national performing group Brulé has even been in residence.  Entrance fees to the memorial change with the seasons. Click here to find out what you will pay depending on when you are there.  You can learn more about Crazy Horse Memorial’s events here.

Over 1 million visitors every year cross through Crazy Horse Memorial’s gates.  Will you be the next?