Professor Jean Akers
5 May 2012
Crazy Horse memorial preserves and exploits the legacy
Americans today visit many national parks and visit various historic sites. Each site has its own space in history and provides a learning opportunity for its impact on history. Each geographic region of the United States has its stories. The area my paper will focus on is the geographic area known as the Plains as well as the rich Native American history that it holds. Native Americans are the first Americans. Although they held ownership of 100% of the land today they live on reservation land allotments provided by the government. The clash Native Americans had with the government is its own section of history books that is very rarely taught. During the time of the Indian Wars many Native Americans fought and died to maintain their independence from the government and to preserve their lifestyle. Other Native American leaders made concessions to accept a way of life the government wanted them to peacefully follow. However, there is one person who fought until the battle overtook his life. That man was Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse lay a foundation for great Native American leadership however his legacy is very controversial. Today many tributes are made in Crazy Horse's name; however, the most controversial is in South Dakota. That is the Crazy Horse Memorial Statue being created in the Black Hills. Many the Sioux nations have a divided opinion of the memorial. The argument leads you to question if the Crazy Horse Memorial preserve or exploit the name of Crazy Horse.
The key figures in this argument start with a relationship that began with the three main characters. One is Crazy Horse the man the statue represents. Then major characters of the project were Chief Henry Standing Bear who initiated the project as a relative of Crazy Horse. Chief Standing Bear recruited Korczack Ziolkowski's who is the sculpture of the mountain carving. Crazy Horse was an Oglala Sioux Indian who fought against removal to an Indian reservation. Although Crazy Horse was a war leader he was never a Chief. He took part in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Crazy Horse surrendered and was killed in a scuffle with soldiers. His biography is under great debate because of little written documentation and no authenticated photograph of Crazy Horse has been documented. This was due to purposeful aversion to photography he was never photographed. His image or likeness is the Crazy Horse Memorial is built to display; his values are what the memorial hopes to preserve. Crazy Horse's legacy is valued by the Sioux today because it entails the highly respected character traits of respect, bravery, generosity, and wisdom.
Chief Henry Standing Bear witnessed the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the Wounded Knee Massacre, and the Indian Reorganization Act. He is a cousin to Crazy Horse. He is remembered as a proud and progressive leader by his people and his peers. He witnessed firsthand how his culture was forcibly transformed from their native Lakota lifestyles to forced assimilation to western civilization. It was through is his leadership that the Lakota people, and all Native tribes, will forever have a tribute that commemorates the essence of our fighting spirits. That memorial tribute upon is completion will be the largest mountain carving on earth. The idea behind Chief Standing Bear's vision was that he wanted "the white man to know that the red man had heroes too" .
Korczack Ziolkowski's was born 1909 in Hartford, Conn. Some of his winning sculptures were exhibited at the World's Fair in New York City. That exhibit caught the eye of Henry Standing Bear. Before was recruited he had created sculptures of marble at his Workshop in West Hartford, Conn. In 1939 he briefly assisted the famous sculptor Borglum in the carving of the Mount Rushmore monument. After his death in 1982 the colossal Crazy Horse Sculpture's dreams are being continued by his wife, Ruth, and members of his family.
The key arguments on this issue are the controversy of the image of the sculpture, the sacredness of the mountain being carved and lastly, why does the does the Sioux tribe not a major collaborator on this memorial. Image of Crazy Horse at the Crazy Horse Memorial is one of a man who is not Crazy Horse. He has been described as a mystic who kept to himself away from his people and was tremendously distrustful of white people. He believed that if his likeness was captured so would his spirit. He feared that if he had his picture taken that he would turn to stone. Although there are many photographs that claim to be Crazy Horse none have been verified and confirmed. Since there is no proven photo of Crazy Horse, the memorial's face is based on eyewitness descriptions of the man. Five survivors of the Battle of Little Big Horn provided verbal description at the memorial's inception which is the likeness we see today. This leads to the leading argument of why would a man who purposefully avoided having his picture taken agree to be the muse of a colossal statue created in his most feared medium of stone?
The next argument against the memorial is the sacredness of Papa Sapa. The location of the carving is on Thunderhead Mountain which is situated between Custer City and Hill City. It is only 8 miles away from Mount Rushmore. Its location was chosen as a memorial to the early ownership of the Black Hills and a memorial to Crazy Horse who fought for his people to maintain ownership of is Black Hills. The Black Hills hold religious value for the Sioux. The Sioux hold certain natural landmarks surrounding the Black Hills to be sacred and frequent them for ceremonies and worship. The have traditions that go back for centuries. For the past 60 years they have had to witness the blasting of the Black Hills to commemorate a leader they know would not want to be the cause of the destruction of mother earth.
Lastly, the gate, concessions, and souvenirs have made the project big money. The foundation receives no government funding and is financed on donations and admissions. The memorial includes the Crazy Horse Memorial, a Native American Culture Center, and an Indian Museum of North America. When you step into the each of the centers at the memorial you have to realize very quickly that the unspoken history of the man the statue is dedicated to is untold. The memorial has become as much about the life of Korczack Ziolkowski's than Crazy Horse himself. The Ziolkowski's have built a complex visitor center and souvenir shop that earns the family millions of dollars annually. This begs the question if Chief Standing Bear's request was limited to the mountain carving alone? Or did the agreement Korczack Ziolkowski's made with Chief Standing Bear gave the Ziolkowski's a free hand to take over the name of Crazy Horse and make a profit on his legacy for perpetuity?
Why do people support the memorial? Chief Standing Bear's most powerful argument is that a memorial should be made to commemorate Native American Leaders comparable to the Presidents of Mount Rushmore. He is in the direct lineage of Crazy Horse and single handedly pushed to have the project begin. He recruited the sculptor and helped scout the location as well as develop the image with different tribal members. The US Senate has offered monetary support time and again to assist with expediting the sculpture however their offers are undoubtedly refused by Ruth Ziolkowski's. In 2000 after the passing of Korczack Ziolkowski's the senate voted to honor the works of the sculptor. The Freedom Forum headed by the founder of USA Today, Allen Newharth, a native of South Dakota, honored Widow Ruth Ziolkowski's plight to continue the project on her husband's behalf. He also annually provides a large donation to the family to assist with the project.
Who are the people who do not support the project? Charlotte Black Elk is the great-great-great granddaughter of Black Elk has been an outspoken critic of the Ziolk
owski's, she considers the carving of Crazy Horse to be an insult to all the Lakota and Dakota people. Senator Jim Bradford, who is Sioux, believes that millions of dollars are being spend on the memorial that has very little meaning to many Sioux living destitute on their own reservations. He has found it hard to reconcile the vision of the ancient Sioux who were self-reliant free spirits in sync with to the land to a modern day people who are bound by federal boundaries, living off the government that has robbed them of a strong heritage. Oliver Red Cloud is the great-great grandson of Chief Red Cloud. He feels that the family is exploiting the name of Crazy Horse. He believes that the statue is a tribute to the sculptor and not in honor of Crazy Horse. Ultimately he believes that the statue will not stand the test of time.
The current progress of the memorial is slow and steady. Many of the Ziolkowski's generations have assisted in completing Korczack Ziolkowski's vision. However the family does not give a definitive date when the project will be complete. They are firmly committed to keeping the promise the patriarch of the Ziolkowski's made with Chief Henry Standing Bear. Today only the face is complete and work continues to chisel out a prominent figure of the Sioux people with or without their support.