Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Crazy Horse Memorial

on December 8, 2012

Seven years after the completion of Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial was started. Mount Rushmore (which we’ll discuss in the next blog) took about 14 years to complete (well, as complete as it will be – more later on that). Crazy Horse is still being worked on.

What’s the difference in delay? The main delay is financial – Mount Rushmore had government funding and sponsorship, whereas Crazy Horse is privately funded, funded by donations and by admission fees to the location.

In 1939, Chief Henry Standing Bear (Lakota tribe leader) wrote a letter to Korczak Ziolkowski, asking him to carve the monument. He said in his letter: “”My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes also.”

Black Hills areaZiolkowski was a self-taught artist, born in Boston, in 1908. At one point, he assisted Gutzon Borglum on the sculpting of Mount Rushmore, and had a good understanding of working with the stone of the Black Hills, in South Dakota.

So, when Chief Standing Bear approached him, he accepted!

The Black Hills were chosen by the Chief and other Native American elders, because they are considered sacred land. Then, the challenge was finding the right dimensions, the right type of stone, etc. Once completed, the sculpture will be 641 feet (195 meters) long by 563 feet (172 meters) high! Crazy Horse’s head will be 87.5 feet (27 meters) high, and the horse’s head will be 219 feet (67 meters) high!!

Rather than try to carve an exact image of the man who avoided being photographed, Korczak said, “Crazy Horse is being carved not so much as a lineal likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse — to his people.”

Ziolkowski died in 1982 but he passed on the commission to his wife (Ruth), saying ““You must work on the mountain-but go slowly so you do it right.”

The family still are those directly involved in the sculpting and the continuous progress, to finish.

The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of the http://crazyhorsememorial.org/ site explains why Crazy Horse was chosen for the honor: “He is a hero not only because of his skill in battle, but also because of his character and his loyalty to his people. He is remembered for how he cared for the elderly, the ill, the widowed and the children. His dedication to his personal vision caused him to devote his life to serving his people and to preserving their valued culture.”

Talking about the Memorial is easy, it turns out, when you compare it to talking about the man! I feel I must disclaim – there is so much information about Crazy Horse, and some reports disagree with other reports, so – this is my understanding. If you hear or read or know otherwise, please don’t be offended – and I’d be more than happy to be corrected!

In the meantime: Crazy Horse was born sometime around 1840, in the Oglala Lakota tribe, and was named “Cha-O-Ha”, which means (“In the Wilderness” or “Among the Trees”.) His father (Crazy Horse II) was Oglala Lakota and his mother (Rattling Blanket Woman) was Miniconjou Lakota.

I could go on and on (and want to, but I’m too easily distracted) about Crazy Horse’s family and the names of some. Their names are so curious though! One is his cousin, Touch the Clouds, who was almost 7 feet tall ~ this name makes sense to me! He had an auntie named “Good Looking Woman” (how beautiful was she, to earn that name!?), and another auntie who was called “They Are Afraid of Her.” (He named his only daughter after her, but the poor little thing only lived to be 2 or 3 years old.) Then, I wondered: which name would I rather have – “Good Looking Woman”? or “They Are Afraid of Her”? and I can’t decide – I think it might come down to WHY they were afraid of her?? Another family member was a woman called “Kills Enemy”! It sounds like he came from a family of very strong women! (Well, not sure about Good Looking Woman, but the other two, for sure.)

As far as interesting family names, Crazy Horse’s mom nicknamed HIM “Curly Light Hair”….? His little brother was called “High Horse” (I’m not making that up!!) and his step-grandfather’s name was “Corn”.

Crazy Horse (“Tasunke Witko” in Oglala) was victorious in many battles – not only against other tribes (like the Arikara, Blackfoot, Crow, Pawnee and Shoshone), but also the US military.

Included in that is the Great Sioux War (1876-1877). Crazy Horse, along with approximately 1,500 Lakota and Cheyenne came up against General George Crook and his 1000 cavalry & infantry, and his 300 Crow and Shoshone allies, in the Battle of the Rosebud.

This delay prevented Crook from joining General Custer’s forces, in the Battle of Little Big Horn, and contributed to Custer’s absolute defeat. (More on the Battle of Little Big Horn will be coming in a subsequent blog…and as far as Crazy Horse is concerned – his part is vague, but apparently, according to reports and quotes, he was the “bravest” and the “greatest”.)

However, on January 8, 1877, after fighting a major battle at Wolf Mountain in the Montana Territory, Crazy Horse decided to surrender to protect his people. It was winter, and they were hungry and cold. They went to Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

On May 5, 1877, he (along with Little Big Man and others) met with First Lieutenant W.P. Clark to take their first steps toward surrender. Crazy Horse went to live at the Red Cloud Agency, near Fort Robinson.

In August 1877, news came that the Nez Perce of Chief Joseph in Idaho had broken out of their reservation and were escaping to Canada, through Montana. Lieutenant Clark asked Crazy Horse and Touch the Clouds to join the army against the Nez Perce, and they refused, stating that part of their surrender is that they promised to remain peaceful. (Smart men!)

Trouble was brewing at the Red Cloud Agency, and General Crook was ordered to come to Fort Robinson. Someone told Crook that Crazy Horse said that he was going to kill Crook during a meeting that had been called, involving the Oglala leadership. Crook then ordered Crazy Horse’s arrest.

Crazy Horse fled to Spotted Trail Agency nearby, but later agreed to return to Fort Robinson with a Lieutenant J.M. Lee. Touch the Clouds and other Indian scouts also went along. Once they arrived, Lieutenant Lee had to (against his will) turn Crazy Horse over to “the Officer of the Day”. Lee went to the post commander, Lieutenant Colonel Luther P. Bradley for help. But Bradley had actually received orders to arrest Crazy Horse and had him taken “under the cover of darkness” to Division Headquarters. He was then turned over to Captain Kennington, who took him to the post guardhouse.

Wikipedia says “Once inside, Crazy Horse struggled with the guard and Little Big Man and attempted to escape. Just outside the door, Crazy Horse was stabbed with a bayonet by one of the members of the guard. He was taken to the adjutant’s office, where he was tended by the assistant post surgeon at the post, Dr. Valentine McGillycuddy, and died late that night.”
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Horse)

This is a very sad story.

At the Memorial, Crazy Horse’s arm is extended and pointing. This is to symbolize the answer to the question: “Where are your lands now?” to which Crazy Horse is quoted as saying, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

…..
There are some who are opposed to the Memorial, and I thought that the discussions and debates were interesting and that those opposed have valid points. But, from the perspective a tourist who didn’t know anything before, other than what is in standard history books and movies, I found it fascinating, and I have researched and researched, not only this man, but also have learned (to a very small degree, I’m sure) more about the culture and art of the people.

Wednesday, we’ll talk about Mount Rushmore.

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