Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota: History in Construction since 1948

This post is a part of my Black Hills Road Trip Series 

The Mission of Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians.

The looming and luminous Crazy Horse Memorial is both the companion and antithesis of nearby Mount Rushmore. Both are impressive monuments blasted into stone and meant to stand for a thousand years, yet Crazy Horse celebrates the pride and culture of America’s native peoples, while Mount Rushmore memorializes the prosperity of a colonized nation.

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Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

A mantra seen often around the monument.

Mount Rushmore was built with government money and continues to be federally funded, while Crazy Horse operates on the generosity of benefactors and tourist entrance fees.

Some might balk at the “steep” pricing structure, but they should quickly be reminded of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski’s promise to “never get into bed with the Federal Government”

Current Crazy Horse Memorial Pricing Structure 

$30.00 per car – more than 2 people

$24.00 – 2 people in car

$12.00 – 1 person in car

$7.00 – per person on a motorcycle

$7.00– per person on a bicycle

Free – Children 6 and Under + Active Military + Native Americans

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Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

Visiting Crazy Horse from Mount Rushmore

It’s a quick 30 minute drive from Mount Rushmore to Crazy Horse, so most tourists to the Black Hills area choose to see both monuments in one day.

The two also complement each other well in terms of history and cultural experience, as the more time you spend in the Black Hills, the more it seems like a waste to come all this way and not learn about its original inhabitants.

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Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

Posing as Crazy Horse. The white sculpture is what the finished project will look like. The quote on the bottom reads “My lands are where my dead lie buried” – Crazy Horse.

Things To Do at Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

How long should you spend at Crazy Horse? Because of the price tag and all the things to do, you should plan to spend about two to three hours at Crazy Horse.

You should start by paying the extra fee for the tour down into the construction zone. It’s only $4.00, so a great value to get up close and personal with the monument and get the inside scoop on the carving process and how things are progressing.

My sister and I visited at the beginning of spring, so we were the only two people on the tour. During the summer, it’s often packed, but that won’t make it less valuable.

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Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

Inside one of the museums at Crazy Horse, you have the opportunity to take a home a rock that has been blasted off the mountain for a small donation.

My sister and I traveled “carry-on only” to the Black Hills, but she still took one and managed to get it home. Just goes to show how strict the TSA requirements are, when you can somehow board a plane with a giant rock in your bag.

I am glad she took one though, as we now have a part of  Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota history with us at home.

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Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

The Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota is also home to the Indian Museum of North America®, the Native American Education and Cultural Center®, as well as the original home and studio of the sculptor, Korczak, and his family. The breadth of knowledge and history on display here is worth the admission fee alone.

You can learn about the culture and lifestyle of many different Native American tribes through their clothing, art, religious relics, dish ware, weapons, and construction materials. It’s a deep look at the “everyday” histories that are often glossed over during formal education.

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Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

What the Crazy Horse campus will look like once completed.

Be sure to set aside some time to simply stop and admire the mountain.

To use your imagination and think about how majestic it will look once Crazy Horse is finally finished being carved. How special and important the area will be to all Americans as we make an effort to remember all parts of our history.

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

The History of Crazy Horse + Why It’s Important To Visit

Crazy Horse was a war leader for the Oglala Lakota tribe. He attempted to fight off the U.S. Federal government as the young nation spread rapidly westward, bulldozing the culture and nearly annihilating the native peoples that got in the way. He fought to protect the legacy of his people, the Lakota.

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

He is most famous for two battles: the Fetterman Fight (21 December 1866) and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (25–26 June 1876). He eventually surrendered to U.S. troops under General Crook in May 1877, but was fatally wounded by a military guard while allegedly resisting imprisonment (what a bogus charge though?) at Camp Robinson which is in present-day Nebraska.

In 1931, while Mount Rushmore construction was under way, Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief, commissioned  Polish-American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to build the Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota. This is because Standing Bear’s brother had written to Gutzon Borglum, the lead sculptor of Mount Rushmore, to request Crazy Horse be added, but he never heard back.

Crazy Horse Memorial South Dakota

Standing Bear is quoted as exclaiming, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.”

Once finished, the Crazy Horse campus will be even more of a hub for Native American cultural education and enrichment, including a satellite campus of the University of South Dakota.

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