Crazy Horse Memorial Generates Mixed Feelings - 2003-09-13



Hundreds of people, mostly non-Natives, attended a special night demolition to further shape the massive natural stone carving at South Dakota's Crazy Horse Mountain Saturday, September 6. The event commemorated the anniversary of the Lakota Indian leader's 1877 death and the birthday of the late sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who began work on Crazy Horse Mountain in 1948. The completion of the Mount Rushmore Memorial to four U.S. presidents nearly a decade earlier prompted a Lakota elder to commission an image that would "show the white man that the red man has heroes, too." But, after 55 years of blasting, and with no end to the project in sight, Native Americans have mixed feelings toward the massive carving and the huge sums of money the Ziolkowski family earns from it every year.

When Crazy Horse was killed by another Lakota at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, on September 6, 1877, his legend lived on. For generations, his name has been a symbol to Lakota people of pride, courage and strength. Recognizing the power of Crazy Horse as a cultural icon, Lakota elder Henry Standing Bear asked Korzcak Ziolkowski to carve a likeness of the slain warrior in the sacred Lakota Black Hills. It was a likeness based on oral history, because Crazy Horse always refused to be photographed.

Korczak Ziolkowski died in 1982, 16 years before the face of the carving was completed. Millions of people have visited the 171-meter memorial, which has generated controversy within the Native community.

"I work here and I enjoy working here, and I think what is going on here makes me proud," said Clayton Quiver, who is a Lakota.

For some Native Americans, like Clayton Quiver, the Crazy Horse Memorial is not only a place for employment, but a place he says helps to balance hundreds of years of racism against his people.

Seth Big Crow feels less positive about the huge carving. His great-grandmother was Crazy Horse's aunt. Mr. Big Crow says he's resigned to the existence of the carving and rationalized that, in future years, it may be the American equivalent to the Easter Island monoliths.

"Maybe 300 or 400 years from now, everything will be gone, we'll all be gone, and they'll be the four faces in the Black Hills and the statue there symbolizing the Native Americans who were here at one time," said Seth Big Crow.

But Seth Big Crow is concerned about the amount of money being generated by his ancestor's name. Since Henry Standing Bear requested the mountain carving, the Ziolkowskis have built a complex of visitor centers and souvenir shops earning the family millions of dollars annually. Mr. Big Crow wonders if Henry Standing Bear's request was limited to a mountain carving alone.

"Or did it give them free hand to try to take over the name and make money off it as long as they're alive and we're alive? When you start making money rather than to try to complete the project, that's when, to me, it's going off in the wrong direction," he said.

The complex is listed as part of Korczak Ziolkowski's "expanded plan" for the site and, as noted on the memorial's brochure, "Crazy Horse cannot be experienced by driving past on the highway." The sculptor's widow, Ruth, and seven of his children work at the Memorial. Daughter Anne Ziolkowski's view on the controversy that the memorial has caused in Indian Country is blunt.

"Well, you're not gonna' please everybody," said Ann Ziolkowski. "I don't care what you do, you're not gonna' please everybody. If we offend people, we're very sorry. But we're doing what we were asked to do."

The problem, according to Crazy Horse descendant Elaine Quiver, is that Henry Standing Bear had no right to petition Korczak Ziolkowski to create the mountain carving in the first place. She says Lakota culture dictates consensus from family members on such a decision. Ms. Quiver adds that no one bothered to ask the descendants of Crazy Horse if they approved of the project before the first sticks of dynamite were blown on land sacred to the Lakota on June 3, 1948.

"They don't respect our culture because we didn't give permission for someone to carve the sacred Black Hills where our burial grounds are," said Elaine Quiver. "They were there for us to enjoy and they were there for us to pray. But it wasn't meant to be carved into images, which is very wrong for all of us. The more I think about it, the more it's a desecration of our Indian culture. Not just Crazy Horse, but all of us."

The Ziolkowskis have donated $500,000 to Native American students, an act Anna Ziolkowski says is part of her family's show of respect for the culture. But Elaine Quiver and Seth Big Crow both question what's become of the other millions of dollars collected at the Crazy Horse Memorial over the past 55 years. Mr. Big Crow says he's keeping an eye on the Memorial and, as for the money.

"One day when we go in front of the maker of all human beings, we're going to have to explain our actions as to why, and money cannot be part of the explanation, because I don't believe it'll be recognized," she said.

Photos courtesy - Crazy Horse Memorial

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs