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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs