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Crazy Horse Memorial to celebrate 75 years of construction

A 1/34th scale model of what the Crazy Horse sculpture will look like, foreground, frames the actual carving in 2006.
M. Spencer Green
A 1/34th scale model of what the Crazy Horse sculpture will look like, foreground, frames the actual carving in 2006.

Plans are in the works for a major celebration commemorating 75 years of construction at the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills.

But as the anniversary approaches, those behind the project say it has grown beyond its original purpose.

In 1948 Korczak Ziolkowski began sculpting Thunderhead Mountain with the likeness of legendary Lakota warrior Crazy Horse at the request of Chief Henry Standing Bear.

From the start, the point of the monument was to honor the Indigenous people of North America. But plans expanded over the years. The site of the largest in-progress mountain carving is now home to a museum and university.

According to CEO of the Crazy Horse Memorial, Whitney Rencountre II, “The mission of Crazy Horse Memorial is to protect and preserve the history, culture, living heritage of North American Indians.”

Rencountre described the strategy involved in achieving their mission by identifying three aspects of the organization: the mountain, the museum and the university.

The mountain itself remains one of South Dakota’s most popular tourist destinations. More than a million people visit each year, according to the memorial’s website.

The memorial museum houses artworks and artifacts that document the lives of Indigenous ancestors and their chapters of American history.

The Indian University of North American at Crazy Horse Memorial, created in 2010, has a partnership with Black Hills State and South Dakota State University (SDSU) that helps them offer on-site classes for college credits.

Students can receive 15 credits from SDSU when they attend the fall program and graduating high school seniors can receive 12 BSU credits for enrolling in the summer program at Crazy Horse Memorial.

“What makes our program very important in terms of supporting Native American education is when the students attend our program, we stay in touch with them, and we mentor and coach them throughout the rest of their college career,” said Rencountre

While June 3 is the monument’s official birthday the public celebration is being hosted throughout the following day, June 4. The event will feature traditional dancing and singing performances, campus visits, information on mountain progress, panels, speakers and museum tours.

The event will be attended by descendants of those that fought at the Battle of Little Big Horn and members of the Ziolkowski family. The schedule also features a speech from U.S. Olympian Billy Mills and a Lakota helicopter flyover.

For more information on the 75th Anniversary events visit Home of the Crazy Horse Memorial : Crazy Horse Memorial®.

Zadya Abbott (she/her/hers) is a senior at the University of South Dakota studying Media and Journalism with a minor in Women and Gender Sexuality Studies. She is native to the southeastern corner of South Dakota. Zadya regards the journalism profession as one of noble service meant to objectively provide the public with information of interest.