Story Behind Chief Crazy Horse Monument

Chief Crazy Horse Monument is a mountain sculpture dedicated to Chief Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota (Sioux Indian) warrior.

Chief Crazy Horse Memorial has been continually under construction since 1948.

Once completed, the Crazy Horse South Dakota monument will depict the upper torso of Chief Crazy Horse mounted on his horse, with his arm outstretched and pointing towards the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, the “land of his ancestors.”

Crazy Horse Monument is included as part of our Caravan Mount Rushmore & Yellowstone tour.

To learn more call 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826)

Who Was Chief Crazy Horse?

Chief Crazy Horse was a Lokata Sioux war leader from South Dakota who fought in the Black Hills War of the late 1800s against the US government in order to protect his people’s land and way of life.

In June of 1876, Chief Crazy Horse teamed up with fellow war chief “Sitting Bull” in the Battle of Little Bighorn in eastern Montana. The battle was a great success for Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse and has since become infamous as “Custer’s Last Stand.

The Crazy Horse Mountain memorial includes:

  • Chief Crazy Horse Monument
  • Native American Cultural Center
  • The Indian Museum of North America

Crazy Horse Monument History

It is generally accepted that Mount Rushmore (which was built between 1927 and 1941) likely inspired the Chief Crazy Horse Monument.

Chief Henry Standing Bear

At the time, Chief Henry Standing Bear wanted to publicly prove that Indian nations had their own heroes too. He wrote a letter to the well know Polish sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski inquiring about his interest in creating a memorial to honor Native Americans.

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski

Ziolkowski had previously worked on the Mount Rushmore in 1924 under master sculptor Gutzon Borglum and had the experience needed to take on this new monumental project.

He labored on the mountain until his death in 1982. More than seven decades after Polish sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began carving Chief Crazy Horse Memorial on June 3, 1948, the mountain continues to be under construction.

Today, along with operating the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, Ziolkowski’s widow Ruth, and seven of his ten children are involved in the ongoing work at Crazy Horse Monument.

The face of chief Crazy Horse was completed in June of 1998, fifty years after the very first blasting of rock. Current efforts are now focused on revealing the planned horse’s head.

Funding for Chief Crazy Horse Monument

To date, the complete Crazy Horse Monument project has been funded primarily through donations and by charging a small admission to the memorial site.

Even though the federal government offered to fund Ziolkowski’s Crazy Horse Memorial on two separate occasions, Ziolkowski and his successors gracefully declined the funding, preferring instead to keep the project non-profit.

Location of Crazy Horse Monument

Ziolkowski chose to create the Crazy Horse monument at Thunderhead Mountain, in the sacred Black Hills that is part of the Native North American heritage.

As you travel south along route 385 (on the southwest side of South Dakota), Thunderhead Mountain and Crazy Horse Memorial can be found almost mid-way between Hill City and Custer City. The monument is also less than ten miles away from Mount Rushmore.

The World’s Largest Sculpture

Once completed, the dimensions for Chief Crazy Horse memorial are expected to be 641 feet (195 meters) wide and 563 feet (172 meters) tall, which would make the Chief Crazy Horse Monument the world’s largest mountain carving.

The Crazy Horse Monument will also be the world’s largest sculpture of the human head, measuring in at approximately 87 feet tall and carved in the likeness of chief Crazy Horse himself. In comparison, the heads of the Mount Rushmore Presidents are approximately 60 feet tall.

One of the most interesting events to take place at the Crazy Horse Memorial site is the blasting of the rock from time to time.

There are many spectators at these events waiting patiently while counting down to the blast to witness the falling of tons of rock and dust as it cascades down to the ground from the mountain high above.

Many of the one million-plus visitors that visit Crazy Horse monument annually actually take pieces of the rock as mementos, which are generally obtained by giving a small donation towards the completion of the project.

Completion of Crazy Horse Monument

Perhaps the most common question asked is, “When will Crazy Horse Monument be finished?”

No one is really sure. The blasting continues and the mountain carving is a work in progress, dependent upon donations and private funding only.

When Ziolkowski passed away in 1982, the non-profit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation took over the project and to this day continues to honor Ziolkowski’s intentions to keep funding for the project private while striving for higher educational and cultural goals within their communities.

The completion and dedication of the face of Chief Crazy horse occurred in 1998, fifty years after the very first blasting of rock. At this point in time there is still no estimated completion date for the rest of the monument.

Chief Crazy Horse Volksmarch

Each year, the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation hosts many educational, social and cultural events.

For the last 30 years they have organized an Annual Spring Volksmarch where the public is invited to hike 6.2 miles through the Black Hills woodlands to see the actual sculpture in progress up close.

This is a very popular event with up 15,000 guests in attendance each year. In 2013, an Annual Fall Volksmarch was introduced, giving guests a second opportunity to hike up to the monument. This is the most popular organized hike in the United States.

Crazy Horse Monument Controversy

There is plenty of controversy to go along with the Chief Crazy Horse South Dakota monument.

During his life, Crazy Horse did not want his picture taken and following his death, his body was placed in an unnamed location. As such, the Chief Crazy Horse monument is sculpted in likeness of him and is dedicated to both the spirit of Crazy Horse and to all Native Americans.

While Lakota (Indian) Chief Henry Standing Bear acknowledged the sincerity of Chief Crazy Horse’s motives, many Native Americans are still against the construction of this memorial. Some of the people who knew the history of Crazy Horse have likened the monument to a “pollution and desecration of the landscape.”

About Caravan Tours

Caravan Tours, which is still family owned and operated, began offering all-inclusive tours back in 1952. We now offer affordable, fully guided, tours throughout the United States, Canada, and Central America.

Tour of Chief Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota is included in our fully escorted, all-inclusive Mt Rushmore Yellowstone tour.

These fully escorted, 8-day all-inclusive tours are exceptionally priced, and also include Mount Rushmore, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, and a Grand Teton float trip.

Visit our Caravan Mount Rushmore tour reviews page to read what others have said about this exceptionally priced US travel tour.

Please call us toll free at 1-800-CARAVAN  (227-2826) for more tour information about Chief Crazy Horse monument or to book a vacation with Caravan Tours.