Henry Standing Bear (c. 1874-1953), an influential Oglala Lakota chief, commissioned sculptor Korczac Ziolkowski (pictured here, 1908-1982), who’d worked on Mount Rushmore, to create an equally impressive monument to Crazy Horse. (Standing Bear’s brother had originally tried to persuade Rushmore’s lead sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, to include Crazy Horse there.) Ziolkowski and Standing Bear 1947
Henry Standing Bear offered the Department of the Interior 900 fertile acres in exchange for the use of a bald mountain that was under the National Forest Service. The Forest Service granted him a permit of use and organized an oversight commission. But Standing Bear wisely did not seek government funding, relying instead on private donors. Dynamiting the mountain began in 1948.
The monument, not likely to be finished for decades, is now funded through the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, which still relies on private donors, declining government funding. (The earthmoving equipment is largely donated by corporations. There’s also an admission fee and much gift shop boosterism.) The federal government reportedly offered Korczac Ziolkowski ten million dollars, twice, and both times he turned it down for fear that it would open the door to intermeddling.
Upon Korczac’s death in 1982, his wife Ruth took command of the project and its team, which included seven of the Ziolkowski’s ten children. (Daughter Monique Ziolkowski, a sculptor, modified her father’s plans for the outstretched arm to ensure it would be supported.) Korczac had been focusing on the horse at the time of his death, but Ruth believed that getting Crazy Horse’s face done would draw more visitors. The face was completed in 1998. Ruth continued managing the project nearly up to her death in 2014.
The Crazy Horse Memorial, if completed to plan, will be the world’s largest sculpture.
In its shadow, there are plans for an Indian Museum of North America, and a University of South Dakota satellite campus centered on the Medical Training Center for the North American Indian.