South Dakota’s Best Monument is Not Mount Rushmore

When most people think of South Dakota, they think of Mount Rushmore. It’s not a representation of the state, but also the entire country. However, did you know that South Dakota is home to another monument carved into a rock?  

Located just 17 miles from Mount Rushmore, is the Crazy Horse Memorial, a mountain monument currently under construction to honor the great Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. While Mount Rushmore has more of the fame, the Crazy Horse Memorial may have a great story.  

The Crazy Horse Memorial — commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota leader — is a life-long ambition for the great sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski. The dream for Crazy Horse was to be more than just a monument carved into a mountain, and its original plans also include an Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.  

The mountain memorial was to depict Crazy Horse, carved into Thunderhead Mountain on the Oglala Lakota’s sacred the ground. The sculpture includes Crazy Horse on a horse and is planned to be 641 feet long and 563 feet long. While the heads of each president on Mount Rushmore are 60 feet high, Crazy Horse’s head is expected to be 87 feet high. When finished, the monument will be the world’s second tallest sculpture.  

Construction on the monument began in 1948, and today is still very much a work in progress, likely still decades away from completion. While Ziolkowski passed away in 1982, his family has taken over the project. His wife, Ruth, became CEO and was committed to continuing the project and attracting more visitors to the monument. Monique Ziolkowski, Korczak and Ruth;s daughter and a sculptor, took over the project when her mother passed away in 2014, and continues running it with additional family members.  

The memorial is a non-profit and is sustained on private donations, visitor feeds, and commissions from the gift shop. 

In additional to the mountain monument, the Ziolkowski family was passionate about preserving the history and tradition of the Lakota and offering support and resources for Native American residents across the region. A satellite campus of the University of South Dakota, called the Indian University of North America, houses a classroom building and residence hall. The school offers classes in math, English, and American Indian studies courses for college credit. Additional donations have paid for scholarships for Native American Students, most of whom are South Dakota residents. 

Crazy Horse is not a monument to be read about. Even partially finished, it is breathtaking and moving. You will need to come see it for yourself!