Sunday, September 4, 2011

Crazy Horse, The Biggest Dakota Art

In 1977 we did a Western trip and passed through the Black Hills. We visited Mount Rushmore, but did not pay to get in to see the Crazy Horse Memorial because from the road we could see the top of the mountain and it was nothing more than a pile of rocks. Much progress has been made since then but I am sure we will not live long enough to see the finished work. This GIANT sculpture was started in 1948 by Korczak Ziolkowski at the request of Lakota Chief, Henry Standing Bear, and other chiefs. They wanted to show the white man that the red man had heroes also. The main reason progress has been so slow is because Korczak felt the project should be built by public interest and has never accepted government money. He died in 1982 but the work continues today under the guidance of his wife, Ruth, and seven of their ten children.

Here is a plaster model of how the competed work will look with the mountain in the background. The rock they find may dictate some design changes, like the size of the hole under the extended arm, but their goal is to remain as true to Korczak's model as possible.
This is a picture of the mountain in 1977 when all that was done was the level surface above the arm, the tunnel under it, and the basic blasting of the face. This was after almost thirty years of work.

This is what you see today. Korczak's plan was to do the horse's head first, but after his death Ruth decided they needed to complete part of it sooner to keep the public's interest, so they concentrated on completing Crazy Horse's face instead. The outline of the horse's head is painted on the mountain. There are only eight people working on the mountain today and since the face was completed they have been blasting terraces to get to the rock that will eventually be carved. Nine of the eleven terraces are done. All of the blasted rock is removed from the rubble pile and will be used to construct buildings for a planned American Indian school and cultural center. When complete, the sculpture will be down to the tops of the trees.

Here is a comparison of the Presidents with Crazy Horse. They are about 60 feet high and his head is almost ninety. The finished work will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long with the arm being 263 feet. The horse's head will be 219 feet high including the 62 foot mane. This is truly a colossal undertaking.

Bottom left is the compressor and drill Korczak started with. He called it Kaput because on many days he would start it and climb the stairs to the top only to have the thing go kaput. Top right are the tools he used. Top left is the larger equipment they are using today, much of which has been donated. Bottom right is a piece of stone that was removed from over Crazy Horse's eye.

On top of the head is the frame work for the giant protractor that was used to measure where the rock needed to be carved. They no longer have to use it as they now have sensors planted on the mountain to electronically do the measurements. We did pay an extra $4.00 to get a closer look at the bottom of the mountain, but did not opt for the $125 to stand on the arm. Every year on the first weekend in June they have the Volksmarch and you are allowed to walk to the top. I guess a return visit is in the plans.

When complete the sculpture will be three dimensional. Unlike Mount Rushmore, you will be able to walk to the back side and see the work from a different angle. This is one of the things that makes this such a huge undertaking.

Here we are at the foot of the mountain.

The complex also includes the Indian Museum of North America with an outstanding collection of artifacts and a cultural center with craftsmen selling their handmade wares. We also got to enjoy a demonstration of native dances while there.

On our last day in the Black Hills we took a short ride on the George S. Mickelson Trail. This is a great rails to trails that runs for over 100 miles from Deadwood to Edgemont. Unlike other rail trails we have been on this one has pretty good grades that we had to pedal up. But of course, when you pedal up you get to coast down, which was very nice since it was a very hot day. In the background is Harney Peak where we hiked earlier in our visit. We really enjoyed the Black Hills and plan to return as there were many more things we wanted to see and do but could not cover in the week we were there. Having the opportunity to stay in places for extended visits and to be able to return to places we enjoy is one of the great things about the fulltime RVing lifestyle.

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