The Black Hills, Pa Sapa in the Lakota Sioux language, means Place of the Black Cedars. From a distance, the hills do look black because of the dark green foliage of the Ponderosa Pine forests that cover their slopes. This was a region sacred to the native peoples. One of the memorials we visited was the work-in-progress, which is the sculpture of Crazy Horse, a warrior of the Oglala Sioux tribe who has come to embody the indomitable spirit of the Plains Indians.
Begun in 1948 by Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski at the request of elders of the Plains Indian tribes, when completed the Crazy Horse Memorial will be the world's largest sculpture. It is being carved, and has been for the last fifty-plus years, out of Thunderhead Mountain just outside Custer, SD. The sculptor died several years ago, but the work is being carried on by his widow and by seven of his ten children. We were told that twice the family has been offered funding from the US Government which could amount to grants of $10,000,000 each. The sculptor and his family rejected the offers, believing that the work would be compromised or possibly not finished. Instead, they continue their work funded by donations, and by entrance fees to the monument and the excellent museum that occupies the grounds.
The image above is the statue as it exists today. The arm of Crazy Horse will stretch almost the length of a football field. Each year, there is more progress, though it is likely to be a number of years until the sculpture is finished. Below is a 1/34 scale model of the memorial as it will look upon completion. If you are in the area, it is a not-to-be-missed attraction.
There are a number of excellent biographies covering the life of Crazy Horse from his birth, somewhere around 1840, until his death in September of 1877. If you are interested, I recommend the excellent biography, Crazy Horse, A Life, written by Larry McMurtry and published in 1999 . I found it a fascinating read, and a good synopsis of the life and times of this Native American hero.
The granite cliffs of the Black Hills provide the setting for another sculpture, even more famous and revered. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is just out Keystone, SD. President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the memorial in 1927, beginning fourteen years of work, only six of which were spent on actual carving. Renowned sculptor Gutzon Borglum was chosen to design and supervise the carving. He chose George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt as presidents to represent the first 150 years of US history. His goal was to embody "the formal rendinging of the philosophy of our government into granite on a mountain peak."
Honored on Mount Rushmore are the four leaders who brought the nation from colonial times into the 1900s. Washington is most prominent, commander of the Revolutionary army and first president of the United States. Next is Thomas Jefferson, included as the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and driving force behind the Louisiana Purchase, which virtually doubled the size of the nation. Abraham Lincoln held the Union together following the Civil War and ended slavery in the US. Theodore Roosevelt, the nation's 26th president, promoted construction of the Panama canal and championed conservation and economic reform.
It is interesting that the design of Mount Rushmore chaged several times because the granite didn't always prove stable enough to place the faces where originally conceived. Here are several views of the memorial. Some are taken within the park, and others from various vantage points outside the memorial. There is an evening lighting ceremony at the memorial which we hope to attend before we leave the area.