On my way back to Manitoba I seized the opportunity to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills, of South Dakota.
The memorial is on the Avenue of the Chiefs, which is located just off Highway 16, a few miles north of Custer, SD. It was easy to find as there were plenty of signs pointing me to the site. As you drive up Highway 16 you will be able to see the memorial, but to get a good view you have to turn up the Avenue of the Chiefs and pay the admissions. A warning though, once you make the turn onto the Avenue of the Chiefs there are no u-turns allowed and it seems that you are committed to go through the toll gate. It cost me $10 to enter.
The memorial depicts an image of Crazy Horse, the Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was originally commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. Really though, the only part that is currently complete is the face.
There is a bus that will take you closer to the monument, but it costs $4 and in seeing the lineup for the bus I decided to remain near the visitor centre. I have a telephoto lens so I was able to get some good shots of the memorial regardless.
The monument as wonderful as it is at the moment, has been in progress since 1948. Any visitor can see that it is still far from completion. In fact, I heard more than one person mutter complaints about the slow progress. According to the information available at the site, there has been some progress on the memorial, however I think that the progress has been slow and therefore difficult for visitors to comprehend.
Currently the memorial is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a private non-profit organization. It receives no federal or state funding. They also operate a gift shop at the site which also makes money for the foundation. Also at the site you have an Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.
Thunderhead Mountain, where the memorial is being carved, is privately held land that is considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota. In fact some of the Lakota criticize the monument as a desecration of a natural land. Also, Crazy Horse was known to have always resisted being photographed, and was deliberately buried where his grave would not be found. Critics claim that Crazy Horse himself would not have wanted to be memorialized in such a fashion. Thirdly, critics claim that it was not traditional for the Lakota to point, and in fact, pointing was considered to be bad luck to the Lakota.
To all the critics, this memorial will always generate bad vibes. But if you want to visit something that is beautiful, located in a beautiful part of the world, then stop in to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial. Further, if you don’t want to pay the admission price, bring along a pair of binoculars and go ahead and view it from Highway 16.