Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski worked on the Crazy Horse mountain carving from age 39 until his death at 74.
Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski worked on the Crazy Horse mountain carving from age 39 until his death at 74.
May 31, 2016

IN HISTORY: First Blast on Crazy Horse Memorial, June 3, 1948

One year and one month after sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski moved from Connecticut to the Black Hills at the invitation of Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, the first blast was made on Thunderhead Mountain outside the town of Custer. 

Ziolkowski had gained national acclaim after his sculpture earned first prize at the 1939 World's Fair and after he worked for Gutzon Borglum in carving Mount Rushmore. 

Standing Bear, educated in Pennsylvania, had been on a years-long quest to find a sculptor to carve a memorial to his cousin and Lakota leader, Crazy Horse. He said: "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also."

At age 39, Ziolkowski took the challenge and dedicated the rest of his life to the project. The pose of the Lakota warrior astride a horse with his arm out-stretched is intended to reflect Crazy Horse's statement: "My lands are where my dead lie buried." The sculpture, when finished, is planned to be 563 feet tall.

The sculptor worked until his death at age 74 on Oct. 20, 1982. His widow, Ruth, and many of the couple's 10 children continued work on the sculpture, shifting efforts to complete the face. The face was completed and dedicated in 1998. It is 87 feet tall compared to the faces on Mount Rushmore at 60 feet.

Ruth Ziolkowski died May 21, 2014, and work continues on the memorial headed by a three-person executive committee and a board of directors. The sculpture is intended to be the center of a complex that includes Indian University of North America and Medical Training Center, the Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center and recreational facilities.


Related items

  • Rapid City Organization Celebrates Women’s Equality Day

    In 1920, Congress certified the 19th Amendment, giving women in the United States the right to vote – in 1971, Congress declared that August 26th…
  • Black Hills Energy Donates $25K To Booth Society, Inc.

    Black Hills Energy recently donated $25,000 to the Booth Society, Inc. – the nonprofit group that supports the D.C. Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and…
  • Historic SD Properties Join National Register

    Eight South Dakota properties were recently added to the National Register of Historic Places, reports the Rapid City Journal. These include five in the West…

525 University Loop, Suite 202
Rapid City, SD 57701
(605) 716-0058   [email protected]