Four miles north of Custer on Highway 16 / 385 , Crazy Horse Memorial ® is in existence to honor all Indigenous people of North America . American Indian history and cultures are shared through museums , cultural programs , and the world ’ s largest Mountain Carving in progress .
The Crazy Horse Memorial ® dream began in 1939 when Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear asked sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to create a memorial to pay tribute to American Indians and the world would know “ the red man has great heroes , also .” Standing Bear and others carefully choose Lakota warrior Crazy Horse to be the subject of the Mountain Sculpture .
On June 3rd , 1948 , the first blast took place on the Mountain with five survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn among the spectators . Korczak and Henry Standing Bear decided the Carving would be the centerpiece of the Memorial ’ s educational and humanitarian goals . Furthermore , Ziolkowski declared that it would be a project “ for the people and by the people ,” turning down large amounts of government funding offers . Still today , the Memorial operates solely on donations and charitable contributions from visitors and those who believe in the project .
In the early years , Korczak , his wife Ruth , and their ten children were responsible for Mountain progress and operations at the visitor center . The Ziolkowski family operated additional businesses , such as a dairy farm and sawmill , at Crazy Horse to be able to support a large family and to carry on the noble cause of the project . Together , Korczak and Ruth prepared detailed books laying out the future plans of the Memorial .
In 1982 Korczak passed away at the age of 74 , leaving Ruth and the children with the task of continuing the work . As Ruth took the lead as President / CEO , the important decision was made to shift focus to Crazy Horse ’ s Face , whereas Korczak planned to work on the Horse ’ s Head . The June 3rd , 1998 dedication of Crazy Horse ’ s Face proved this a good decision as onlookers gathered to see the profile against the Black Hills sky . Later , Ruth led as Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation realized another important goal ; opening the Indian University of North America ® in 2010 .
In 2014 , Ruth passed away but had laid the groundwork to ensure the Memorial was in good hands which included Ziolkowski family members , a dedicated Board of Directors , and talented staff and management .
Today , there continues to be growth in all areas of the Memorial ; the Indian University of North America ®, the Museums , and the Mountain Carving . Recent progress on the planned 641 ’ long , 563 ’ tall sculpture includes the revealing of the shape of Crazy Horse ’ s Left Hand and much of his Arm , as well as granite removed from the Horse ’ s Mane and surveying for rock removal on Crazy Horse ’ s Hairline on both sides .
Although the Mountain Carving is the centerpiece of the project , able to be seen even from the highway , there is much more to see within the multi-building visitor center . The Indian Museum of North America ® is home to a large collection of art and artifacts reflecting the diverse histories and cultures of over 300 Native Nations . The Ziolkowski Family life museum features a view into the original log home and studio of Korczak and Ruth , and their family . The fascinating Mountain Carving gallery is where you can get a closer view of the work the Mountain Carving entails now , and learn more about the journey to present-day . These areas are only part of what you will be exposed to at Crazy Horse Memorial ®. It is suggested to plan several hours for a visit . Dining options are available on-site at Laughing Water Restaurant ® and the snack shop , operated by the Memorial ’ s official gift shop and food service , Korczak ’ s Heritage , Inc .
Please visit www . crazyhorsememorial . org for further information or call 605-673-4681 . Memorial visitors are welcome year-round ! All photos © Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation