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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Mike And Jayne Visit the Crazy Horse Memorial

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Crazy Horse —The Last Great Warrior of the Plains

This photo was taken from the recently constructed viewing deck near the Monument. Mike lined this shot to show the contrast between a completed model and the Memorial’s work in progress.


I met Mike and Jayne nearly 54 years ago while playing a game called  “curb ball” with a few friends. It’s a simple game that only requires a sidewalk curb or concrete step, and a few friends to play. It became popular in many cities around the country after World War II. We liked playing games like this because the only equipment needed was a tennis ball, or a pink rubber ball that we called a “pinkie”. This day, however, tragedy struck. I was the designated batter. As I threw the ball against the curb, it struck the very edge and collapsed. Unfortunately, it was the only ball we had. We thought that the game was over until Mike and Jayne, who had been watching us play offered us a solution to the problem. Mike announced that he had two brand new “pinkies” at home. If we let him be the next batter, he would run home and get one. We all agreed, so Mike ran home and brought back a brand new ball, and the game continued. We have been friends ever since.

The background in this photo was shot, by me, in 1960. It is the the parking court where we played many ball games like “curb ball”. The characters in the foreground were frequent players in all of our games. The foregound  photo was taken at our Franklin Field Project reunion in August, 2013.  Jayne was behind the camera.

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Over the years, Mike and Jayne have not lost their willingness to share with friends. Last year they vacationed in New Mexico. They returned with some great photographs of the Albuquerque Balloon Festival, and gave me permission to publish them in my February post of this year. This year they went to the Great Plains to see and experience the majesty of the Crazy Horse Memorial being carved into a 600-foot-high mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When completed, it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long. These dimensions will make it the largest sculpture in the world. Crazy Horse’s head will be larger than all of the heads of the Presidents at Mount Rushmore.

The Black Hills are a small mountain range rising from the Great Plains in South Dakota and extending into Wyoming. These hills were so named because of their dark appearance when viewed from a distance because of their dense tree cover. The Lakota made the Black Hills their home after forcing the Cheyenne to relocate to the west in 1776.

Crazy Horse was an Oglala Sioux Native American Chief who waged a desperate battle against the removal of his people from the Black Hills to U.S. government reservations. He was born to parents of two tribes of the Lakota division of Sioux. His father was an Oglala and his mother was a Miniconjou. His birth came at a time when the Lakota people were at the height of their power. They controlled a vast swath of land from the Missouri River in the east to the Big Horn River in the west. Their contact with white settlers was minimal until the 1850s when white settlers began moving west in search of gold and a new life on the frontier. As the number of new settlers increased, they introduced diseases that began to take a serious toll on native American populations. By 1854, tensions between native Americans and the settlers boiled over with an incident known as the Grattan Massacre. In August of 1854, a group of soldiers led by Lieutenant John Grattan entered the Sioux camp of Chief Conquering Bear to arrest a man for killing a settler’s cow that wandered into the area. The Chief refused to turn the man over to the soldiers, and violence erupted. During the confrontation one of the soldiers shot and killed the Chief. The camp’s warriors fought back and killed Grattan and his 30 soldiers. This is widely believed to be the conflict that set off the first great war between the Lakota and the United States. As conflicts escalated between the United States and the Lakota, Crazy Horse was at the center of many key  battles. Because of his exceptional fighting ability Crazy Horse was named Ogale Tanka (war leader) by his tribe in 1865. He  had a seemingly mystical ability to avoid injury or death on the battlefield. It is believed that he was only wounded twice; both wounds were inflicted by members of his tribe. Crazy Horse had one motive for  fighting in most of his battles. He was determined retake the Lakota life he had known as a child, when his people had full run of the Great Plains.

The last stand and death of Crazy Horse

During the Civil War (1861-1865), the military avoided battle with the Lakota. In 1866, however, hostilities began again. In December of that year Crazy Horse led an attack on a Captain William Fetterman and a brigade of 80 soldiers, outside of Fort Laramie on the Bozeman Trail in Wyoming, just south of the Montana border. Fetterman and his entire brigade were killed. This was a huge embarrassment for the U.S military.

On June 17, 1876, Crazy Horse led 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne warriors against General George Crook and his brigade as they were on their way to confront Chief Sitting Bull at his encampment on the Little Bighorn River. The attack foiled Crook’s planned attack, preventing him from linking up with General Custer and his 7th Cavalry on Big Horn River. On June 24, 1876, Custer attacked Sitting Bull’s camp. This attack ended in disaster for the 7th Cavalry. The detachment was cut to pieces and killed to the last man. After the defeat on the Big Horn River, the Army pursued a scorched-earth policy against the Lakota. Sitting Bull led his followers to Canada to escape this wrath. Crazy Horse refused and vowed to continue fighting. During the winter of 1877, hunger and cold forced many of Crazy Horse’s warriors to abandon him. On May 6, 1877, Crazy Horse led his people into Fort Robinson to surrender. On the morning of September 5th, 1877, Crazy Horse was bayoneted in the back by a guard while being formally arrested at Fort Robinson, and died later that night.

Looking into the future of the Memorial

The painting below shows how this remarkable carving will look in the future when all of Korczak’s major goals are completed. A poem written by the sculptor will be carved behind the horse and rider in letters three feet tall.


The Creator/Sculptor

Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish/American sculptor, was the designer of The Crazy Horse Memorial. He was born in Boston in 1908 to Polish parents. He was educated at Rindge Technical (now called Rindge Latin) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After graduating he became apprentice to a Boston ship maker, and began carving wood at age 20. He later moved to West Hartford, Connecticut, to begin a career as a professional artist. He was one of the sculptors who helped in the carving of Mount Rushmore. His reputation as a sculptor, and his familiarity with South Dakota’s Black Hills prompted several Lakota chiefs to approach him about constructing a monument honoring Native Americans. Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Lakota Nation wrote him a letter saying, “My fellow chiefs would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too. In 1947, Ziolkowski moved to the Black Hills to begin planning the sculpture. The first blast was made on June 3, 1948, and the Memorial was dedicated to the Native American people. He continued his work until his death in 1982. After his death, his wife Ruth took over the project as director until her death on May 14 of this year. Their children are continuing the carving of the monument or are active in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. The U.S. government has offered the foundation 10 million dollars to help with the construction, but it has been turned down. The foundation charges admission to visitors to raise development funds.

Planned dimensions of the Crazy Horse Memorial




 Mount Rushmore — only 8 miles away

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If you are interested in this subject go to and type Crazy Horse into the search bar. There you will find biographies of many of the historical figures discussed here.

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