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Crazy Horse Memorial: Epic Work-In-Progress Mountain Monument (South Dakota)

Crazy Horse Memorial, North American Indian and horse sculpture, world's largest mountain monument, Black Hills, South Dakota

World-record-breaking Crazy Horse Memorial is a magnificent creative undertaking that inspires to celebrate the heroes, culture, and living heritage of North American Indians.

Situated between Hill City and Custer in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the memorial features a huge work-in-progress mountain sculpture of Oglala Lakota leader Crazy Horse… riding a horse. It’s on track to be come the world’s largest sculpture! Already, the head of Crazy Horse is bigger than the four presidents of Mount Rushmore.

Scaled down sculpture of Crazy Horse on his horse by Korczak Ziolkowski and the actual mountain monument still in progress
Scaled-down sculpture of Crazy Horse on his horse by Korczak Ziolkowski and the actual mountain monument in progress.

You can’t talk about the Crazy Horse mountain monument without mentioning its neighbor, just 17 miles away: the iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial, which features the faces of four American presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln) carved into a mountain. Mount Rushmore was purposefully created as a tourist attraction to bring more attention and money to South Dakota.

The colossal carving of the Lakota leader Crazy Horse was conceived by Oglala Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear and designed by the Polish-American artist Korczak Ziolkowski to serve as a memorial to all the Indians of North America on a non-profit basis. As part of the memorial, they planned on additional works, institutions, buildings, and carvings.

“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also.”

Chief Henry Standing Bear

Crazy Horse (1840 – 1877) was a warrior known to have led actions against US federal government in defense of the Native American territory, most notably the Battle of Little Bighorn.

My lands are where my dead are buried. Crazy Horse quote, 1877

In the sculpture by Ziolkowski, Crazy Horse’s left hand is thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man, “where are your lands now?” to which he replied, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.” 

Work on the sculpture began in June 1948… and might not be finished for another 40 years or more. While it would be amazing to see the finished monument, it’s quite unique to observe it in an in-between stage. Both men have passed since; several family members of Ziolkowski still work at the memorial today. This work of art and memorial does not accept federal or state funding – and is solely financed via the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation by contributions and your admission fee.

Closer look and a sense of scale, world's largest monument features North American Indian in South Dakota
A closer view showing a vehicle gives a better idea of scale.

Besides the giant monument, the Crazy Horse Memorial includes the Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Cultural Center, the Laughing Water restaurant, several other smaller sculptures, and the Indian University of North America programs. The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation has also been providing college scholarships for Native American students since the 1970s.

Fighting Stallions sculpture by Korczak Ziolkowski on the Crazy Horse Memorial Campus.
Fighting Stallions sculpture by Korczak Ziolkowski on the Crazy Horse Memorial Campus.

Over the next 5 – 10 years, the aim is to finish carving Crazy Horse’s left hand, left forearm, right shoulder, hairline, and part of the horse’s mane and head. We’ll be back to check…

Drawing on a photo showing the planned outlines of Crazy Horse Memorial
Lines on a photo at the visitors center showing the planned outlines of Crazy Horse Memorial.

Crazy Horse Memorial Location, Contact and Admission

Address: 12151 Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, SD 57730

Phone: +1 (605) 673-4681

Admission Hours: Open Year Round. Hours change seasonally, but generally open from 9am to 4:30pm – or longer. Click HERE for specific and updated dates and times.

Admission Fees: Fees vary at Crazy Horse Memorial depending on season and mode of transportation and group size. Currently, the entry fee for a person on a bike or foot is $7, in a car alone $12, 2 people $24, 3 people $30…

For an additional $4, visitors can take a bus from the Visitors Center to the base of the actual Crazy Horse mountain monument.

Official website:

The horse Native American hero Crazy Horse rides, white statue, model of mountain monument.
The horse Crazy Horse rides.

Nearby Attractions

Custer State Park and the Amazing Needles Highway (South Dakota)

Mount Rushmore (South Dakota)

And just a bit further north… First and Sacred: Devils Tower aka Bear Lodge (Wyoming)

Rising from the woods of the Black Hills, giant Crazy Horse Indian warrior and leader mountain monument.
Rising from the woods of the Black Hills, South Dakota: the magnificent Crazy Horse mountain monument.

Let’s Inspire Each Other

Have you been to Crazy Horse Memorial? Have you seen any other mountain monuments, large sculptures, or memorials to Native American or indigenous culture? What was your experience like? What would you recommend we go see?

Please share any of your thoughts in the Reply section below.

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Crazy Horse Memorial: Epic Work-In-Progress Mountain Monument in South Dakota, USA. 'My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also.' - Chief Henry Standing Bear

The photos in this post were taken by Luci Westphal in fall of 2015. As far as we can tell, the sculpture has not changed significantly since.

The main photo of the Crazy Horse Monument is available as a postcard in the Set of 5 Postcards: Iconic (Man-Made).

8 thoughts on “Crazy Horse Memorial: Epic Work-In-Progress Mountain Monument (South Dakota)

  1. Love the story.I never heard about this place so it was good treat to read.

    1. How cool we got to show you something new to you! Thank you for your comment, Angela.

  2. I love reading your blog as I seem to discover new places which I would not have otherwise, Crazy Horse Memorial is somewhere I would love to visit one day

    1. I really appreciate that – because I love the idea of introducing people to new place and maybe even inspire them to visit there one day. Crazy Horse is a little bit out of the way for a USA trip, but it’s quite unique in the world.

  3. I love learning about places like this, I have driven by but never stopped. We may have to check it out.

    1. Well, that’s especially cool to know that I was able to give you some (new) insights to a place that you’ve driven by already – and that you now might even stop in sometime. I hope you do. It seems like a great effort to support, a historic place-in-the-making to have witnessed, and there’s so much more to see and learn in person.

  4. What a story! What a place! This is where nature and history meet!

    1. Yes! Love your comment! So true.

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