Saturday, June 4 – Rapid City, South Dakota
Today was a day trip out of Rapid City to visit the Crazy Horse Monument and Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills. It was our first trip together as a group of 48, and I detected a lot of New York accents as we passed ponderosa pines and quaking aspen trees. Was my stereotype coming true?
The Crazy Horse Monument is almost more compelling than the more famous Mount Rushmore. In 1939, Korczak Ziolkowski, a noted New England sculptor, first came to the Black Hills to help Gutzon Borglum carve Mount Rushmore. By 1947, the Oglala Lakota chief, Standing Bear, had convinced Ziolkowski to construct a tribute to Crazy Horse, the victor at the Battle of Little Big Horn.
“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also,” Chief Standing Bear said at the time. Actually, not all Native Americans agree that carving into their sacred Black Hills is a noble endeavor, and Crazy Horse reportedly never wanted his likeness to be reproduced.
Ziolkowski accepted no government support, unlike Borglum at Mount Rushmore, and for the first 10 years he worked on the project virtually by himself, climbing almost 1,000 steps with his heavy equipment several times a day. He died in 1982, but his children and grandchildren still work at the site.
Crazy Horse’s head was completed and revealed in 1998. An outline of the planned head of his horse is visible on the rock. The day we were there, hundreds of Volksmarchers were completing a 10-kilometer trek to Crazy Horse’s head and back.
Sue was more moved by the notion of Ziolkowski’s single-minded obsession than by Mount Rushmore, but it too was impressive. I took the “easy” path farther up to the four carvings and the “strenuous” path back, thinking it would be all downhill. Wrong!
A store on site sold jewelry made of Black Hills gold, with its unique traditional design comprised of pink and green gold leaves, gold grape clusters and vines. I bought a ring and Sue bought earrings, at what we thought were reasonable prices.
Speaking of shopping, if you are ever in Rapid City, Prairie Edge has an overwhelming selection of Native American crafts – from designs on buffalo and deer hides to flutes, weapons, drums, clothing and jewelry. If we move to a new place back in Delaware, I would like to return there with a sizable decorating allowance or some lottery winnings.
Tomorrow: Wyoming, Montana and Little Big Horn