When we started planning our road trip from the west coast to the east, we knew we had to visit South Dakota. Beth had never been there before, and we expected the many national parks in South Dakota would be worth seeing. High on our list was Mt Rushmore National Memorial. South Dakota turned out to have a few surprises for us, and one of those was the Crazy Horse Memorial. If you love monuments carved into mountains, then the Black Hills of South Dakota is the place to be.
All four of the Presidents – Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, and Lincoln – were beautifully carved on Mt Rushmore.
Sixteen miles away is the privately funded Crazy Horse Memorial. In 1939, an Oglala Lakota chief, Henry Standing Bear, wrote to Korczak Ziolkowski, a sculptor who worked for a time on Mt Rushmore, requesting that he carve a mountain in the Black Hills with the image of Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse, a respected leader of the Oglala Lakota, was chosen to symbolize the American Indian for the monument. The image would be carved into Thunderhead Mountain.
We spent a long time in the Crazy Horse interpretive center, first looking at art collections and then moving on to the exhibits that explained how the carving is accomplished.
The audience was told that the Lakota dancer’s outfit had been handed down to him from his grandfather. Porcupine quills made up his breastplate. The bells on his ankles were for energy.
After the performance, we stood on the deck and looked out at Crazy Horse in the distance.
When we look back at our visits to Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse, we found the artistry of Mt Rushmore to be the most awe inspiring but the Crazy Horse Memorial to be far superior in its setup, informative interpretive materials, and mission. It was also less crowded.
As we prepared to leave Crazy Horse, we saw a pile of rocks from the mountain in a bin by the door. A donation box stood nearby. We searched for the best and smallest rock; placed a donation in the box; and now we have a cherished souvenir from Thunderhead Mountain.
When we planned the trip, it was Mt Rushmore we wanted to see. In the end, it will be the Crazy Horse Memorial that we will remember.