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Marks of History: Crazy Horse Mountain

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PIERRE, S.D. – On June 3, 1948, sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and Chief Henry Standing Bear decided to make their dream of carving a memorial to Crazy Horse a reality. This historic marker, located at the entrance of the memorial on Highway 16, describes why Lakota Chief Crazy Horse was chosen as the model/subject for the carving.

Out of the many great Native American heroes, the tenacity, purpose, modest lifestyle and tragic end of Crazy Horse set him apart. As a commander, he believed in fighting at a place and time of his choosing. He signed no treaties, lived in the outlands and rejected the soft living of the reservations, but acted as a rock of independence during difficult times. These and other qualities made Crazy Horse a hero to Native Americans and a symbol worthy of the largest mountain carving in the world.

Crazy Horse Memorial is a privately funded operation. Upon completion, the carving will be 641 feet long by 563 feet high. Crazy Horse’s completed head is 87 feet 6 inches high. The horse’s head, currently the focus of work, is 219 feet or 22 stories high.

Korczak dedicated his life to fulfilling a promise he made to the Native American people. After passing away in 1982, his wife, Ruth, and seven of their 10 children continued the project. They are dedicated to fulfilling Korczak’s dream to carve a mountain.

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The Marks of History series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism designed to highlight historical markers all across South Dakota. Click on the special “Marks of History” link at to access the complete list of articles.