Just minutes north of Custer and south of Mount Rushmore can be found the world's largest carving in progress.
This project began with news of sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski winning first prize by popular vote in the 1939 New York World's Fair for his sculpture Paderewski: Study of an Immortal. Upon learning of this honor, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear invited Korczak to the Black Hills to carve Crazy Horse.
Korczak's 1/34th scale model is shown here with the progress of the carving to date in the background.
Work on the mountain carving began with a blast on June 3, 1948 that removed 10 tons of rock.
Today, workers are blocking out the 22-story-high horse's head. The painted outline shows the 45-foot ear and the 16-foot-wide eye (on the right in the photo above).
This close-up of the marble sculpture shows how the horse's ear and eye will look.
Bus tours take visitors to the base of the mountain, so we signed up for the brief tour to take the photos below.
Crazy Horse was born in the Black Hills in about 1842, and was stabbed in the back by an American soldier and died September 6, 1877.
Ziolkowski wrote in 1949:
"Crazy Horse defended his people and their way of life in the only manner he knew.
"Only after he saw the Treaty of 1868 broken; the treaty which said, in effect: As long as rivers run and grass grows and trees ear leaves, Paha Sapa--the Black Hills of Dakota--will forever be the sacred land of the Sioux Indians.
"Only after he saw his leader, Conquering Bear, exterminated by treachery.
"Only after he saw the failure of the government agents to bring required treaty guarantees
...which they were to receive for having given up their lands and gone to live on the reservations.
"Only after he saw his peoples' lives and their way of life ravaged and destroyed."
The completed face was dedicated June 3, 1998. As Ziolkowski noted: "Crazy Horse is to be carved not so much as a lineal likeness but more as a memorial to the spirit of Crazy Horse--to his people.
With his left hand thrown out pointing in answer to the derisive question asked by a white man,
'Where are your lands now?', he replied: 'My lands are where my dead lie buried'."
Ziolkowski died in 1982, but his family carry on the work of carving this memorial that would let "the white man know the red man has great heroes, also." --Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear