Tips For Visiting Crazy Horse Memorial

This blog post won’t come close to doing the story of Crazy Horse, the Lakota Tribe, Henry Standing Bear, and the Ziolkowski family justice. The history of each of these individuals and groups alone is powerful, but when you weave it together, it’s incredibly meaningful and full of legacy.

Back in high school, I was able to travel to South Dakota with my family on a long road trip. We had visited Mount Rushmore, and then had visited Crazy Horse. I remember thinking that while Mount Rushmore was “finished”, Crazy Horse was so much larger and such a cooler story (in my opinion). I remembered learning that the memorial is funded entirely from private contributions and admission. I was surprised but thought it so cool that this is truly funded directly by people who want to fund this story in stone.

When Teddy and I were planning our road trip through the plains, something I wanted to make sure we were able to do was visit Crazy Horse in the Black Hills. I had such a moving experience the first time that I wanted to share that experience with Teddy this time. Prior to our trip, I had purchased and read the book The Journey of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III. Marshall’s first language is Lakota and he weaves Native American oral tradition of Crazy Horse into the written traditions and sheds new light on the journey of Crazy Horse. We also listened to a podcast in the car with Joseph Marshall being interviewed that I appreciated so much. It talked about his

Our Visit

On Teddy and my 12 Day Road Trip, we visited the memorial after our stop at Wind Cave National Park which is only 35 minutes away. While I had visited in the middle of the day in the past, we found out there was an evening light show where the mountainside of 500 feet turns onto a screen for laser light story telling.

We budgeted about 2 hours at the memorial. We got there about an hour before sunset so we could browse the museums and the gift shop, and stayed through the end of the laser light show which I highly recommend. It was maybe 30-45 minutes long and wove various history and stories of legends throughout. It was powerful to think about the legacy left by brave individuals who lived or left a mark on the Black Hills area. Individuals like Crazy Horse, Standing Bear, Teddy Roosevelt, Korczak Ziolkowski and so many others left is indescribable.

While we weren’t at the memorial for long, the stories we heard will leave a permanent impact on us.

History

Crazy Horse was a humble warrior that was part of the Ogala Lakota tribe and born in 1840. He led a group of Lakota warriors into what is known as Custer’s Last Stand or the Battle of Little Bighorn. During this time period, the Northern Plains tribes were being rounded up by the U.S. government causing tribes to continue moving to avoid being captured and taken to nearby forts. In 1877, Crazy Horse was taken to Fort Robinson under a flag of truce. While there, he realized he was going to be imprisoned and tried to get free. A guard used a bayonet to wound him which ultimately led to his death.

Henry Standing Bear was part of the Lakota tribe and was born around 30 years or so after Crazy Horse. He attended the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania and learned that while war for Native Culture had been waged in the past with weapons, he had an opportunity to fight for it to remain but in a different way – with communication and ideas. In 1933, he found out a monument was going to be built in Crazy Horse honor by the well known sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. The sculptor moved to the Black Hills and began this memorial in 1947. He dedicated 36 years of his life to making it prior to his passing, Now, his family continues in the legacy of this beautiful and magnificent story in stone.

“By carving Crazy Horse, if I can give back to the Indian some of his pride and create a means to keep alive his culture and heritage, my life will have been worthwhile.” – Korczak Ziolkowski

Planning Your Trip

The Memorial is located in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. It’s a perfect add-on to a trip to the National Parks or caves in the area. As of 2022, tickets range from about $12 per car to $35 per car depending on how many people are in the car.

Something to keep in mind when visiting is that admission only gets you to the Visitor Center and platform overlook. If you’d like to get closer to the monument itself, you can pay a bit extra to board a rustic bus up to the memorial or with a donation can get a Face to Face look at the memorial up close. Each time we’ve visited, we have viewed it from the platform, but I do think it would be a neat opportunity to get up close.

Other Things To Do in the Black Hills

  • Custer State Park + Needles Highway
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Jewel Cave
  • Badlands National Park
  • Spearfish Canyon
  • Wind Cave National Park

“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too.” — Henry Standing Bear

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