Image of a mountain with a large head sculpted in it

The Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota honors Crazy Horse, a Lakota Sioux chief who dedicated his life to protecting his people’s lands and way of life. Construction started in 1948. The newest addition is the arm, which at 263 feet long could fit 6 1/2 fire engines end to end.

©Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation


Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.4, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.7, W.6-8.4

NCSS: Culture • Time, Continuity, and Change • People, Places, and Environments • Individual Development and Identity


Carving a Legend

Crazy Horse, whose Indigenous name was Tasunke Witco, was a Lakota Sioux chief. In the 1870s, he led the fight to preserve his people’s lands and way of life against an increasing wave of White settlers and U.S. Army troops.

Today a figure of the legendary hero on horseback is emerging, bit by bit, from the top of a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota—land the Lakota consider sacred. Work on the Crazy Horse Memorial began 75 years ago, in June 1948.There is still a long way to go, but if completed, it will be the largest sculpture in world history.

North Wind Picture Archives via AP Images

Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who died in 1982, is buried at the base of the mountain. Ziolkowski’s model shows his vision for the finished memorial.

Setting a record wasn’t what drove the men who launched the project. Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota chief, and Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish American sculptor, believed Crazy Horse deserved just as much recognition as the four U.S. presidents carved into nearby Mount Rushmore.

Not everyone is happy about the work. To some Lakota, changing the mountain disrupts the natural beauty of the land Crazy Horse dedicated his life to protecting. But other Lakota support the memorial, which includes museums and educational programs.

The goal remains as Standing Bear and Ziolkowski first planned: to help preserve the Lakota leader’s culture and heritage.

Charles Bennett/AP Images

Workers completed the face in 1998.


Jim McMahon/Mapman®

1. Black Hills National Forest is in which states?

2. Which labeled city lies within the forest?

3. Crazy Horse Memorial and Rapid City are how many straight-line miles apart?

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