Press "Enter" to skip to content

Crazy Horse Memorial Not Big Booster of Pine Ridge Event Honoring Lakota Leader

Crazy Horse monument, photo by CAH, taken during Volksmarch, June 2013, Black Hills, South Dakota.
Crazy Horse monument, photo by CAH, taken during Volksmarch, June 2013, Black Hills, South Dakota.

Brooke Jarvis of The New Yorker writes of the ongoing contradictions of our monument-strewn Black Hills. She focuses on the relationship of the Crazy Horse Memorial to the great Lakota leaders descendants and their stolen and divided homeland.

Jarvis makes much of the money the Ziolkowski family makes with its tours and assiduously trademarked attractions and trinkets. Jarvis also notes that the memorial runners don’t seem terribly interested in supporting outside events that we could argue synergistically boost their brand:

One night last June, downtown Pine Ridge hosted its own memorial to Crazy Horse: the culmination of an annual tradition in which more than two hundred riders spend four days travelling [sic] on horseback from Fort Robinson, where Crazy Horse died, to the reservation. (“Crazy Horse rode in there, and he never got to ride out,” the event’s founder explained. “We’re going to ride out of there for him.”) Bryan Brewer, a former president of the Oglala Lakota Nation, told me that his brother once went to the memorial to ask for financial support for the ride. “We sent him all the way up there,” he said. “They gave us twenty-five dollars” [Brooke Jarvis, “Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?The New Yorker, 2019.09.16].

It’s not our place to oblige anyone to give to any particular charitable cause. But one would think that an organization dedicated to memorializing Crazy Horse would see in the Pine Ridge event a chance to boost their own brand and foster more good will with the people whose leader they honor.


  1. tom schmitz 2019-09-23

    This caught my eye because I went to the Scott’s Bluff National Monument yesterday. I’d read that many believe Crazy Horse’s first vision quest where he saw his future as a leader of his people took place there. I found not a single word about him anywhere in the interpretive information. We the people in 2019 still trying to erase the Indian. I don’t know much about the Crazy Horse Memorial’s organization, funding etc. — but, while some are clearly making a buck off of it, they seem to be doing much more than we are to honor the memory of the Lakota.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-23

    There’s a complicated question, Tom: does blasting another mountain into a likeness of a historical figure (and this likeness fabricated, since we have no picture of Crazy Horse) produce a net benefit for the Lakota people? Is it better than doing nothing? Is it better than the exclusionary racism of the overarching culture?

    Is the Crazy Horse Memorial an effective way to raise awareness, raise money, and promote Native culture? Or is it like handing out cake every day in Pine Ridge: you might actually be making the community less healthy than if you didn’t do the project?

    The Crazy Horse Memorial and our entire use of the Black Hills is worth discussing, because it is nonpartisan and very complicated.

  3. tom schmitz 2019-09-23

    agree it’s complicated — but, for me, the public is so woefully ignorant of what we did…and we have become such a soundbite dependent culture…that anything that brings attention to the mere existence of indigenous peoples and their plight is a net benefit …why? Because some small number of people, simply by virtue of visiting that place, will actually be motivated to explore the issues and perhaps learn something true about it all…my first read of that New Yorker piece let me feeling that it really trivialized the issues….but, likewise, I’m sure it spurred some folks to look more deeply at things.

  4. Debbo 2019-09-23

    I was under the impression that there was a fairly tight synergy between Ruth Zilkowski and the Indians. I’m shocked that they only deigned to give the memorial riders $25.

    My impression was formed in the 1980s-90s. Apparently there’s been a drifting apart. Does anyone know what happened?


  5. grudznick 2019-09-23

    grudznick knows

  6. Certain Inflatable Recreational Devices 2019-09-23

    grudznick knows…. Nothing.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-09-25

    Debbo, do you have any sense of how broad those Ziolkowski–tribal relationships may have been back then?

  8. Debbo 2019-09-25

    It seems like I remember them offering programs together at the memorial and sharing resources. I think Zilkowski made $ donations to the Pine Ridge for various things. I thought the OST helped ensure that the correct honoring ceremonies took place as necessary for certain times as the sculpting process went on.

    This is kind of foggy after 30 years +/-, but that’s what I’m dragging up from the dim recesses of my convoluted gray matter. 😁

Comments are closed.