Mt. Rushmore

With a Native American superintendent, the South Dakota monument is becoming much more than a shrine to four presidents.

When completed, the Crazy Horse Memorial will dwarf neighboring Mount Rushmore. (Tony Perrottet)
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But Ziolkowski’s family rallied to continue the work. In 1998, Crazy Horse’s completed face was unveiled, creating the sort of publicity that Borglum had enjoyed in 1930 when he revealed his first finished image, of Washington. Seemingly overnight, a chimerical project had become real, bringing streams of tourists intent upon learning more about Indian history. In 2000, a cathedral-like visitor center opened at the memorial, with a museum, Native American cultural center, and cinema. Plans also include a university and medical training center for Native Americans.

When might the monolith be finished? “There’s no way to estimate,” says Ruth Ziolkowski, the sculptor’s widow, who is nearly 80 and CEO and president of the nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. “It would be nothing but a wild guess anyway. We’re not trying to be difficult. We just don’t know. Korczak always said it wasn’t important when it was finished as long as it was done right.”

The carving is now overseen by Korczak’s eldest son, Casimir, 52, who learned his skills on the rock-face with his father. “He was one of a kind, that’s for sure,” he says with a laugh. “We had our fights, like every father and son.”

“Only in America could a man carve a mountain,” Ziolkowski once declared—a sentiment that has not won over the Defenders of the Black Hills. They’re not fans of this monument and say that it is as much of an environmental and spiritual violation of the Native lands as Borglum’s work on Rushmore. Charmaine White Face, the Defenders’ chairperson, says all work on Crazy Horse should cease at once: “Let nature reclaim the mountain!”

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