Here's Why the Crazy Horse Monument Has Been Under Construction for More Than 70 Years

Chris Barilla - Author
By

Jan. 24 2022, Published 5:08 p.m. ET

Deep in South Dakota's Black Hills lies a monument that has sat unfinished for the better part of the last century: the Crazy Horse monument. Construction began on the project in 1948, and despite how much time has passed, the tribute to the Lakota chief has never actually been fully completed.

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The story behind the monument's development is one of trials and tribulations fueled by the spirit of Native American heritage and the ingenuity of a Polish-American designer. But why exactly has the Crazy Horse monument still not been finished yet? Furthermore, when (if ever) will it actually be finished? Keep reading for all of the known details as they currently stand.

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When will the Crazy Horse monument actually be finished?

As of the time of writing, it is impossible to state when exactly the Crazy Horse monument will be "finished." The face etched into the side of the mountain was visibly completed back in 1998, but there is still a great deal of work to be done to the rest of the mountain face, guest areas, as well as a variety of other aspects of the monument. Being an entirely privately funded endeavor with no public project schedule, pegging an exact date for the monument's total completion can't be done.

Who paid for the Crazy Horse monument?

Unlike virtually all other huge monuments erected throughout the U.S., the Crazy Horse monument has remained a privately funded endeavor since the beginning. Per My Modern Met, Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear traded 900 acres of his tribe's land to the U.S. government in exchange for ownership of Thunderhead Mountain, which he felt was the perfect place to depict the famed Lakota war leader Crazy Horse, a hero to many Native American tribespeople.

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Henry decided to commission Polish-American architect Korczak Ziolkowski in 1939 to work on his idea for a monument honoring Crazy Horse. He and a group of other Native American leaders wrote, per CNN, to the esteemed designer at the time, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too."

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Constantly rejecting government funding out of fear of bureaucratic interference in the monument's creation, the project started and remains entirely private. Korczak was so determined to work on the project no matter what that he regularly climbed a 741-step wooden staircase to the summit of Thunderhead in order to work on the sculpture. Using no electricity and working largely alone off of his sole vision, Korczak was determined to bring the monument to fruition.

While working on the monument, Korczak put special attention on finishing the horse part of it first. However, when he passed away in 1982, his wife, Ruth, took over and made slight alterations to the design and construction plans. In an effort to draw tourists (and their money) to continue working on the monument, Ruth shifted focus to the main attraction: Crazy Horse's face. It was completed in 1998 and remains the one finished aspect of the monument.

Now, decades after it began, it is still entirely funded by Korczak's daughter, Monique, the leader of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. Per All That's Interesting, all money being funneled toward the project now comes entirely from private donations as well as the admission cost that the family charges to thousands of eager visitors checking out South Dakota's mountains each year.

If it is ever completed, the Crazy Horse monument will be the second-largest monument in the world, trailing only India's Statue of Unity.

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