The Crazy Horse Monument Construction Has Faced Challenges Over the Years

Alex West - Author

Jan. 5 2024, Published 8:21 a.m. ET

Mount Rushmore is an iconic American marvel, despite the controversy surrounding its existence. However, the lesser-known Crazy Horse monument has a rich history that challenges the ideologies of the presidential honor.

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The Crazy Horse monument is dedicated to a Native American leader named Crazy Horse. In life, he fought to protect Native Americans' culture and land from the imposing U.S. government. In 1876, he took a stand against Americans at the Battle of Little Bighorn. A year later, he passed away. So, why is the Crazy Horse monument taking so long? Keep reading for all of the details.

Sgt. Gary J. Swanson of the Washington County Sheriff's Department sitting next to a Crazy Horse monument model
Source: Getty Images
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The Crazy Horse monument has been in the works for years and it's taking a long time.

In 1939, Lakota elders wanted to honor his dedication to their people. They hired a Polish sculptor to take over the side of a mountain and transform it into a piece of artwork where Crazy Horse was featured riding a horse.

The sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, set to work, but the task was far too large for him to finish in his lifetime, especially since he was denied funding from the U.S. government and often drilled by hand alongside some of the demolition.

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"He believed you can do anything in this world. Nothing is impossible as long as you're willing to work hard enough and pay the price," his wife, Ruth, said to NPR.

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His wife took over the project before she, too, died. The pair's children have taken up the challenge and kept the project moving forward today. The family has been dedicated to finishing the monument.

Why is the Crazy Horse monument taking so long?

The real reason for the lethargic progress being made is a bit controversial. Officially, the rock itself poses some challenges to the team working on it. Plus, the slow timeframe was part of the artist's original plan.

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"He said, 'Go slowly so you do it right.' And, I, for one, would like to have it go faster, but there are so many things that you have to do in order to do it right that it takes the time," Ruth added.

Another issue is that there's simply a lot of rock to get through. As a result of some of the rock itself, the original vision must be transformed a bit.

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Some people in town are also under the impression that the family is "dragging their feet" on the project, according to travel guru Quirky Travel Guy. Locals think that they're milking the project for the extra cash it pulls in and they aren't happy about the situation.

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“When you start making money rather than trying to complete the project, that’s when, to me, it’s going off in the wrong direction," a relative of Crazy Horse told the blogger.

When will the Crazy Horse monument be finished?

There isn't a set date for when the monument will be completed. Moving away from the original plan to craft the horse first, the monument now features the chiseled features of Crazy Horse's face. However, much of the rest is still indistinguishable from the Black Hills' mountainous landscape.

Once the project is completed, the Crazy Horse monument be larger than its neighbor Mount Rushmore. Estimates say it could become the largest sculpture globally at 563 feet high.

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