Crazy Horse sculptor's widow carries on mountain dream

Mon Sep 5, 2011 5:40pm EDT
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By Greg McCune

CUSTER, South Dakota (Reuters) - Nearly every morning for more than half a century, 85-year-old Ruth Ziolkowski rises around dawn, puts her feet on the ground and gives thanks she is part of a dream.

Since 1947, she has worked at the Crazy Horse monument to Native Americans in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where she is leading the effort to literally move a mountain.

"I'm tickled to death to get up every morning and go to work," Ziolkowski, president of the non-profit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, said in an interview this summer.

Billed as the world's largest sculpture, Crazy Horse is only a 20-mile drive from better-known Mount Rushmore, where faces of presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt are carved into granite.

A few more miles down the road is Pine Ridge reservation, a mostly barren land where more than half the residents live below the poverty line, according to government figures.

Pine Ridge is where many Sioux Indians of Crazy Horse's Oglala tribe were put after they were pursued by the U.S. Army, starved of the buffalo they hunted, and had their traditional lands confiscated.


Unhappy that a monument to white leaders was carved into mountains the Sioux considered sacred, Lakota Sioux elder Chief Henry Standing Bear invited to Pine Ridge Korczak Ziolkowski, who in 1939 had won the New York World's Fair sculpture prize.   Continued...

<p>The nearly 90-foot-tall carved granite face of Crazy Horse peers down on what will be the extended left arm and hand on the mountain carving in progress in South Dakota's Black Hills June 2, 2011. REUTERS/Pat Dobbs/Crazy Horse/Handout</p>