There were a lot of things we wanted to do in the Rapid City, SD, area. Our hotel was about a 45 minute drive from Mount Rushmore and we wanted to be there for the evening program so we opted to stop at Keystone, have lunch, see the presidents and stay for the evening program. But just after lunch we decided that the best idea would be to get to see the Crazy Horse Memorial project first.
I say "project" because it is a work in progress. The mission of the Crazy Horse Memorial is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. As the brochure says, "The Foundation demonstrates its commitment to this endeavor by continuing the progress on the world's largest sculptural undertaking. . ." The memorial sculpture is of Lakota leader Crazy Horse and was begun in 1948. It is truly amazing.
The founders of the foundation are Korczak and Ruth Ziolkowski. Korczak, the sculptor who began the project, was invited by Chief Standing Bear to come to the Black Hills and carve a mountain to honor Indian heroes. The Ziolkowskis didn't stop with just planning a huge sculpture. They went on to establish their non-profit organization and establish a place to preserve Indian artifacts and provide educational and cultural programming. The Indian University of North America was also established in 2010. It opened with 130 students from 16 states and 25 tribes completing the summer program in the past five years.
There is a huge museum and arts and crafts display where you can also purchase Indian crafts. A staging area allows visitors to see various cultural programs including Native American dance. You can also see the small model of the sculpture that will eventually emerge from the mountain.
The Ziolkowskis had ten children and many of them as well as their children are continuing their work and philanthropy. When finished the complex as well as the statue will be quite a place. It is all dependent upon donations and visitors fees. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.
Once we were done exploring, it was time to wind our way through the Black Hills to Mount Rushmore while the light was still good for pictures.