Storyteller in Stone. I found myself in a seat at the Crazy Horse Memorial theater, and something clicked. The short documentary was about Korczak’s life and work, which led him to carve a mountain in the Black Hills to honor the American Indian, Crazy Horse. Never had I heard such an extraordinary story.
It’s important to read the letter about why Crazy Horse was chosen by the Native Americans from the storyteller himself (Korczak). Within his purposely chosen words, the stone brings to life a story to stand the test of time.
“Crazy Horse was born on Rapid Creek in 1843. He was killed when he was only 34 years of age, around midnight September 5, 1877. He was stabbed in the back by an American Indian soldier at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, while he was under a flag of truce. During his life he was a great leader to his people. He did not have an equal as a warrior or chief. He gave submissive allegiance to no man, White or Indian, and claimed his inalienable rights as an Indian to wander at will over the hunting grounds of his people. He never registered at any agency; never touched the pen; never signed a treaty. He wanted only peace and a way of living for his people without having to live in the whiteman’s reservations.
Crazy Horse defended his people and their way of life in the only manner he knew, but only after he saw the treaty of 1868 broken. This treaty, signed by the President of the United States said “As long as the rivers run and the grasses grow and trees bear leaves, Paha Sapa, the Black Hills, will forever and ever be the sacred land of the Indians.” He took to the warpath only after he saw his friend Conquering Bear killed; only after he saw the failure of the government agents to bring required treaty guarantees such as meat, clothing, tents and necessities for existence. In battle the Sioux leader would rally his warriors with the cry, “It is a good day to fight-it is a good day to die.”
In 1877 Crazy Horse’s wife, staying at Fort Robinson, was dying of tuberculosis. His only child, a daughter, had recently died of this same disease. Under a guarantee of safe conduct both into and out of the Fort, Crazy Horse agreed to confer with the Commanding Officers. History has proven since that the intention never was to let Crazy Horse go free, but rather to ship him to the Dry Tortugas in Florida. The chief had no notion of what was in store for him until he entered the building and saw the bars on the windows. Right then he was face to face with the fate the whiteman had intended for him. He drew a knife (the fact that he had not been disarmed is good proof that he never surrendered) and attempted to get his Indian friends outside of the stockade. Little Big Man, friend and warrior companion of Crazy Horse, hoping to avoid trouble, seized Crazy Horse’s arms. In struggling to free himself, Crazy Horse slashed Little Big Man’s wrist. At this point an infantry man of the guard made a successful lunge with a bayonet and Crazy Horse fell, mortally wounded.
In the minds of the Indians today, the life and death of Crazy Horse parallels the tragic history of the redman since the whiteman invaded their homes and lands. One of the many great and patriotic Indian heroes, Crazy Horse’s tenacity of purpose, his modest life, his unfailing courage, his tragic death sets him apart and above all others.”
– Letter from Korczak Ziolkowski, Sc. May, 1949