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Crazy Horse monument commemorates 65th anniversary

FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2010, file photo, the Crazy Horse mountain carving looks out to South Dakota's Black Hills near Custer, S.D. Crazy Horse was a famed Oglala Lakota warrior and leader who played a key role in the 1876 defeat of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana. Work on the project had been going on since 1948.. (AP Photo/Dirk Lammers)

Crazy Horse Memorial sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was busy rough shaping the 219-foot-tall horse's head when he died in 1982, leaving his dream of honoring the Oglala Lakota warrior with a mammoth mountain carving in South Dakota's Black Hills in his family's hands.

Widow Ruth Ziolkowski knew she had to keep the work going, but she decided to shift the focus to completing Crazy Horse's 90-foot-tall face to boost interest and bring in more donations.

"If Korczak had lived, he would have carved the horse's head. He could have explained why to everyone and the world would have been happy with it," said Ruth Ziolkowski, president and chief executive of the memorial. "But it made good sense to be able to prove to people that we really could carry on and keep it going."

The Crazy Horse Memorial on Tuesday commemorated the 65th anniversary of the monument's dedication _ and the 15th anniversary of the completion of the warrior's face _ with a 654-ton morning blast.

Crazy Horse was a famed Oglala Lakota warrior and leader who played a key role in the 1876 defeat of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana. When completed, the carving of his image on a bluff about 10 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high.

Work on the project, funded entirely by private donations, has been going on since 1948.

Tuesday explosive-charged rock removal, a ceremonial version of something that occurs throughout the year, cleared rock from the 360-foot bench directly underneath what will one day be the horse's muzzle.

Spaced 20 feet apart, the 11 benches on Korczak Ziolkowski's blueprints serve as access roads that will eventually allow carvers to perform finishing work on the horse's head, said mountain director Monique Ziolkowski, the sculptor's daughter.

As rough work continues on the final bench, finishing work will soon begin on the warrior's outstretched arm, which points to the sacred lands where Crazy Horse's ancestors have died.

"We're going to work from Crazy Horse's hand down and we're going to concentrate on the front of the mountain, the visitors' side," Monique Ziolkowski said.

The invitation to undertake the carving came from Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, who was prompted by Gutzon Borglum's carving of nearby Mount Rushmore to seek a memorial for Indian heroes.

In addition to completing the carved face, the Crazy Horse Memorial has built a welcome center, a comprehensive museum and one building of a planned Indian University of North America complex, where 32 students are about to start a fourth summer class program.

"It'll be a few years yet before we can do the degree-granting full-time program," Ruth Ziolkowski said. "It's coming, and you have to take little steps first, as Korczak always said, in order to get to the big one.

"But the important thing is we never stopped."



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