My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Honoring the Circle

 I heard that the Crazy Horse Memorial was having an open house over the holiday weekend and would only charge three cans of food to get it. So I made a snap decision to go there. I was so glad I did because I got to take part in a special medicine wheel and listen to a great Indian band and see wonderful dancing. This was all part of a special weekend program called Honoring the Circle, a program to honor, grandparents, children, the military and each other.

First view - This was mostly what I thought I'd see
The band was Brule led by Paul LaRoach.  He told a powerful story of his life.  After both his midwest  adoptive parents died, his wife found his adoption papers and he discovered he was Indian.  She was able to locate a brother and extended members of his family.  This was a life-changing event for him and he came back to his heritage but now works to reconcile Indians and whites. The music was wonderful and the dancers added to the interpretation.

One of the male dancers
Woman and girl dancer

 After the program ended, the audience was invited to be part of a human medicine wheel. which was done to promote peace among the races. The wheel was in the colors for north, south, east, and west with elders and chiefs standing at each compass point. The four drummers all played on one large drum with some extra singers joining them. The visitors filled up the outer circumference of the circle. The head chief lead a prayer to the god above and the god below. Then we shuffled around about a quarter of a turn to the beat of the drums.  It was a moving experience.

The memorial itself was awesome. This, when finished, will be the largest memorial in the world at 641 feet long and 563 feet high. This size is hard to imagine.  In the introductory movie, they superimposed the Mt. Rushmore monument and all four of the president's heads fit inside Crazy Horse's head and hair. And this is being carved in the round, using precision dynamiting to remove millions of tons - about 700 tons in each blast. Since 1998, when the head was unveiled, in 1998.  (This work had been in progress for 50 years. Currently the horse's head is being carved. To see pictures of the process and learn more about it, click here. The most amazing thing about this memorial is that it has all been done privately. Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to build a memorial that would help tell the story of the Indians. Ziolkowski ended up dedicating the rest of his life to this project. He married Ruth, a woman 18 years younger than him and had ten children, seven of whom still work on the carving. He was self-taught and taught his entire family how to carve the mountain.  His widow not supervises the visitor center and the carving. The story of how this family has dedicated two generations to both carve the monument and raise money to do so was very moving.

Front view of the model - the measurements are multiplied 34 times to get those of the monument

Back view of the model - This carving is in the round
View from the deck between the gift store and the restaurant
The horse's head area - this is area being worked on now - since 1998
Could you even see the heavy equipment in the first picture?

Ruth Ziolkowski who manages the carving work and the visitor center - taken from movie
In addition, to the monument, there are museums of Indian artifacts, a sculpture museum, Indian artist who are at work and also selling their wares, and at least on this day, dancing and music. In the restaurant, I had a meal of buffalo stew and wonderful fry bread. The website for the memorial has lots more information as well as pictures showing the progress.

Supper - with a view of the monument

This was the best deal I found in the Black Hills - for three cans of food, I was intrigued, amazed, delighted, and had my spirit renewed. Getting my stomach filled just cost ten dollars more.

And it seemed that even the buffalo were honoring the circle last night.  When I was almost back to camp, my lights picked up a line of buffalo crossing the camp road.  I got to the line just as two animals were starting into the street.  The first one already had his front feet in the road. We all stopped. The first buffalo looked at me and went across.  The second buffalo looked at me and remained stationary, just off the road.  I was sure he was telling me it was my turn so went past him, while he patiently waited. Another special experience.

I hope I don't bore you with such frequent postings. But I still have another experience to share with you from here and by tomorrow night, I'll be experiencing the Badlands. And then there is the journey in between. So I'll try to catch up a little.  Then you'll have a break for the time I'm in the Boundary Waters. I'll try to get a couple of posts up before I rush back to Bozeman to start my Yellowstone vacation.