The Crazy Horse Memorial: Colossal and Controversial

   Seventeen miles from Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, construction on the world’s largest mountainside carving has been underway since 1948. A huge rock portrait of a great American statesman, the sculpture has nothing to do with presidents, senators, or even Washington D. C. politics in particular – but rather an honor to one of the greatest leaders to grace the history of the Sioux Nation. Originally, the idea for the gigantic rock frieze sprang from the mind of Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota Sioux elder who in 1929 wrote to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski for the initiation of a titular image that would announce to the world that Native American leaders are every bit the equal to those in the white man’s world. When completed, the dimensions of the magnificient monument will be colossal, portraying the image of the famous chief on a horse as a “mountain-sized statue that is as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60-story skyscraper.” A work in progress, attention has now turned from the 88-foot-high face of Crazy Horse to the head of his stallion, which will stand a whopping 219 feet high. According to estimates, completion of the entire project will come circa 2120, meaning that efforts have not even reached the halfway point in creation. Formation of such a mammoth figure is no easy task, involving a Crazy Horse Mountain Crew that employs “precision explosive engineering” to hew away at the heavy stone, which then becomes the subject of more delicate work on the finer details.

A Model of the Crazy Horse Memorial
(click for enlarged photo)

The memorial – even if it is still an effort in the making – is but one part of an educational and cultural center that will ultimately include an extension campus to the University of South Dakota, but which at present is referred to as the Indian University of North America. Since 2007, more than $7 million dollars from wealthy benefactors have poured in to benefit both the college campus and the Crazy Horse Memorial. Under the guidance of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, other facets of interest include a museum, restaurant, gift shop, and conference center – making it a very comprehensive non-profit effort to foster and preserve Native American culture. Periodic editions of the Crazy Horse Progress newspaper notify donors and cohorts, who are referred to as the “Grass Roots Club,” of progress to the monument and other efforts promoted by the foundation. Fundraising goals first announced in 2006 came to fruition on the 29th anniversary of Korczak Ziolkowski’s death, when the memorial announced  on October 21, 2011 that philanthropist T. Denny Sanford had matched the $5 million raised through other smaller donations. With enough money in the bank to finish the massive horse upon which Crazy Horse is seated, one might think that serenity characterized the world of the Sioux– but such is not the case.

Work Has Moved From the Head of Crazy Horse to His Stallion
(click for enlarged photo)

Probably born in 1840, Crazy Horse spent his adult life fighting the white man’s encroachment of the Black Hills, which the Lakota and other bands of the Sioux considered sacred. In 1876, his leadership proved crucial in the annihilation of the U. S. 7th Cavalry under the command of George Armstrong Custer, who had intervened militarily after the discovery of gold in the area. The crusade of Crazy Horse to preserve the sanctity of the Black Hills in 1876 is of great relevance to many of the Sioux, who oppose the work progressing on the Crazy Horse Memorial on the same grounds they contested nearby Mount Rushmore. Simply put, in their eyes it is a violation of the same spirituality that Crazy Horse fought so valiantly to defend. Some even point out that Sioux land is held in common by the people and any approval to build the memorial should have been decided upon by the “collective” voice of the people as a whole – not by the few that hope to make money from a tourist attraction. Lame Deer, a noted Lakota Sioux medicine man has postulated “that the whole idea of making a beautiful wild mountain into a statue of him is a pollution of the landscape – it is against the spirit of Crazy Horse.”

Making matters more interesting is the elusiveness of Crazy Horse, who carried a reputation in life for avoiding photographers and portrait artists who followed the famous warrior incessantly hoping to capture his countenance for publication. Cameras of the time were very large and bulky, making any pursuit of Crazy Horse a difficult prospect – and when he enlisted the support of family members to protect him from these intrusive attempts, the result became a total lack of confirmed photos. To this day, there is only one photograph that alleges to be a true image of him, but experts dismiss this claim as bogus. This elusive nature followed Crazy Horse to the grave, because his burial spot is a complete mystery to the modern world. After leading his people back to the reservation in 1877 – the year after the Battle of the Little Bighorn – an army private tragically bayoneted and killed the thirty-six-year-old warrior. White authorities turned the body over to his parents, who secretly conducted the interment without revealing the location. Those of the Sioux Nation opposed to the Crazy Horse Memorial argue that a man so contrary to having his image captured on film would never agree to have it sprawled across the face of a mountain, and his undisclosed burial site would seem to indicate the same.

The Original Design Superimposed Against the Mountain
(click for enlarged photo)

Despite its unfinished status, the Crazy Horse Memorial attracts more than a million visitors per year, providing $1 million in scholarships toward the education of Native American students attending South Dakota schools. Events occur year round at the site of the monument’s construction, which when completed will make it the largest statue in the world – unseating a statue of Buddha in China for that honor. Controversy aside, the memorial’s success cannot be denied, but let us know what you think in the poll below. May the same persistence evident in efforts to bring the Crazy Horse Memorial to reality re-energize House Resolution 2982 and bring it to fruition in the form of a national monument dedicated to the victims of terrorism. For more information on H. R. 2982, click the link on the right side of our home page.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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The Korean War Veterans Memorial: A Subject of Litigation

  Ask anyone what they know about the Korean War and they will probably start off by reviewing one of their favorite episodes from the hit television series MASH, because they probably know very little more. Sandwiched between the last “good war” – also known as World War II – and the divisive 12 years the United States spent in waging the Vietnam War, the Korean War is often referred to as the “forgotten war.”  Fought from June of 1950 until July of 1953, in an effort to “contain” the advance of communism, the Korean War is not so easily forgotten by some, since it cost the lives of 54,246 American lives. Hence, when the U. S. Congress authorized the construction of a memorial in 1986, the news was long overdue in the minds of veterans that had fought in some of the most difficult terrain American GIs had ever encountered – including frigid temperatures that produced frostbite.

The Stainless Steel Statues Fashioned By Frank Gaylord
(Click for Larger Photo)

However, the monument seems to have been the subject of lawsuits from its very initiation. The contract for its construction came about through competition, which Cooper-Lecky Architects of Washington D. C. won only after a court case was filed – and lost – over design changes that the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board called for when it reviewed the project. As determined in the final design, the Korean War Veterans Memorial is in the shape of a triangle, which intersects a circle. Also included are walls made of “academy black” granite transported from the State of California, and bearing murals that portray the Korean War in images of land, sea and air combat – serving as a visual display that would make any MASH devotee proud. However, the most interesting story concerning the Korean Memorial involves the 19 larger-than-life statues that depict each branch of the military in action as a “squad” – waging the different facets of the war. The reflections of the stainless steel sculptures on the granite wall convey the impression that they are 38 in number, thereby representing the 38th Parallel that became a focal point of peace negotiations for the war – involving political dialogues that have been unsuccessful to this very day, because the Korean War has never been officially “ended” through a peace treaty.

Decorated Walls Are Made of Black Granite From California
(Click for Enlarged Photo)

     To cast the striking statues, Cooper-Lecky Architects turned to the services of Frank Gaylord, a sculptor who had gained national recognition for the larger-than-life figures he had fashioned for commemorative and epitaphic monuments. A graduate of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, Gaylord had also served in World War II, where he had often times stopped to sketch his fellow soldiers of the 17th Airborne Division. During his fashioning of the figures for the Korean War Veterans Memorial, Gaylord turned to these drawings for the composition of the faces in his final work, which he dubbed “The Column.” Very arresting and one of the most visited monuments in Washington D. C., the Korean War Veterans Memorial received its official dedication on July 25, 1995 – in a ceremony presided over by President Bill Clinton and the President of the Republic of Korea. Compensated appropriately for his copyrighted masterpiece, Gaylord also received national recognition for his efforts and all seemed placid.

     A  Marine veteran of Desert Storm and amateur photographer named John Alli changed this equable dynamic dramatically with one click of his shutter.  A camera aficionado since 1986, Alli hit upon the idea of honoring his father, who was a Korean War Veteran, with a photo of the very memorial that commemorated his days as a soldier. On a wintery day in January of 1996, Alli drove from his home in Maryland to the Korean Memorial and snapped a shot of Gaylord’s statues draped in snow, catching an eerie spirit that speaks of the sacrifice Korean War GIs gave to their country. His father was overjoyed to receive the photo as a present, but John Alli was so proud of his work he decided to enter it in a contest sponsored by the Naval Institute’s “proceedings” magazine. Alli’s snapshot, which he titled “Real Life,” won first place in the competition – and Postal Service officials offered him $1500 for the privilege of issuing a ¢37 postage stamp bearing the image. News of the stamp’s inauguration, coming in June of 2003, proclaimed it as a symbolic honor dedicated to “the 50th anniversary of the armistice that ended hostilities during the Korean War” – and the ceremony for the first issued stamp occurred at the Korean War Veterans Memorial itself.

John Alli’s Stamp Photo of the Monument
(Click for Larger Photo)

Hitting the market with instantaneous achievement, the stamp bearing Alli’s photo has brought in an estimated $30.2 million up through May of 2012. In the midst of this success, nobody thought to ask Frank Gaylord for his permission or offer one dime of compensation. Claiming copyright infringement, the sculptor filed suit against the federal government in 2006, only to be turned down by a lower court. Upon appeal, a higher court eventually sided with Gaylord, pontificating that “nature’s decision to snow cannot deprive Mr. Gaylord of an otherwise valid right to exclude.” Not to be denied his due share, Gaylord next turned his attention to monetary compensation – and a lower federal court piteously awarded him $5000. However, Gaylord countered this offer by requesting his typical 10% royalty, which would net him more than $3,000,000 based on the stamp’s marketed success. In May of 2012, he gained full recognition of this possibility from a federal judge, who relegated the decision on Gaylord’s actual monetary recompense to a lower court – to be decided at a later date.

Legal experts point out that Gaylord’s courtroom victories are landmark in proportion. Heidi E. Harvey of the Fish & Richardson law firm that represented Gaylord has said that the decision “sets a precedent for anyone — the author of software, or even a training pamphlet — whose copyrighted material was used by the government to claim a royalty if the government didn’t secure the proper rights.” Others claim that in the future all artistic contributions to national monuments will have to be declared part of the “public domain” to avoid the same legal quagmire. Don’t forget to make your opinion known by participating in our survey below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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