Podcast Episode 75: Crazy Horse – History of the Man, the myth, the monument

Video from Crazy Horse Monument

Donate to the monument efforts

In this enlightening episode, we unravel the remarkable life and enduring significance of Crazy Horse, the revered Native American leader of the Oglala Lakota tribe. From his early years during a tumultuous era of westward expansion to his pivotal role in battles such as the Fetterman Fight and the legendary Battle of the Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse’s courage and leadership left an indelible mark on American history.

But the story doesn’t end there. We also delve into the awe-inspiring Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills. This colossal sculpture, a work in progress, is dedicated to honoring Crazy Horse’s memory and his unwavering commitment to preserving Lakota culture and traditions. Join us as we explore the history, symbolism, and ongoing legacy of this iconic monument, which serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of Indigenous resistance and cultural pride in the United States.


Ep75 Crazy Horse

[00:00:00] Jenn: And another thing that’s very significant about Crazy Horse is he’s taken by his people and no one knows exactly where he’s buried.

[00:00:19] Scott: Welcome to Talk With History. I’m your host, Scott, here with my wife and historian, Jen. Hello. On this podcast, we give you insights into our history inspired bold travels, YouTube channel journey, and examine history through deeper conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there.

[00:00:39] I’m Jen. Again, last week I did not tell a joke, but we had a listener email us with a solid History Dad joke. Oh gosh. So this is from Susie Q. Susie Q actually left us a review before. Alright, so here’s the joke. Where did the Lone Ranger take his trash?

[00:01:02] Jenn: I don’t know. 

[00:01:03] Scott: To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump. Again, if you’re listening and that either made you roll your eyes or you have a better joke to tell, feel free to reach out to us through our website at talkwithhistory. com. Susie Q, I appreciate you submitting that joke. It made me laugh when I got it.

[00:01:21] So we also had got a couple, we got two new reviews. So we got a review from Goody 1128. Uh, five star review says, what a cool idea for a podcast sharing personal experiences and insights and bringing the listener along for the ride. So glad I found this show and another five star review from mood fixer, uh, five stars brilliant.

[00:01:44] It is estimated there are two and a half million podcast shows currently in the world. The topics of a podcast are virtually any endless and yet I stumbled onto this podcast and found it to be brilliant, educational, entertaining, and enjoyable. little bit of history buff myself would have never thought to actually seek out a podcast on history.

[00:02:03] I’m glad I found this. You guys are doing a great job, particularly like the episode on the ghosts of Gettysburg. That seemed to be a popular one. We’ve had a couple people say that and I’ve seen the downloads for that particular podcast. Well, we’re 

[00:02:16] Jenn: coming into October. So, and I think as any historian will tell you, ghost stories are always Route 

[00:02:22] Scott: rooted in history in history.

[00:02:24] Well in Gettysburg is a popular subject, too So we really appreciate the reviews, you know as you share this podcast, or if you’re a new listener Please feel to drop us a review good or bad We love the good ones, but I appreciate the feedback in any form or fashion that we can get

[00:02:47] so today We’re exploring the remarkable life and enduring significance of crazy horse the revered Native American leader of the Oglala Lakota tribe. From his early years during a tumultuous era of westward expansion to his pivotal role in battles such as the Fetterman fight and the legendary Battle of Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse’s courage and leadership left an indelible mark on American history.

[00:03:14] And we’re also going to talk about our visit to the awe inspiring Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills. This colossal sculpture, a work in progress, is dedicated to honoring Crazy Horse’s memory and his unwavering commitment to preserving Lakota culture and traditions. So Jen, let’s kind of start off by talking about the man, the myth.

[00:03:39] the legend that 

[00:03:39] Jenn: is Crazy Horse. Sure. So, um, he was born in 1840 around the Rapid City Black Hills area. When he was born, um, his, his name given to him was Among the Trees because he was kind of one with nature. Uh, his name will grow to Crazy Horse, which is his, his real name is His Horse is Crazy, but it becomes Crazy Horse.

[00:04:01] Um, and he’s just, this is the 1840s. So this is the beginning of all of this. encroachment, uh, homesteading, Oregon Trail reservation, this is where you’re going to get all this kind of 

[00:04:15] Scott: hardship. Yeah, west westward expansion, the 49er gold rush, all that stuff. 

[00:04:20] Jenn: So he’s very much brought up in that. And when you think of him as a warrior, as a fighter, you know, he’s taken up arms, he’s known for taking up arms against the federal government fighting against this encroachment.

[00:04:34] And when we talk about encroachment, we talk about the American Indians had been given. certain areas to live reservations through certain treaties. Uh, the most significant is the treaty of Fort Laramie and we’ve been to Fort Laramie and that treaty gave the Lakota Sioux the land of the Black Hills.

[00:04:53] And when it’s encroached upon, when they discover gold, you know, Crazy horse is significant in that fight back. And so the Lakota Siouxs, you know, will move westward Into the Montana area and that’s when you’re gonna get the Fetterman massacre. That’s where they the American Indians will take out a complete section of army soldiers and Crazy Horse is the leader.

[00:05:18] And then of course, Battle of Little Bighorn. Yeah. 

[00:05:20] Scott: And if, if you’re curious to hear more about Fort Laramie, some of those treaties or the Battle of Little Bighorn, we actually have previous episodes on those. So after you’re done listening to this episode, we encourage you to go back and listen to our previous episodes specifically on those events.

[00:05:34] Jenn: But what comes of this is he’s given, he has great respect. He is, you think, when you think of crazy horse, I want you to think of like George Washington. Like this is a person who is commanding great respect from having done the deed, from having been there, from having led people and survived. Yeah. I mean, 

[00:05:54] Scott: he’s right up there with Sitting Bull, right?

[00:05:56] I mean, these are, these are names that even just the average American learned kind of growing up. You know, learning American history. Yes. 

[00:06:03] Jenn: He’s more, he’s more of a warrior. Um, and of course, uh, Crazy Horse would never be a chief. He’s young. Gotcha. But he’s, he’s a warrior. And when we talk about Bighorn, how he leads the fight and he leads it between two brigades of army soldiers as they’re shooting at him and he doesn’t get shot at all, he becomes a myth.

[00:06:23] Right. It’s just like George Washington who would lead from the front and never get shot. It becomes this kind of myth to inspire your men to fight. And they believe that like the, the warriors, the Lakota warriors were so inspired by him, uh, that that’s why he’s depicted on this 

[00:06:38] Scott: monument. Yeah. And I, and I believe too, that even after kind of some of these fights, like as kind of the, the native Americans choice, right, they won the couple of these battles and all of a sudden.

[00:06:52] Yeah. the, the United States at the time said, Oh, hell no. Right. And then they sent a ton of soldiers out and they, and they squash it right away for right or wrong, you know, and, and, and many eyes see it as being kind of wrong and depending on what lens you view it through. But one of the things I believe that, and correct me if I’m wrong, that, that crazy horse was known for was he really And I think you mentioned it, like, he never touched a pen, he always kind of stuck to his guns about, you know, Native American culture, and no, this is my, this is our land, you guys gave it.

[00:07:29] He kind of never gave in. He never signs his treaty. That was kind of the final thing that kind of put him into that legendary status, plus how he was caught and killed. 

[00:07:37] Jenn: So we’ll talk about. more of that in the controversy of the monument, but so if you think about Battle of the Bighorn, 1876, he’s there one year later for what they call the, um, the last sun dance of 1877.

[00:07:51] So a year later, he goes to the area of Battle of the Bighorn around August. And then he, he realizes how much the army is retaliating against his people and killing his people. So he surrenders. And he’s taken to, um, Fort Robinson in Nebraska and he is killed September 5th, 1877. So if you think about August is the one year anniversary of Little Bighorn and he’s killed not even a month later.

[00:08:17] So he’s taken to the fort and when he gets into the guardhouse, uh, he kind of scuffles with the soldier and the soldier bayonets him. 

[00:08:27] Scott: Yeah. So, so actually the day after this podcast will be released will be the anniversary 

[00:08:32] Jenn: of his death. Of his death. And his last known words are, I have spoken. And another thing that’s very significant about crazy horse is he’s taken by his people and no one knows exactly where he’s buried.

[00:08:43] Oh, I didn’t know that. Yep. So there’s four locations. It could be, um, most likely it’s a Creek by wounded knee. Cause, uh, in South Dakota, but no one knows he, they protected him and they, you know, he didn’t, he didn’t want, well, I’ll talk more about this. He, there’s no photographs of crazy horse. He didn’t ever want his picture taken.

[00:09:02] He didn’t ever want his, he never touched a pen. He never signed a treaty. He didn’t want anyone to know where he was buried, like besides his people. And so he very much held true to his heritage and his way of life. 

[00:09:15] Scott: Yeah. And you see it with a lot of legends, right? They kind of, they die young, right?

[00:09:19] They’re kind of, they burn bright, die young. And he was definitely one of those. And I think to your point leads into kind of why he was picked as the subject of the monument. 

[00:09:28] Jenn: Yeah. So let’s talk about the memorial. So you, you get this mountain in South Dakota, it’s only 17 miles away from Rushmore and it’s private land.

[00:09:39] So Chief Henry Standing Bear had picked out this mountain, uh, because it’s a sacred mountain and he had traded 900 acres of his land for this mountain with the federal government. And the federal government had agreed to it. And then he had met the sculptor at the World’s Fair, and he had gotten some notoriety at the World’s Fair, and the sculptor had helped on Rushmore.

[00:10:02] So he had some, uh, experience. And he asks him if he will… sculpt this mountain into crazy horse. And they, well, at first, I’m not sure who, and they do a lot of discussion about crazy horse. And again, like we said, this is a person who really does depict the Ogallala Lakota Sioux way of life. And they really wanted him to be the center of that monument.

[00:10:27] So, um, that’s why he’s depicted. He’s riding a horse, he’s pointing out, and he’s supposed to be pointing at one. Time a crazy horse was asked where are your lands and he said it’s where my dead lie And he’s supposed to be pointing out where his dead 

[00:10:41] Scott: lie You know if you’re gonna pick such and kind of an epic monument to the Native American culture at the time I mean, he really is like that embodiment.

[00:10:51] He’s I mean you kind of In a romantic way kind of he’s like a James Dean, you know, but but he really actually did stuff He was out there fighting and leading and and doing all the real real stuff, you know So much more historically significant, but he kind of had that that aura about him And so you could when the more you learn about it when we went to visit the monument and we walk through the visitor center and learned more about you know, crazy horse and the the artist who ended up kind of you know, Uh, starting the sculpture and all that stuff.

[00:11:24] It really was neat to learn about. 

[00:11:26] Jenn: Yeah. And you think Crazy Horse is killed at 36, 37. No one knows exactly his age, but so the monument is such a young man, right? And he’s very, he’s shirtless. So you see all his muscles. He’s very like, you know, he looks like he is a powerful. man of the people. And I think it’s such a great depiction of him because it shows this youth and this possibility of life and this wanting to be one with, uh, with the land and the people.

[00:11:55] Scott: Yeah. Just this, this spirit that kind of embodied, you know, everything around them, his hair’s flowing behind him and the horse does look kind of crazy. The horse is like going, it’s really moving, you know, in, in. We, you see a lot of sketches of what it eventually will look like because I think you mentioned the video.

[00:12:14] It’s been going on for 

[00:12:15] Jenn: 75 years. 75 years. We’ll talk about that. So like I said, it’s commissioned by Henry Standing Bear. He’s a, he’s a Lakota elder and he commissions at June 3rd, uh, 1948 and it’s, he commissions Kordchoff Jolkowski and Kordchoff. Joel, Joel Kovsky, again, is a sculptor that helps on Rushmore.

[00:12:36] And he is kind of coming into his own and has some examples of his sculpting at the World’s Fair, which Sandy Bear sees it. So he invites, um, Joel Kovsky to South Dakota and, you know, present some of this whole idea and he agrees to it. And he brings his wife out, Ruth, they ended up having 10 children and they work on it until he dies.

[00:12:59] She works on it until she dies. And right now. their children and grandchildren are the ones who are still leading up the the building the sculpting of the monument. Um, it’s operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation and what’s in But it’s taken so long and why it’s so significant is this is a nonprofit and they don’t accept any federal or state funding.

[00:13:21] So when you think of like Rushmore didn’t take that long because it was completely funded by the federal government. We had all this money to build it, but crazy horse doesn’t. Crazy horse has to go through private donations. It has a foundation. So everyone who visits crazy horse. All of your money that you’re paying, your entrance fee, your gift shop, anything you buy there all goes into building Crazy Horse.

[00:13:45] And we’ll put the link in the podcast here if you’d like to donate to Crazy Horse. Since it is a non profit, every donation 

[00:13:52] Scott: helps. Yeah, we actually did get, and that was, it was kind of a neat response to the video. And I, again, I always encourage folks to go watch the video, but it was a neat response because we didn’t initially have that, that link in there.

[00:14:04] And people started asking, like, Hey, is there somewhere I can donate? And we, so we scrambled, we put the link in there. So there in the video description, it’ll be in the podcast show notes description as well. Yeah. So 

[00:14:14] Jenn: if you go visit, uh, you pay by car as you go in. So that’s all you, it’s, it’s really easy how you gain your entrance into the.

[00:14:22] monument area, but when it’s complete, it’ll be the second tallest statue in the world behind one in India. It’s built out of Thunderhead Mountain, which I told Lutz again before is sacred land of the Black Hills of the Lakota Sioux. It’s going to be six hundred and. 40 feet long, 560 feet high. And his arm is going to stretch out.

[00:14:44] Like I said, his arm is pointing out 263 feet. Now his face is about 87 feet long. And when you’re like, okay, that’s great. Well, Each president on Mount Rushmore is 60 feet long. So if you think how significant, if you’ve ever been to Rushmore and seen how big that looks, Crazy Horse is going to be almost a third bigger and his monument is 360 degrees.

[00:15:12] It’s a full, it’s his whole body wrapped around. So unlike Rushmore, that’s just one sided. It’s going to be a completely. Um, Circular. So that’s going to be pretty 

[00:15:22] Scott: cool. Yeah. One of the cool things we were able to show in the video was kind of like a Google Maps view. And actually that’s probably one of the best views that you can get is you just go into Google Maps or Apple Maps and look up Crazy Horse Monument.

[00:15:33] You kind of look at the 360, you know. Picture of it this 3d picture of it and it’s actually pretty close to what it looks like today. 

[00:15:40] Jenn: Yeah Yeah, and like I said in 1948, they thought oh, it’s gonna take us 30 years And now it’s been 75 years and as of today, there is no timeline for completion But there is a plan there is more and I want people to understand that there’s more than just the monument That is the plan for the whole area The plan is for it to be this educational cultural center with the monument in that’s in the center of that whole plan.

[00:16:08] And they want a Native American museum. They want a Native American cultural center. They want a University of South Dakota satellite campus, plus an Indian University of North America there. And so if you see the model in the video, it’ll show like the buildings and like a football field and like dormitories.

[00:16:26] And it’s a whole campus, the whole campus. They want this whole center with Crazy Horse as. This, the monument or memorial, you can use the words interchangeably. I’ve seen monument and memorial for both, um, in the center. Yeah, 

[00:16:40] Scott: it’s, uh. It really was neat. Now, there was one thing that we didn’t do while we were there, is you can actually take like a bus tour up, up closer to the actual monument itself.

[00:16:53] And I think there’s some, like, kind of things you can go inside and displays up there that we didn’t, we didn’t go see when 

[00:16:58] Jenn: we saw it. Yeah, so if you visit, I want to suggest a couple things. If you visit, again, you’re going to pay your entrance fee going in. The parking lot, I think, has some of the best views of Crazy Horse.

[00:17:07] It really does. Like once you get out of your car, you’re like, Oh my gosh, it’s, it’s one of the most beautiful views of it, even from inside the building. The parking lot probably has one of the best views. There’s a movie. Of course, when you first walk in, it’s going to give you all of this background and talk about the sculpture and, uh, Standing Bear and where it is at today.

[00:17:25] And then of course, like you said, there’s a bus tour to the top, but at the actual, um, visitor center, there’s a lot of artifacts and we show those in the video. There’s a lot of, uh, about the, um, It’s the Lakota way of life and just Western way of life. They also honor some code talkers from World War II.

[00:17:45] And then we had at the time there were some women of the Lakota who were doing some medicine dances and they were depicting like, um, a classic medicine dance and then a modern medicine dance. There’s a gift shop. There’s a place 

[00:17:59] Scott: to eat. Yeah, there’s, there’s Western art. They actually had a whole room.

[00:18:03] One of the kind of the large windowed areas had all the survivors of Little Bighorn. Yeah. So I had pictures of all the men, the warriors that were survivors of Little Bighorn. That was really neat. It was beautiful. It was beautiful. And I love those kind of, kind of intimate portraits, right? These were all paintings, right?

[00:18:23] You know, none of them were really photographs. But it was cool. You could see Sitting Bull. You could see all these different warriors that were survivors. That was really neat. And it’s them basically facing the monument. Yeah. And so that was really cool setting to kind of see 

[00:18:39] Jenn: all of that. It is neat. And they have, um, so then we’re going to start to get into a little of the controversy.

[00:18:45] Yeah. So tell us about the controversy. So what else is depicted at the visitor center is, uh, Joe Kofsky’s. Like his sculpture workshop and kind of monuments of him, faces of him, and so people of the Lakota Sioux and people in general are like, well, who gets to speak for Crazy Horse? Is this white man the one who gets to speak for Crazy Horse?

[00:19:08] And the monument is now becoming more of a tribute, they feel, to the Joufkovsky family instead of to Crazy Horse himself. And because he gets to depict how Crazy Horse looks and he gets to depict how, because again, I told you there’s no photographs of Crazy Horse, he gets to depict all this. Is it most, is it a white man getting to have the, the final say over a man who didn’t want to ever be photographed or a picture taken of?

[00:19:38] So does this really honor Crazy Horse who really never wanted to be depicted in a way that you could see him physically? So there’s a lot of controversy around that. Um, there’s also controversy. American Indians do not believe in ever, you know, defacing a mountain. Oh, interesting. So there, you know, they are, they’re changing the nature of it.

[00:20:01] So there’s a lot of controversy around that. And, uh, And then, uh, Standing Bear kind of did this on his own. Oh, really? So, he didn’t, uh, he didn’t consult with Crazy Horse, uh, with, uh, Crazy Horse’s family, which in, uh, in Indian culture, that, it would dictate that. It would dictate a consensus from the tribe.

[00:20:23] Scott: Yeah, that’s, I mean, I, I can understand that, right? I, I mean, God, there’s, there’s, if you think about it, there’s really two sides to this. It’s capturing that, that culture, that spirit, right? This is a massive effort. And even today in its unfinished form, it really does kind of keep that flame burning. Yes, it brings awareness.

[00:20:43] It does. It brings awareness, but at the same time, you know, the genesis of it, you know, To your point, right? He kind of should have consulted the family. Did the family want this? If the family had said no, what would he have, would he have picked someone else? Would he have picked Sitting Bull? I don’t know.

[00:20:57] I don’t know. 

[00:20:58] Jenn: And, and is it an insult to Crazy Horse who never wanted to be photographed? And now you’re making him a permanent mountain? Like, you’re supposed to be honoring Crazy Horse. Is it really, is it an honor for him? 

[00:21:09] Scott: Yeah, that’s an, that’s an interesting thing to think about. Um, you know, if, if you feel like you’re honoring him, but…

[00:21:17] You’re not, you know, others aren’t sure if he would feel honored by that. 

[00:21:20] Jenn: Yes. Yes. So just things to think about. But I, you know, you and I both always talk about this as a historian. We like the conversation. Sure. Right. And, uh, bringing awareness to the conversation, bring awareness to his life, bringing awareness to the Lakota Sioux way of life.

[00:21:36] and their struggles throughout history, I think, if anything, that monument does that. 

[00:21:41] Scott: Oh, 100%. I mean, it’s, like anything else, it’s, it’s a tourist attraction. Yeah, it’s right 

[00:21:45] Jenn: beside Richmond, so most people will go. 

[00:21:48] Scott: Yeah, that attraction will bring in people, and those people will learn something about that culture and that way of life.

[00:21:54] Yeah, it. Uh, I really enjoyed it. I don’t think I had done it when I was a kid. Um, I had seen Rushmore when I was a teenager growing up in California. We had made a trip out there with family in Montana, but I don’t remember doing crazy horror. So that was really neat for me to see and for us to bring the kids.

[00:22:09] And I had seen it 

[00:22:10] Jenn: since I was a kid growing up in Wyoming. So it was neat for me to see how it has changed because in the eighties the face wasn’t done like it is 

[00:22:19] Scott: today. Yeah. That was really neat. So for those listening, I hope you’ve gained a deeper understanding of the significance of Crazy Horse in the context of Native American history and the broader American narrative.

[00:22:33] As we continue our journey through the annals of history, remember that these stories are not just about the past. They are a reflection of the present and a guide to the future. So join us next time as we unravel more fascinating history tales from the pages of history on this podcast. If you want to support the future of this podcast, you can do that over at topofhistory.

[00:22:54] com slash support. We rely on you community to grow and we appreciate you all every day. We’ll talk to you next time. Thank you.

Published by Scott

The mountains are calling, let me grab a jacket and my kids.

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