Crazy Horse Memorial Has Always Had an Educational Mission
Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear, an outspoken proponent of education, possessed a strong desire to teach the non-Indian world about American Indians. This is evidenced in his 1939 invitation to award-winning sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in which Standing Bear communicated that he and his fellow chiefs “would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, also.” Standing Bear’s desire was the genesis of what has become an incredible vision and story that grows every year.
When Korczak accepted Standing Bear’s invitation and arrived in the Black Hills, he discovered local businesses displaying signs that read, “We do not serve Indians.” The local hostility toward American Indians ran very deep. As a result, the two friends envisioned the mountain carving as ultimately serving a larger purpose. Korczak believed strongly that education was important for American Indians as a means of addressing the dilemma of living in a predominately non-Indian world. Subsequently, Korczak, after working for several years on the carving, concluded that the memorial would serve as a vehicle to promote reconciliation among the races and, further, as a funding source that would support an educational institution for American Indians. Since Korczak’s passing on October 20, 1982, his devoted wife Ruth and seven of their ten children, with the support of an experienced Board of Directors made up of Native Americans and non-Natives, dedicated staff, generous donors, and millions of visitors, have kept the dream alive.
When the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation was established in 1948, education was a key component of its charter. Accordingly, the Foundation’s original and continuing mission statement is “to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. The Foundation demonstrates its commitment to this endeavor by continuing the progress on the world’s largest sculptural undertaking by carving a memorial to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse to represent all North American Indians; by providing educational and cultural programming; by acting as a repository for Native American artifacts, arts and crafts through the Indian Museum of North America and the NATIVE AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL & CULTURAL CENTER™; and by establishing and operating, when practical, a university and medical training center for Native Americans.”
In keeping with Standing Bear’s desire, Korczak’s belief, the Ziolkowski family’s dedication, and the Foundation’s mission, Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation has developed a number of educational initiatives, some of which include a summer university program, a museum, a lecture series, a Native American Day celebration, an Educator of the Year award, and a scholarship program.
The Indian University of North America, a unique partnership between the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation and the University of South Dakota, began in 2010 and is designed to validate, empower, and inspire Native American students from around the nation, while helping them to foster the skills, knowledge, and habits required for success at the college level and beyond. In the four years since the Indian University opened its doors at Crazy Horse, educational opportunity has been created for students from 22 tribes and 14 states. The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation funds full tuition, books, and supplies for accepted students as well as a substantial portion of students’ food and lodging costs for the summer. Students complete their first full semester of college during the summer program – earning12-14 transferable credits made up of English, speech, math, college success strategies, and a paid internship at the Memorial.
The Indian Museum of North America at Crazy Horse houses a large and diverse collection of Native American art and artifacts from a great many tribes originating from across North America. Nearly 1.2 million visitors from around the world experience the museum each year. 99% of the Museum’s collection consists of donations from individuals and tribes – a telling example of widespread support for the project.
The Summer Lecture Series is free and open to the public, occurs annually June through August, and provides weekly opportunities for visitors to learn from and interact with numerous American Indian historians, musicians, dancers, artists, linguists, story-tellers, and educators.
Crazy Horse hosts one of the premier Native American Day celebrations in the state South Dakota. Crazy Horse provides a great many programs for school groups, organizations, and visitors on this day to celebrate Native Americans and Native American culture. The day of celebration culminates in a free buffalo stew feed for all those in attendance. Awarded at the annual Native American Day celebration, The Crazy Horse Educator of the Year Award honors an individual who has made significant contributions to Native American education. The award includes a $1,000 grant to the library of the recipient’s school or to fund his or her special student projects. Past recipients of this award include current Oglala Lakota College President Thomas “Tom” Shortbull.
The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation Scholarship Fund to date has awarded nearly $2 million dollars to Native American students who are pursuing higher education.
In addition to these initiatives, Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is currently working to revitalize and expand its K-12 and Outreach initiatives. For more information about Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s ongoing education initiatives, please email the education department at firstname.lastname@example.org.