The Museum and the Mission
Before there was even a museum facility in which to house it, the INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA™ collection began with a single display donated in 1965 by Charles Eder, an Assiniboine from Montana. This collection remains on display to this very day. Since 1965, the museum collection has continued to grow — with over 90% of the collection being donated and new items arriving almost daily. The collection is made up of a diverse range of artifacts and displays that include representation from a large cross-section of North American tribes. As one of the three major goals of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, the memorial and the university/medical training center as the other two goals, operation of the museum serves to advance the Foundation’s mission “to protect and preserve the culture, tradition, and living heritage of the North American Indians . . .”.
During the harsh winter of 1972-73, when no work was possible on the mountain, Korczak along with the Ziolkowski sons built the original wing of the museum. In keeping with Korczak’s do-it-yourself philosophy, the family did all aspects of the construction, holding costs to a minimum. The facility incorporated Korczak’s love of wood and natural lighting and was designed to complement the story being told in stone on the mountain. The INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA™ was officially dedicated on May 30th, 1973.
In the early 1980’s, prior to his death, Korczak planned several new wings of the museum, but he did not live to see these plans come to fruition. As the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s mission is focused on all tribes, one of Korczak’s plans was to model the permanent museum facility on a hogan – a traditional Navajo dwelling. The sculptor envisioned this structure as sitting majestically at the base of the finished mountain carving.
After Korczak’s passing in 1982, Ruth continued to add to the museum. The second wing was built in the winter of 1983-84. Noteworthy is the fact that funding for this second wing came largely from a check for $60,000.00 that was left in the contribution box in late August 1983. The check cleared the bank on what would have been Korczak’s 75th Birthday. The Michigan donor communicated that he was moved by the purpose, the progress, and the project’s reliance on free-enterprise and a refusal to take federal funding. Ultimately, through the unique history of the facility itself and through the diverse collection housed within the facility, the INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA™ represents ever-growing support for the Foundation’s mission and for the vision and dreams of Standing Bear, and Korczak and Ruth Ziolkowski . . .
This article is the seventeenth installment of a periodic chronology that will be published by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation on the history of the Memorial.
By: Dr. Jason Murray for the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation