The Sculptor Leaves a Legacy
The day of the Korczak’s funeral, three eagles were observed circling the mountain where the sculptor had focused his attention and had worked for over 34 years to keep a promise he had made to his Lakota friend Standing Bear. Korczak was laid to rest in a tomb close to the mountain that, working with his sons, he had blasted out years before. He was once quoted as saying, “I always want to be near the mountain so I can see the progress and watch the humanitarian phases of Crazy Horse grow and grow. It will take much hard work and many years to complete, maybe many lifetimes, but Crazy Horse can and will be completed because it is right that it should be done.”
Korczak truly believed that the purpose of Crazy Horse was a noble one. Tens of thousands of supporters also agreed and continue to agree that the purpose of Crazy Horse is noble. Accordingly, after Korczak Ziolkowski’s untimely death in October of 1982, there came an outpouring of support for the sculptor, for the Ziolkowski family, and for the project that Korczak and Standing Bear had begun after the sculptor accepted the Chief’s 1939 invitation to carve a memorial in the sacred Paha Sapa or Black Hills.
“Your husband’s vision and dream for the memorial in honor of the American Indian inspire all who reach and who achieve with spirit and determination. He was a man of considerable accomplishment, and you can take great pride in him.” And so reads a letter dated November 1st, 1982, sent from the White House and signed by then United States President Ronald Reagan. And while Korczak would have been excited at the support of a U.S. President, he would most certainly have been more excited at the outpouring of support demonstrated by American Indian people.
After his death, the Oglala and Rosebud tribes, along with numerous other tribes from across South Dakota, the United States, and North America, shared official declarations and shows of support for the project. On October 26th, 1982, The Oglala Executive Committee presented a tribal flag to Ruth Ziolkowski as a tribute to the sculptor, while the Rosebud Tribal Council pledged its support to the completion of the project through an official resolution, dated November 1st, 1982.
In Father William O’Connell’s eulogy of the sculptor, he recalled the last conversation he had with Korczak – remembering that even before his death, in his final days, Korczak was totally focused on fulfilling his promise to his friend Standing Bear – “ . . . when I am feeling better, I will speak out more forcefully for the Indian people. I want everyone to know the beauty of their lives . . . the gifts they gave us . . . the justness of their cause.”
This article is the twenty-first 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