A Historic Walk Begins
Since its June 3rd, 1948, dedication, Crazy Horse Memorial has been a place where lives and stories have converged. One example of such convergence can be found in the history of an event that, since its inception, has drawn people from around the world – of all ages, nationalities, and ethnicities –to the Memorial. The Crazy Horse Memorial Volksmarch, since its beginning in 1985, has been held in association with the Black Hills Chapter of the American Volksport Association. The Volksmarch began as an initiative to draw people from around the world to the sacred Paha Sapa to walk the mountain, experience the Memorial, and learn about the history and culture of the North American Indians.
The initial walk in 1985 saw approximately 400 participants make the 10K (6.2 mile) round-trip from the visitor’s center, up to the top of the mountain, and back down again. And while the first walk hosted less than five-hundred participants, today, the event is the most popular of its kind in the Black Hills and the most popular organized hike in the United States. Accordingly, as work on the mountain has progressed since that first march, so has the popularity of the event — with annual crowds swelling well into the thousands, with a current record of 15,000 participants. And as the event has grown, so has the opportunity to share the story of the North American Indians. Participants are encouraged to experience the INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA® and the NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL CENTER®,as well as the Studio Home and the Sculptor’s Workshop. Accordingly, Volksmarch weekend in June is one of the busiest times at the Memorial visitor’s center.
Hikers traverse the trail up the largest mountain carving in the world with a zenith that sits approximately 6,500 feet above sea level. As participants hike the trail, they travel through a symbolic history of progress on the mountain and on the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s mission. Participants in the walk find themselves on the mountain that, in the late 1940s, Chief Henry Standing Bear and Korczak Ziolkowski first scouted for the carving. Participants also find themselves walking the same path that sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski created and traversed over and over again during his many years spent working on the Memorial. Subsequently, each year, with each new Volksmarch, this history grows and the mission is advanced.
In addition to serving as an initiative to advance the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s mission “to protect and preserve the culture, tradition, and living heritage of the North American Indians,” the annual Volksmarch has developed into a pragmatic event that allows for collection of a large amount of food for the yearly KOTA Care and Share Food Drive as admission to the memorial is waived for a suggested donation of canned food. Due in large part to the volume of donations received during the march, the Foundation is the largest source of donations to the Food Drive each year. Ultimately, the Volksmarch is one of many initiatives that have been developed by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation over the years in order to draw people from around the world to the Memorial that was founded to honor all North American Indians . . .
This article is the twenty-third 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