Chief Henry Standing Bear - the Original Dreamer

Chief Henry Standing Bear- the Original Dreamer

Standing Bear is reported to have spoken on behalf of the elders. Standing up for his people and alongside his new friend, Korczak Ziolkowski, the man whom he and his fellow Lakota leaders had chosen to carry out the monumental undertaking, Chief Henry Standing Bear shared a message of hope and reconciliation. On June 3rd, 1948, motioning toward Thunderhead Mountain, he conveyed to those in attendance that the newly-initiated memorial would serve to create cross-cultural understanding and to mend relations between Natives and non-Natives – an especially powerful sentiment coming from a man who spent his entire life working to understand others and, in turn, educate others about his people and their culture.

Brule Lakota, Standing Bear was born near Pierre, South Dakota, along the Missouri River – probably in 1874. In his early teens, Standing Bear became one of the first Native Americans to attend Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where he took on the name of "Henry." As a result of attending Carlisle, Standing Bear concluded that in order to best help his people, it would be necessary for him to learn the ways of the non-Native world. Somewhat ironically, Carlisle – an institution that was designed to assimilate Native Americans out of their indigenous ways – became a source of inspiration that Standing Bear would repeatedly draw upon to shape his enlightened understanding of cross-cultural relationships, as well as to find new ways of preserving his people's culture and history. It was at Carlisle that Standing Bear first began to develop and hone leadership skills like public speaking, reasoning, and writing. In addition, while attending Carlisle, Standing Bear realized that because of the changing times, the battle for cultural survival was no longer to be waged with weapons, but with words and ideas. Subsequently, this realization became a driving force behind much of his work during his adult life and led him to become a strong proponent of education.

He attended night school in Chicago, while he worked for the Sears Roebuck Company in order to pay for his schooling. In large part as a result of his education and his willingness to engage the non-Native world, he became heavily involved in the affairs of his people over the course of his life —working with Senator Francis Case and serving as a member of the South Dakota Indian Affairs Commission. He even led the initiative to honor President Calvin Coolidge with a traditional name – "Leading Eagle." Not one to miss an opportunity for advocacy, during the naming ceremony, Standing Bear challenged President Coolidge to take up the leadership role that had been previously filled by highly-respected leaders such as Sitting Bull and Red Cloud.

In 1933, Standing Bear learned of a monument that was to be constructed at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The monument was to honor his maternal cousin, Crazy Horse, who was killed at Fort Robinson in 1877. Standing Bear wrote to James Cook who was steering the planned project – sharing with Cook that he and many of his fellow Lakota leaders had formed the Crazy Horse Memorial Association and were promoting a carving of Crazy Horse in the sacred Paha Sapa – Black Hills. Standing Bear explained that as a relative of Crazy Horse, it was culturally appropriate for him to initiate such a memorial to his cousin. In addition, Standing Bear believed strongly that the Black Hills, because of the spiritual significance to the Lakota people, was the only appropriate place for such a memorial. These two beliefs would finally lead Standing Bear to search for a man with skills great enough to carve a memorial to Crazy Horse.

Standing Bear was determined. He would not rest until there was a memorial, which honored his people, was located in the Black Hills, and was equally large in scope and vision as the memorial being carved at Mt. Rushmore. At one point, he even approached Gutzon Borglum to advocate for a Native American addition to the Shrine of Democracy. Borglum likely dismissed the idea as no such addition transpired; however, in keeping with the legacy of persistence and advocacy that he created during his lifetime, Standing Bear refused to give up. His continued search would eventually lead him to prize-winning sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski . . .


  • “No one is ever wrong who desires to do that which is not required of them to do — and that which is of a noble purpose. The purpose of Crazy Horse is noble.”
    Korczak Ziolkowski / Sculptor
  • “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also.”
    Chief Henry Standing Bear
  • “When the legends die, the dreams end. When the dreams end, there is no more greatness.”
    Korczak Ziolkowski / Sculptor
  • “The Important thing is that we never stop. That’s the main thing. And if you looked at it as strictly a view of being finished, you could get awfully distracted waiting for that day to come. This way, you’re pleased with every little step of progress that you make.”
    Ruth Ziolkowski / Sculptor's Wife
  • “One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk.”
    Crazy Horse
  • “By carving Crazy Horse, if I can give back to the Indian some of his pride and create a means to keep alive his culture and heritage, my life will have been worthwile.”
    Korczak Ziolkowski / Sculptor
  • “He left everything so we can carry on his work, and that’s just what we’re going to do. We’re dedicated to that. His whole life would be wasted if the mountain carving and the humanitarian goals are not completed.”
    Ruth Ziolkowski / Sculptor's Wife
  • “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”
    Crazy Horse
  • “If it weren’t for each and every one you, whether your gift was small or large monetarily, whether it was friendship and encouragement, without you we wouldn’t be here…”
    Ruth Ziolkowski / Sculptor's Wife
  • “Standing Bear explained that the Indian has a concept of honoring their great heroes that’s totally different from the white man’s. It was difficult for me to understand at first…The Indian uses the direct approach. He says: that man was my ancestor, and he was a great man, so we should honor him-I would not lie or cheat because I am his blood”
    Korczak Ziolkowski / Sculptor

Crazy Horse Memorial
12151 Avenue of the Chiefs
Crazy Horse, SD 57730-8900

(605) 673-4681


Upcoming Events

  • Memorial Weekend
    May 25-28

    Memorial Weekend <br />May 26-29,<br /> 2017
    Native American’s across this great nation have served and sacrificed in the United States Military, join us to honor all fallen heroes who fought and protected our freedom. American Indian artists will be featured throughout the Welcome Center. Admission to the Memorial will be waived with 3 cans of food per person.
  • Legends in Light
    May 25-Sep 30

    Legends in Light<br /> May 26-Oct 1<br />
    This spectacular light show tells the story of the Memorial in laser lights projected onto the Mountain. You will be treated to the story of Chief Henry Standing Bear’s invitation to Korczak, Ruth’s contributions and special features of many Native American heroes. This must see show is featured nightly at dark, for sun down times click here:
  • Native Americans’Day
    Oct 8

    Native Americans’ Day  Oct 10, 2016
    Governor George S. Mickelson and the SD legislature declared 1990 as the “Year of Reconciliation”, the day formerly known as Columbus Day became Native American Day. Native American Day at Crazy Horse Memorial is celebrated by planned activities for kids, program and performers, Educator of the Year is awarded and (weather permitting) a mountain blast. Admission is waved to the Memorial with 3 cans of food per person.