Ruth Ziolkowski – Dreams really do come true!

Ruth Ziolkowski

Ruth Ziolkowski was born Ruth Carolyn Ross to Frank & Lydia Ross on June 26, 1926, in West Hartford, Connecticut. She first met Korczak Ziolkowski at age 13 when she and a girlfriend mustered the courage to call the sculptor's home in West Hartford seeking the autograph of a movie star who was visiting Korczak at the time. Two years later, Ruth met Korczak again when she was among a group of volunteers helping to raise money for the 13 ½ foot statue of Noah Webster which the sculptor was carving as a gift to West Hartford.

In 1947 at the age of 20, Ruth arrived in the Black Hills as a volunteer to help create a memorial honoring the Native American Indian (Crazy Horse Memorial). She helped Korczak prepare the logs for the log studio-home as well as the 741 step wooden staircase to the top of the mountain.

As Ruth & Korczak continued to work together a great love formed. Ziolkowski & Ross were married Thanksgiving Day; November 23, 1950. The Ziolkowski family quickly grew with Ruth & Korczak welcoming 10 children into the world. 5 boys and 5 girls were born in the cabin that Ruth helped build when first moving to the Black Hills.

In the early years at Crazy Horse Memorial, Ruth was in charge of all day-to-day operations. This included the timber mill and dairy farm on the property; the only means of income for the carving and the Ziolkowski family. Ruth was also in charge of the purchasing and spending for the family and the mountain.

After having several health scares Korczak realized that Ruth might one day inherit the responsibility of carrying on the Crazy Horse dream, they prepared 3 books of comprehensive plans for the continuation of the mountain carving. That day arrived in 1982 when Korczak passed away at the age of 74. After Korczak's passing, Ruth started serving as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.

Public sentiment was skeptical that the Crazy Horse dream could continue without Korczak. Armed with the detailed books prepared by her husband; Ruth took the reins and directed Crazy Horse Memorial into a new era. After much contemplation, Ruth decided to shift the mountain carving efforts from the 219 feet high horse's head to the much more manageable 87.5 feet high face of Crazy Horse. Had Ruth not made this decision the mountain carving you see today would be much different.

Ruth is also credited with the expansion of the public facilities to accommodate the growing number of visitors and keep with the Crazy Horse Memorial mission of honoring the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. Ruth's improvements to the facilities include; a 300 seat theater, a wing to the INDIAN MUSEUM OF NORTH AMERICA®, expansions to the parking lot, gift shop, restaurant, viewing veranda expansion, a library, a laser show, and much more. Ruth worked tirelessly to expand on the cultural and educations offerings at Crazy Horse Memorial. Her legacy will also include the additions of the NATIVE AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL & CULTURAL CENTER ® and the INDIAN UNIVERSITY OF NORTH AMERICA ®.

On May 21, 2014, Ruth Ziolkowski passed away after a short battle with cancer. Ruth was laid to rest near Korczak's tomb. The Crazy Horse Dream has been handed to the next generation with 4 of the 10 children and several grandchildren working to continue the legacy of Chief Henry Standing Bear, Korczak Ziolkowski and Ruth Ziolkowski.
  • “Korczak wasn’t afraid of hard work and neither are we. When Korczak passed, I asked for one year to prove ourselves. Two years have passed, and we’re proud of our accomplishments. Our record is there for all to see.”
    Ruth Ziolkowski
  • “I can assure you that when I pass on and while I’m still here now, we are going to continue to work to create progress as fast as we can and with the dignity and honesty Korczak wanted.”
    Ruth Ziolkowski
  • “I am so grateful for all the friendships created over many, many years and the kindness shown me. The friends we make are one of life’s true treasures and I am richly blessed beyond my greatest dream.”/blockquote> Ruth Ziolkowski
  • ...Dreams Really Do Come True...
    Ruth Ziolkowski
  • “To start from pioneering like that and then stand here and look and see all of these buildings and to see the work that’s been accomplished on the Mountain, there are times it seems like a dream and you don’t believe you’ve really done it, but it’s been an amazing life and I have loved all of it."
    Ruth Ziolkowski
  • “Each year, as visitation increases and the project grows, running Crazy Horse on a year around basis is more and more like managing a small town.”
    Ruth 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.