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Crazy Horse Memorial Draws Attention to Living Mission in Indian Country Article

October 31, 2021

The Carving is Our Smallest Task:

CRAZY HORSE, SD (Oct. 13, 2020) — Since 1948, Crazy Horse Memorial has honored and supported Native American cultures through three major initiatives that have evolved through the years: The Indian Museum of North America, The Indian University of North America, and the mountain sculpture. And, 73 years after founders Chief Henry Standing Bear and sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and his wife, Ruth, began the famous carving, Crazy Horse Memorial continues to live out its mission to protect and preserve the culture, traditions, and living heritage of the indigenous peoples of North America in significant and meaningful ways..

“As Monique Ziolkowski, our chief executive officer and the ninth child of Korczak and Ruth, has often said, the mountain carving is the smallest task that we’re working on here,” explained Laurie Becvar, Crazy Horse Memorial’s president and chief operating officer. “While the sculpture always will stand as a beacon honoring the Native peoples of North America, our founders’ dream of realizing Crazy Horse Memorial was always about so much more than the mountain itself. Ours is a living mission, not one that is etched only in stone.” 

Throughout its history, Crazy Horse Memorial has been led by an active, diverse board of directors and an experienced management team.

Crazy Horse Memorial is a public nonprofit organization governed by a board of directors and presently led and managed by Ziolkowski and Becvar as CEO and president/COO, respectively. They operate as an executive management team appointed by the board, which comprises both Native and non-Native members.

“We believe in building a bridge to harmony and healing among all people here at Crazy Horse,” Becvar said. “We’re mindful of it in everything we do.” 

An enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a nationally recognized attorney specializing in federal Indian law, Jeremy Patterson sits on Crazy Horse Memorial’s Board of Directors. He noted that Native people have had prominent leadership and advisory roles at the memorial throughout its history.

“Native people are actively involved in every aspect of our mission, from The Indian University of North America and The Indian Museum of North America to our wide range of cultural performances and educational offerings,” Patterson said. “We are very proud of the work that’s taking place here, in our sacred Paha Sapa — the Black Hills.” 

Native nations throughout North America actively support Crazy Horse Memorial and its ongoing mission.

Many tribes and Native-led organizations support Crazy Horse Memorial. Some of these include the American Indian College Fund; Prairie Island Tribal Council, Minnesota; the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Alabama; the Muckleshoot Tribe, Washington; Sherwood Valley Rancheria, California; Chitimacha Tribe, Louisiana; Hannahville Indian Community, Michigan; Seminole Nation of Oklahoma; Valley View Casino and Hotel, California; Sitting Bull College, North Dakota; Mohegan Sun, Connecticut; and Native American Jump Start, Wyoming. They are joined by numerous individual donors of Native descent.

“We’re deeply grateful for this support from Native nations and Native-led organizations,” Becvar said. “Crazy Horse Memorial does not accept any government funding. We are sustained through admissions and private, charitable gifts.”

Native nations provide non-monetary support as well. The Memorial’s Tribal Flags Collection, started in 1982 with a flag from the Oglala Sioux Tribe, now numbers 138. All are currently on display for the public.

The Memorial’s staff includes Native team members. These include Dr. Joshua Rudnik, director of the Indian University of North America, Whitney A. Rencountre II, the university’s associate director, and Nathaniel “Nate” Watahomigie, the university’s manager of residence life. Rudnik is Oglala Lakota, Rencounter is Crow Creek Hunkpati Dakota, and Watahomigie is a member of the Havasupai Nation.

“I choose to work here because I truly believe in the mission of our organization, and I see first-hand the commitment within our organization,” Rencountre said.  

According to Becvar, Crazy Horse Memorial provides preference to qualified job candidates who are enrolled tribal members. Many key leadership positions are currently held by Native people. In addition to Rudnik, Rencountre, and Watahomigie, these include the vice president of visitor services, assistant to the vice president of visitor services/educational coordinator, information technology manager, information technology support specialist, student success manager, and numerous visitor services hosts and ticket office agents.

Crazy Horse Memorial demonstrates a deep commitment to its living mission on a daily basis.

Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s mission is to protect and preserve the culture, tradition, and living heritage of the North American Indians. The foundation demonstrates its commitment on a daily basis through The Indian University of North America and The Indian Museum of North America.

• To date, The Indian University of North America has served students from more than 40 Native nations across the country through its summer program, called 7th Gen, which allows high school graduates to earn up to 12 college credits that are transferable to colleges and universities throughout the United States. Over the last 12 years, this program has been made possible through a partnership with the University of South Dakota.

• Crazy Horse Memorial funds student tuition, books, food, lodging, and student success coaching.

• All university students participate in paid internships at Crazy Horse Memorial and with local employers, gaining hands-on, real-world experience and engaging with mentors who provide guidance during the program — and long after it has ended.

• The university also offers an upper-level program for those who have completed their first year of higher education. These students gain additional work-study experience through full-time, paid internships at Crazy Horse Memorial and at other businesses in the region, and they earn additional college credits paid by Crazy Horse Memorial.

• Crazy Horse Memorial is working hard to increase the college persistence rates of Native students, seeking to close the college achievement gap between Natives and non-Natives. Its student success coaching makes a real difference: Approximately 80 percent of past participants have completed college or are currently enrolled in higher education.

• The relationships between the university’s success coaches and the students don’t end with the summer completion ceremony. The coaches continue to help with scholarships, job recommendations, resumes, and portfolios, and they consult with students who are interested in going on to graduate school. They also work with students on success strategies like time management, weekend rejuvenation, exercise, and restorative sleep.

• In 2019, The Indian University of North American formed a partnership with South Dakota State University to offer a 15-credit fall semester program in which students earn an undergraduate certificate in leadership and sustainability. It’s called Wachante Hecha Wizipan or Wizipan for short. In Lakota, it means “The Heart of Everything that Is.”

• The 60,000-square-foot Indian Museum of North America educates visitors throughout the world about Native culture, traditions, and living heritage. Yearly visitation numbers rival that of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

• The museum’s collections comprise 11,000 artifacts, entrusted to Crazy Horse Memorial by Native families from across North America. 

“Each piece comes with its own story and its own energy,” said Andrew Dunehoo, museum curator and director of cultural affairs. “We are their stewards, and it’s our responsibility to share those stories and ensure that North America’s Native perspectives are not lost.”

• The museum is currently undergoing a three- to five-year transformation, with artifacts and stories organized in six distinct galleries: Geography, Home and Community, Ecology and Food, Adornment, Leadership, and Modern and Contemporary Art. Within each gallery, visitors will have access to the artifacts and stories of Native peoples from the Arctic, Pacific Northwest, Southwest, Great Plains, Northeast/Woodlands, Southeast, Central America and the Hawaiian Islands.

• The museum team is enlisting the support of outside experts for the new galleries. For example: They are working with Sean Sherman to develop the Ecology and Food gallery, which will explore how food affects culture. Sherman is the well-known Oglala Lakota chef and author who founded The Sioux Chef and the nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems organization. 

“This is part of fully realizing our stewardship role,” Dunehoo said. “It’s about our deep responsibility to today’s culture bearers, which was so important to Korczak and Ruth Ziolkowski from the very beginning.”

Crazy Horse Memorial gives back to Native students, artists, communities, and causes throughout the year.

Crazy Horse Memorial supports the livelihood of thousands of Native performers, artists, speakers, and cultural consultants through its museum and cultural programs. It supports Native students through Crazy Horse Memorial scholarships, provided to students who study at universities in the region, with more than $2 million in scholarship funds distributed to date. And, it purchases authentic art and artifacts from 60 Native families for its gift shop. The gift shop is owned and operated by Korczak’s Heritage Inc., with royalties paid to Crazy Horse Memorial on its sales. The business model is based on that used in U.S. national parks. 

“We also support numerous Native causes, from Native art shows to projects that build awareness and action, such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women,” Becvar said. 

In addition, Crazy Horse Memorial conducts annual holiday fundraising to make sure that children living in the residence hall at Pine Ridge School on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation receive gifts and much-needed winter clothing, and it has been a regular supporter of The Cheyenne River Youth Project’s Wo Otúh’an Wi Toy Drive on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. 

To learn more about Crazy Horse Memorial, to plan a visit, and for information about making a contribution, call (605) 673-4681 or visit crazyhorsememorial.org. To stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the Crazy Horse Memorial on Facebook (/crazyhorsememorial), Twitter (@crazyhorsemem) and Instagram (@crazyhorsememorial); and follow The Indian Museum of North America on Facebook (/imnacrazyhorse) and Instagram (@imnacrazyhorse).

The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation is dedicated to protecting and preserving the culture, tradition, and living heritage of the North American Indians by continuing the progress on the world’s largest sculptural undertaking, the memorial of Lakota leader Crazy Horse; providing educational and cultural programming to encourage harmony and reconciliation among all peoples and nations; acting as a repository for Native American artifacts, arts, and crafts through the Indian Museum of North America and the Native American Educational and Cultural Center; and establishing and operating the Indian University of North America and, when practical, a medical training center for American Indians.

 

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Crazy Horse Memorial Draws Attention to Living Mission in Indian Country