We WARHorses are a tough bunch, we love our horses and demand time to spend with them. Crazy Horse was also tough, Chief of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Indians, he was a legendary warrior and fearless leader committed to protecting his people’s way of life.

The Belle Fourche River

Historians believe that Crazy Horse was born in the early 1840’s near the Belle Fourche River in South Dakota. His father was a medicine man and his mother a Brule (one of the seven bands of the Teton Lakota American Indian people). As a child he was called Curly but acquired his father’s name, Crazy Horse, after proving himself in battle.

In the 1850’s white settlers began pushing west in search of a new life in the frontier. Competition for the limited resources on the plains created tension with the Lakota Sioux. The U.S. government began to establish forts to maintain order on the plains.

The U.S. Government established forts on the plains to protect white settlers.

In 1854 a group of white men led by Lieutenant John Grattan, entered a Sioux camp to arrest an Indian accused of killing a settler’s cow. Chief Conquering Bull refused their demands and fight ensued. When one of the soldiers killed the chief, the tribe retaliated by killing every white man. The Grattan Massacre is considered the first conflict between the Lakota and U.S. government.

Conflicts continued to escalate and Crazy Horse took up the fight for his people. A clever tactician, he led many attacks on the U.S. military which fed into an almost mystical persona and admiration from his people.

In 1876, Crazy Horse and his ally, Chief Sitting Bull, led their combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne to defeat Lieutenant Colonel George Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn (Custer’s Last Stand). More than 200 soldiers were killed, the only survivor a horse named, Comanche.

Commanche sole survivor of the Battle for Little Bighorn

The American public demanded revenge and the U.S. Army embarked on a scorched earth campaign to eliminate hostile Indians on the Northern Plains.

On January 8, 1877, General Nelson Miles located Crazy Horse’s camp along the Tongue River. The soldiers forced the Indians from their tents into a raging blizzard. Most of the tribe escaped but they were not well equipped to survive the harsh winter let alone stave off another battle. By spring, Crazy Horse and his people surrendered and spent the summer near Nebraska’s Fort Robinson awaiting the assignment to a reservation that had been promised him for surrendering.

Instructed to stay put, Crazy Horse defied the orders to put his sick wife in the care of his parents. He was arrested In September and bayoneted by his captors during a struggle to place him in a guardhouse. He died on September 5, 1877.

The Crazy Horse Memorial

In 1948, Chief Standing Bear of the Oglala Lakota, commissioned a sculpture in the Black Hills of South Dakota to serve as a tribute to the North American Indians. Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish American sculpture, was awarded the project, an ambitious figure of Crazy Horse carved from a mountainside. The project has been underway since, though Ziolkowski died in 1982, many of his children and grandchildren continue to work on the sculpture today.

More than a million visitors visit the Crazy Horse Memorial complex annually. Open year, round the facility provides educational and cultural programming and is a renowned repository for American Indian artifacts.

The project is financed entirely by admissions and donations. There is no completion date for the mountainous sculpture of Crazy Horse, work simply continues. The sculpture itself maybe secondary to the principle purpose of the memorial complex – to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians. Crazy Horse gave his life for this purpose and would almost certainly not have entertained anything different.