Can you imagine if Mount Rushmore was sculpted with George Washington picking his nose? It would be an outrage to have such an unethical pose to be sculpted in stone forever. What would it say for the culture of our people? Surely, someone would not knowingly create a monument of such proportion in an unethical pose.

There is a sculpture in progress at this time dedicated to the Native American Indian People clearly depicting an an unethical pose. The Crazy Horse Memorial started in 1948 by Korczazk Ziolkowski is located in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. This controversial site is now considered sacred to many Sioux People.

The memorial depicts the great Oglala Sioux warrior Crazy Horse on horseback throwing his left arm out over his horse’s head pointing with the index finger in answer to a question asked by a white man, “Where are your lands now?” Crazy Horse replied, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”

When completed it will be the world’s largest sculpture, at a height of 563 feet and a length of 641 feet. At more than three times the height of Niagara Falls, it is larger than the Pyramid of Giza and far larger than Mount Rushmore. This monument could soon become the largest oversight in history.

In 1939 Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote a letter to the prolific sculptor Ziolkowski stating, “My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too.” In a story by Mitchell Smyth, Toronto Star (1999) page 1, Mitchell Smyth states, “Standing Bears ideas weren’t too ambitious. He wanted the sculptor to carve the head of a chief.” It is here that we see where the oversight began; it is the fact that Korczack Ziolkowski took it upon himself to make the sculpture in the pose with the index finger without consult; perhaps an honest mistake by a white man.

The pose of the Crazy Horse Memorial is considered unethical to the traditional Native American Indian, and cannot be perceived as historically correct. It is true that many American Indians were into contemporary American culture. It is not the fault of Indians they lost cultural values. One could say for sure that many American Indians also use profanity and this would be true. To state a known fact, not one profane word exists in any American Indian language. Historically speaking the traditional American Indian does not use profanity, and does not point with the solitary index finger.

In A Study of Cultural Differences in Non-Verbal Communication Among Non-Native Speakers of English by Barbara Jane Carlisle Ed. D, Northern Arizona University (1993) Carlisle cites. "In Mexico one points with the chin, whereas American Indians and certain other people point with the lips.” (Eisenberg & Smith 1971).

The elder brother of Chief Henry Standing Bear, Luther Standing Bear, wrote a book published in 1926 titled My People the Sioux. On page 51 Luther Standing Bear writes, “When the scout pointed he used his thumb instead of the first finger.” It is important to note that Chief Luther Standing Bear is an Oglala Sioux, the same tribe as Crazy Horse, and lived in the same period.

In a book written by Irvy W. Goosen, Dine’ Bizaad; Speak, Read, Write Navajo (1995), on page eight Goosen states “Your model will likely point with the whole hand. Pointing with a finger is considered unethical, especially by the older people.” Clearly, this is evidence that traditionally American Indian people do not point with a solitary finger. There are many articles to further support this fact.

There are as many reasons for not pointing with the fingers, as there are tribes. It is considered accusatory in almost every culture. Most of us are taught as children not to point, that it is considered rude behavior. There are many cultures of the same opinion. It is however a social norm in the modern day culture of the United States of America to point with the index finger.

To be culturally and historically correct the pose of the Crazy Horse Memorial must be changed. To be correct the hand should be open with all fingers pointing outward or pointing with the thumb as described by Sioux Chief Luther Standing Bear. The construction of the monument at this time would allow for such change.

Construction of the hand has not yet begun, as Korczack Ziolkowski said to his wife in his last words before death, “You must work on the mountain -- but go slowly so you do it right.” (2006). The progress has been slow and there is time to keep with Korczack’s wishes to do it right.

Crazy Horse was chosen as the model for this monument although there have never been any pictures taken of him; he did not allow it. Crazy Horse was selected by Ziolkowski because he was a great warrior and chief.

Crazy Horse was selected as the subject of the memorial because, “He is a hero not only because of his skill in battle, but also because of his character and his loyalty to his people. He is remembered for how he cared for the elderly, the ill, the widowed, and the children. His dedication to his personal vision caused him to devote his life to serving his people and preserving their valued culture” 2006

Preserving their valued culture, which is what this, is all about! It is Crazy Horse’s vision of preserving valued culture; it is what must be done. No matter how you feel about the monument, one fact remains, a monument being constructed in the Black Hills and it will likely be there as long as mother earth. It will stand the test of time and become one of the wonders of the world; it should stand historically and culturally correct to the people that it is dedicated.

To quote Ruth Ziolkowski wife of the sculptor Korczack Ziolkowski, “This is not a memorial to one man, but to a race of people.” Indian Country Today (1996).

Many people of the American Indian race do not point with their fingers to this day. If we are to dedicate a memorial of such magnitude to a race of people then it is our duty to make it culturally and historically correct.

The public is funding the Crazy Horse Memorial. The Ziolkowski family has turned down millions upon millions of dollars from the federal government to complete the sculpture.

Therefore, they leave it up to us to fund the project as individuals through admission fees and private donations. Therefore, it is “us” the general public, who are in essence hiring the Ziolkowskis to construct a memorial to the Native American Indian People of North America. We should then show them that we have respect for the cultural values of Crazy Horse and his people and we wish to have the monument changed. We can do this by personally visiting the monument, which is located outside of Custer, South Dakota just minutes away from Mount Rushmore.

We may wish to send them a letter and offer them a donation, if they will change the unethical pose. The address is Crazy Horse Memorial, Avenue of the Chiefs, Crazy Horse, South Dakota, 57730. We may also send them a facsimile message to Fax # (605) 673-2185. Call them personally; ask to speak to Ruth or Cassimere. Their phone number is (605) 673-4681. We can also write them a letter and send it via e-mail. The e-mail address is

Changing the face of the earth with a monument that will stand for eternity should be done with dignity and respect to the people it represents. It will be up to us to make sure that this is done. Please help to preserve the cultural history of the American Indian People and take a few minutes to let the Ziolkowski family know how we feel about the construction of the monument.

By David B. Conrad


A college on the mountain an impossible dream of sculptor? (July 22, 1996)

Indian Country Today Vol.16, Issue 3; pg. B1 Oneida, N.Y.

Carlisle, B.J. (1993). A study of cultural differences in non-verbal Communication among non-native speakers of English (pp. 19)

Frequently asked questions about Crazy Horse Memorial (n.d.) (pp.1) Retrieved
October 12,2006, from
Smyth, M. (Oct.30, 1999) Carving a dream; an entire mountain is being remade into the world’s largest sculpture. Toronto Star (pp1) Toronto, Ont.

Standing Bear, L. (1926) My People the Sioux. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge.

Responses to "Mistake on the Mountain - Crazy Horse Memorial "

  1. Anonymous says:

    his bone structure looks greek.

  2. Deanna says:

    Wonderful face! This is not as bad as picking a nose...can't people ever be happy?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why must someone always find something wrong or offensive in real time, literally earh shattering art! Totally Awesome, I am native american, and I point my finger all the time! Aho

  4. Anonymous says:

    Happy? It is not culturally correct, period. Do you think this monument can make up for desemating a culture, and they can't even do it right? It seems so simple to you because you are not part of it. If it was GW picking his nose you would be upset.

  5. kedresmom says:

    It is as disrespectful as the middle finger being used every where today.

  6. Unknown says:

    I'm part Iroquois---Mohawk, and have spent most of my life decrying what the Whites did, and continue to do to the indigenous peoples of this land...However, at least someone is trying to make a contribution to present day "America", and their indebtedness to those who knew how to live with Nature, rather than against it...Let's not always look to find fault. I think the sculpture is beautiful.

  7. Anonymous says:

    so much work to be knocked down. I appreciate the effort and thought.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This Memorial is not culturally correct. Have we not done enough to the American Natives without putting up this monument incorrectly. It is like a slap in the face.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The statue should be done correctly, with the full hand or thumb pointing. What's the big deal? Looks like they have plenty of time to get it right! Please send a letter, fax or email requesting the correction!

  10. The monument is awesome, I love it, but if it needs changes, and they can still be made , than by all means make the changes, if it is really for the people!!

  11. Unknown says:

    If it is at all possible to still do this correctly,
    then that is how it should be done. As a people we have
    been slighted so many times with the demeaning use of
    logos. mascots and other stereotypical portrayals in the
    past and to the present, if we have the opportunity to do
    this correctly, then let us do just that.
    Bill Brown*=
    Annishinaabe White Earth Nation, MN.

  12. Anonymous says:

    If approached with respect rather than accusations I'm almost certain the Ziolkowskis would make the change. An open handed jesture would change the rotation of the whole arm and shoulder and would actually be a rather big redesign, but they are clearly deeply invested in a correct and respectful tribute and it appears work on the arm has not started in detail yet.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It's apparently not too late to make the change...some activist is being too damn anal & needs to crawl back in his bottle of Thunderbird ... & by the way, I'm Akwesasne Mohawk too!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Honoring The People~
    Return to all Native Nations all Their homelands.
    Honor each and every broken treaty.
    Make a federal holiday honoring Them.
    This would be honoring The People~

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think that it should be changed to respect the Native people. If it is being created to honour these peoples, their wishes must be respected.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I thought he was pointing at Custer.....

  17. Anonymous says:

    If you're taking the time to complain here, at least send an email as it might actually help! I will! Why not change if it there is still time?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Here is an example mail you can copy and paste:
    Dear Ziolkowski family,

    I saw a discussion on the following site:

    Where it is claimed "To be culturally and historically correct the pose of the Crazy Horse Memorial must be changed. To be correct the hand should be open with all fingers pointing outward or pointing with the thumb as described by Sioux Chief Luther Standing Bear. The construction of the monument at this time would allow for such change."

    The monument is a wonderful tribute, if it needs changes, and they can still be made, then please do what you can to respect their wishes!

    Kind regards,

  19. debby says:

    Literain says: By all means if you are going to do something then for God sakes, zhaagnaash, do it right!!!!!!! Miigwech.......

  20. Anonymous says:

    Just do it right is all we respectful.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Never in my life have I been to a ground that is more sacred and respected by those working there. My opinion of the Crazy Horse Monument will not be swayed by something I read on the Internet. I will put my trust in the over 60 years of hard work and dedication put in by those who work on the mountain.

  22. Anonymous says:

    It is a wonderful thing that a monument is being created to honor Crazy Horse and The Peoples! Therefore it is important to be Culturally Correct and Traditionally Respectful of The Peoples. Because The Black Hills are Sacred, and if those working on the monument are indeed respectful, it should not even be an issue to wish to do the monument correctly. Please continue to work with respect on this monument, and finish it with good intentions at heart.

  23. Anonymous says:

    It is my understanding that Mr. Z embarked upon this monumental task with his own money, blood, sweat and tears. Why are you complaining? What, exactly WHAT have you done and what exactly are you currently doing to be of assistance. Shut up, stop whining and get a life. Stop blaming others and do something positive with your time and your assests. Contribute to make something good of this!

  24. Anonymous says:

    I agree--it's not too late to change the gesture--Why make such a good statue/tribute and end up insulting folks? The gesture should be his whole
    hand with all the fingers pointing outwards---Or, as Luther Standing Bear says--the thumb--My opinion is that the whole hand with outstretched fingers would be impressive as well. A beautiful sculpture---Please make the correction out of respect.

    Another note---Crazy Horse never wanted his picture taken at all--there is no photo likeness of him.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Thank goodness the historical oral tradition was not taken away...The peoples
    may not be writing the books published for schools, prosperity sake, etc., But
    the truth is and will be known. Just fix it!

  26. Deborah says:

    I have visited this site. It is majestic and beautiful. I can't imagine how it would be difficult, at this point in the construction, to make the simple change to carve the hand with all fingers outstretched instead of just the one. In many cultures a pointing finger would not be considered proper. I am confident that Mr. Ziolkowski would do it without hesitation if he were still among us. I hope his children will make this change. Their lifelong dedication to this project is amazing. I pray that much needed funding will come their way as well.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I don't think there should be any controversy. Just fix it to where either the thumb is pointed up or shut the hand, wrapped around the reins of the horse.

  28. Unknown says:

    If pointing one finger is accusatory in the culture, why not leave it. Lord knows there is plenty for the Native people to accuse the Europeans of.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Korsak Ziolkowski devoted his life to this sculpture and his family has continued his dream. I have seen this monument several times and it is both humbling and awe inspiring. I told my daughters never say "Well what can one man do>" Here is proof of what one man can do and his family following. If the various tribes were against this, they would have said something when Korsak first showed them the model back in the 1940's. It is not disrespectful that the monument is pointing. It is showing where a location lies. It is not pointing at someone. Ruth Ziolkowski is a wonderful woman. Perhaps if you talked to her directly, you would find out why it is like this. It is wonderful that it was created at all.

  30. Unknown says:

    It is not for us to say if this is respectful, it is for us to listen. Please change the monument in an act or respect, this action would show the respect intended but not fulfilled by the original well-intentioned but unknowing artist.

  31. sue says:

    Just get it right .. respect.. it ain't hard

  32. Unknown says:

    Dear Anonymous, re your 18 September post;
    well, I don't think it's that simple. Are we actually sure that culturally speaking it would have been likely that the local people would have been likely to correct the white man who had made this assumption? In an Australian context, I would not have thought so back in early days; there are examples where our white assumptions have led us to look very foolish in the test of time...

  33. Unknown says:

    yep, Sue, that's it. no fuss needed!

  34. sandycann says:

    There is a great book named Black Hills by Dan Simmons. It tells the fictional story of Papa Sapa (Black Hills in Sioux) who in his old age helped to carve Mount Rushmore while dreaming of a monument to Crazy Horse. Dan Simmons seamlessly weaves together the stories of Paha Sapa, Custer, Crazy Horse, and the creation of Mount Rushmore. Simmons depicts a tumultuous time in the history of both Native and white Americans. Haunted by Custer's ghost, and also by his ability to see into the memories and futures of legendary men like Sioux war-chief Crazy Horse, Paha Sapa's long life is driven by a dramatic vision he experienced as a boy in his people's sacred Black Hills. In August of 1936, a dynamite worker on the massive Mount Rushmore project, Paha Sapa plans to silence his ghost forever and reclaim his people's legacy-on the very day FDR comes to Mount Rushmore to dedicate the Jefferson face.This novel is a very enjoyable history lesson posing as fiction.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I've visited the monument 3 times and plan to return. It is my favorite place in the Black Hills. I did not know this piece of information and doubt if any other visitors did. By the time this is finished we will all be long dead.Seems a small mistake and would be a shame to undo the work that has been done.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I am an artist and if I were to discover a flaw in my design plan before completion and had a chance to make the change but did not do so, it would bother me forever. As the design is literally not yet set it stone, since there IS still time to change, why not change it? Why not respect the cultural truth? Looking seven generations ahead, there is far more to gain by doing so. Tradition is the foundation for the future. One path leads to a destructed, degraded foundation. The other maintains it. We have all seen the result of disrespecting tradition. Respecting tradition is the far better choice. Let's all get behind this change.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I do understand the misuse of the gesture.
    I also feel that NO ONE would go to this much work, to defile a true Legend.
    It's obviously being taken from simple mistake with unwarranted expectations of people NOT of first peoples cultural ethics.
    I see mostly critical words and not much in gratitude.
    What part of this non-tragic thing do we want remembered?
    I do understand being correct, but also being critical and the dis-service that brings to this massive honor!
    LOOK at the excellent work so far...
    That doesn't look like some hidden slap in the face of our hero, or our people.
    I feel honored fingers pointed, open hand to sky, or closed fist as holding reign.
    Its only a dishonor when we make a SHAME out of BEAUTY being done, for and our toward our memory.
    I can promise you a finger isn't going to be the focal point of this massive piece of priceless art.
    Aho, with honor and respect from Chantz Abrams \o/

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