|Without car park and monumental avenue of flags to block the view|
After a short walk around the park looking up at the stone faces, we drove on to the Crazy Horse Memorial. A huge contrast. This is an enormous monument and an enormous project. It is privately run and privately funded, a family business, and was conceived by several Lakota elders led by Henry Standing Bear. It is also a work in progress. So far Crazy Horse's face is complete and work on the horse's head is ongoing.
There's no question that Crazy Horse was developed originally as a riposte to Mount Rushmore - Henry Standing Bear said "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, too." And it's not hard to see Mount Rushmore as the act of victorious colonizers. Just over fifty years after the Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed, agreeing ownership of the Black Hills by the Lakota, and just under fifty years after that Treaty was broken by the USA resulting in the Great Sioux War, the US government paid to have a sacred Lakota mountain carved with the faces of four white men, by a sculptor who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Of course, this isn't the way it's presented at Mount Rushmore. That's all about "conquering the west" and "uniting the country" and "honouring the ideals of America" and the people who were conquered and forced off their lands don't really get a mention.
You may say fifty years is a long time, but I suspect it wasn't to the Lakota survivors of Little Bighorn who commissioned the Crazy Horse Memorial in the late 1920s and were still living to see the first blast some twenty years later, shortly after Mount Rushmore had been completed. Just as the English look at Ireland and wonder why so much fuss is still made about William of Orange and Oliver Cromwell, so I am sure Americans look at the Black Hills of South Dakota and wonder why Native Americans are exercised about the Treaty of Fort Laramie.
But events of the past do matter and indeed perhaps they are not in the past. Here's a link to news earlier this month of the visit from the UN Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, to the Black Hills to investigate the USA's progress on adherence to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (clue: he wasn't very impressed).