Do you teach a thematic unit on U.S. landmarks or symbols? I want to encourage you to add an important monument to your list--the Crazy Horse Memorial. There is so much value in teaching our students about Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, and other important landmarks or symbols, but one that gets overlooked is the Crazy Horse Memorial.
I recently had the chance to take a road trip across the U.S. and one of our stops was in South Dakota. We spent the day at the Crazy Horse Memorial and visited the Indian Museum of North America.
Growing up, I recall learning about Mount Rushmore, but I never learned about the Crazy Horse Memorial even though it is located just 17 miles southwest of Mount Rushmore--and when complete will be even larger in scale.
I did a little bit of research and found very few ready-to-go lesson plans or activities centered on the Crazy Horse Memorial. I decided to take what I learned from my trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota and create a virtual field trip to the Crazy Horse Memorial. All of the content is done and all of the links are included to give your students a well-rounded understanding of the history and significance of this memorial. This activity could be a great addition to your thematic unit on U.S. landmarks or symbols, or be used as a stand-alone lesson.
This monument depicts the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse riding his horse and pointing to his tribal land. Crazy Horse is remembered as a strong leader who resisted the encroachment of white settlers on Lakota land. He led Lakota warriors in a number of victories against U.S. troops. He fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn in which the Native Americans defeated General George Custer and his troops.
The memorial was commissioned by Lakota elder, Chief Standing Bear to honor the living heritage of North American Indians. Chief Standing Bear invited one of the sculptors of Mount Rushmore, Korczak Ziolkowski, to create another mountain memorial. In his invitation to Korczak, he said, "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes too."
Construction of the memorial began in 1948 and continues today. The memorial is privately funded and does not receive state or federal funding, so the work on the memorial is limited to funding as well as weather constraints. As of 2023, the face, outstretched arm, and pointing finger are complete.
While our U.S. symbols and landmark units focus on completed monuments, we can teach our students that many great architectural wonders and monuments around the world have taken hundreds of years to complete.
We can point to examples like the Great Wall of China which took over 2,500 years to build, Chichen Itza which took 160 years to build, and the Vatican Basilica which took 120 years to complete.
The continual work of the Crazy Horse Memorial is an example of dedication and commitment. We can use this memorial as an example of keeping a promise to fulfill a dream.
If you are interested in adding this ready-to-go activity to your U.S. landmarks, U.S. symbols, or your Native American Heritage Month activities, you can find this virtual field trip here: Crazy Horse Virtual Field Trip