Crazy Horse Volksmarch, 9/30/18

Who was Crazy Horse?

Crazy Horse was the son of an Oglala Lakota warrior and a Miniconjou squaw.  His father was originally named Crazy Horse, but chose to give that name to his son and changed his to Waglula.  His mother was Rattling Blanket Woman.  Conflicting accounts place his birth between 1840 and 1845.  He was killed on September 5, 1877 at the age of 34 ± 3 years.

Although never a chief, Crazy Horse was so revered for his courage and brilliance in combat that he was named a war leader.  The respect extended to the US Army which he defeated in several significant battles.

Fetterman Massacre

On September 21, 1866, Crazy Horse and six other warriors led 80 of Captain Fetterman’s troops into an ambush near Ft. Phil Kearney by baiting the troopers into chasing them up a hill.  After the troopers enter the ambush, a number of Indians in hiding closed ranks behind them preventing their escape and reinforcement.  All 80 of Fetterman’s men were killed.  This was the worst defeat suffered by United States forces to the Indians at that time.

Battle of the Rosebud

The Battle of the Rosebud was fought in southern Montana on June 17, 1876.  The Lakota and Cheyenne attacked General George Cook’s forces.  The battle was fluid, lengthy and bloody involving many attacks at counter attacks by both Cook and Crazy Horse.  Cook would ultimately claim victory as the Indians yielded the field of battle.

Cook’s post-battle assessment left him concerned for the well being of his wounded, shortness of supplies, and imminent vulnerability to attack.  At a result, he turned southward returning to his previous camp along Goose Creek near Sheridan.  From Goose Creek, he was unaware and out of position to provide reinforcement during the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Crazy Horse led his Indian warriors to the Northwest.  Less than two weeks later they fought Lt. Col. Custer’s regiment at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

Battle of the Little Big Horn

The Battle of the Little Big Horn, located in southeast Montana, lasted two days, June 25th and 26th, 1876.  US forces numbered about 700 and were commanded by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.  He split his forces into three battalions.  The first commanded by Major Marcus Reno engaged a superior force of Indians and was forced to adopt a defensive position in the bluff known today as Reno’s Hill.  The second battalion was commanded by Captain Frederick Benteen.  He was ordered south and didn’t encounter any Indians until being ordered back.  He reinforced Reno’s forces at the bluffs preventing what may have turned out to be a catastrophic loss of life among Reno’s battalion.  The third battalion was commanded by Custer.

Custer’s battalion continued to the west and attacked into the middle of an Indian village where he was heavily outnumbered.  Crazy Horse was one of many Indians to engage Custer’s forces.  He is reported to have led a group warriors in a flanking maneuver that prevented Custer’s retreat, caused panic among the US Army troops that resulted in a collapse of their command structure.  A post-battle review of the site concluded that the fight had been a melee, with Custer being unable to establish an type of battle line.  His battalion was annihilated and he was killed on what is currently known as Last Stand Hill.

Crazy Horse’s Death

The winter of 1876 was extremely hard on Crazy Horse’s people.  They suffered from insufficient food and shelter.  Many died during the winter.  In the spring, Crazy Horse and his followers surrendered to US forces at the Red Cloud Agency near Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

While at the Red Cloud Agency, Crazy Horse was asked to help track down Chief Joseph of the Nez Pearce.  He initially declined, but later was pressured to assent.  During the dialog there was miscommunication that was, at least partially, contributed to by multiple incorrect translations.  US Army officials to concluded that Crazy Horse was a threat and ordered his arrest.  While escorting him to confinement, he was stabbed with a bayonet and killed.  Accounts of the incident vary.  However, most indicated that upon arriving at his confinement there was a disagreement, one of Crazy Horse’s cousins held him back in an attempt to prevent a fight, and the military guard stabbed him.  Hours later, on September 5, 1877, Crazy Horse died.  The doctor declared that he died about midnight.  Most accounts have him dying just before midnight while others have him dying just after midnight resulting in a date of death of September 6th.

Crazy Horse Memorial

Korczak Ziolkowski was inspired to create the Crazy Horse Memorial by Henry Standing Bear, of the Lakota, who wanted people to know that American Indians also had heroes.  When completed the memorial will be 641 feet wide by 563 feet high.  This is over 9 times the height of Mount Rushmore.

The memorial depicts Crazy Horse riding on horse back and pointing the way forward.  It was Ziolkowski’s plan to complete the horse first.  When he died in 1984, his wife Ruth took over as CEO of the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.  She changed the construction plan to focus on completing the head first.  She reasoned that a completed head would provide a greater tourist draw making it easier to raise money to complete the remainder of the sculptor.  The face was completed in 1998.  They are currently working on his hair.

After Ruth died on May 21, 2014, her daughter Monique Ziolkowski took over as CEO.  Under her tutelage the foundation began brining in engineers to analyze the rock prior to blasting.  This analysis and more advanced blasting and cutting techniques allow faster, easier removal of rock.  The engineer’s review also revealed issues related to fracturing and layering with the rock that have caused minor deviations from the original design.

Fund raising for the project has always been a concern.  On, at least, two occasions the United State government has offered $10 million contributions.  The Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation declined both offers over concerns that the government would interfere with Korczak Ziolkowski’s broader vision that included educational and cultural objectives.  Throughout construction the foundation has relied on private contributions, visitor entrance fees, and gift shop revenue shares.

The memorial, located on Thunder Mountain in the southern Black Hills, has been somewhat controversial.  The site has sacred significance for the Lakota.  Some Native Americans consider it a desecration.  Others believe that it is inappropriate as it runs contrary to the beliefs of Crazy Horse.  During his life, Crazy Horse was adamantly opposed the being photographed.  There are no known photographs of Crazy Horse.  Given this aversion, some conclude that he would not want his face carved into the mountain.  He also fought the US Army because he wanted to continue the simple life of the Lakota, living off the land, undisturbed by the ways of the White Man.  The blasting, sculpting and tourism appear to be incongruous with his desires.

Memorial Size when Completed

  • Width: 641 feet
  • Height: 563 feet
  • Crazy Horse’s Head Height: 87 feet 6 inches
  • Crazy Horse’s Arm Length: 263 feet
  • Crazy Horse’s Hand Height: 25 feet
  • Crazy Horse’s Finger Length: 29 feet
  • Horse’s Head Height: 219 feet

9/30/18 Volksmarch

The Crazy Horse volksmarches are the most popular volksmarches in the United States attracting as many as 15,000 walkers.  Two are held each year.  The spring volksmarch has been held 33 times and the fall one 6 times.

Spence, John, Brian, and Roy (not shown) attended the fall walk on a crisp, foggy autumn day.  Temperatures in the upper 30’s with very little breeze made for a comfortable walk despite the steep climb up the monument.  The fog that’s visible in the background partially cleared while we on top only to reform as we descended.VM Start

The walk had four checkpoints manned by volunteers from the scouts and other organizations.  Water was available and assorted food and drinks could be purchased at a pretty reasonable price.  Below John and Brian are checked by a little worker at the first stop and Spence grabs a glass of water at the second.

On the way up (and down) there were views of the monument that would normally be spectacular.  On this day, you could say that the fog added an artistic flare.

Crazy Horse from Below

All of us made it to the top.  The trail on top of the arm provided a first rate view of Crazy Horse’s face.  To the right is one of two Manitowoc cranes.  In addition to the cranes they had the large Jack Hammer that’s in the lower right corner of the picture below and a special rock saw that cuts with diamond bits that are part of a long rope.  The walk organizers had very knowledgeable operators that actually run the equipment available to talk to people as they walked around.  It was a great addition.

Although the fog never completely cleared, it lifted enough to allow some spectacular views from Crazy Horse’s arm.  We were fortune to be on top during the only clear time that day.  The view below is off the backside of the mountain and shows the volksmarch trail below.

VM Path from Arm

After a short descent, we reached the hole that’s beneath Crazy Horse’s arm.  The walk did not allow us to enter.  John and Spence are below.

John & Dad at arm hole

After finishing we were told that there were more than 2,000 walkers.  That’s an unofficial number.



‘Crazy Horse,’ Wikipedia, 2018. [Online] Available:

‘Fetterman Fight’, Wikipedia, 2018. [Online] Available:

‘Battle of the Rosebud’, Wikipedia, 1018. [Online] Available:

‘Korczak Ziolkowski’, Wikipedia, 2018. [Online] Available:

‘Battle of the Little Big Horn’, Wikipedia, 2018. [Online] Available:

‘Crazy Horse Memorial’, Wikipedia, 2018. [Online] Available:

‘Crazy Horse Memorial’, Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, 2018. [Online] Available:

‘Crazy Horse Volksmarch’, Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, 2018. [Online] Available:


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