Excursion Study Guide


By 1939, Gutzon Borglum was nearly finished with his work in western South Dakota. Four of America's most outstanding Presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt—were masterfully carved on Mount Rushmore. "My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too," explained Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear in his letter to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, urging him to visit the Black Hills. The Sioux wanted Ziolkowski to carve the likeness of Chief Crazy Horse atop Thunderhead Mountain, a relatively short distance from Mount Rushmore.

Ziolkowski, who served for a short while as an assistant to Borglum on the Mount Rushmore project, eventually accepted the invitation. Work commenced in 1948, but not without controversy. As Ziolkowski made ready for preliminary blasting, a swell of opposition arose among South Dakotans to the Crazy Horse Monument being located in such close proximity to Mount Rushmore. Governor George T. Mickelson defended the site selection, sternly reminding the public that the Sioux were "...the people from whom we took this beautiful area—they had it first."

No verifiable photographs exist of Crazy Horse. He refused to allow his spirit to be captured by the white man's strange device. Ziolkowski constructed a composite image of Crazy Horse from "word pictures" provided by Indians who knew him during his 34-year life.

When finished, Ziolkowski's massive sculpture (641 feet long; 563 feet high) will dwarf Mount Rushmore. According to ambition, the three-dimensional carving will depict Crazy Horse bare-chested, mounted on a rambunctious horse, with an outstretched arm pointing in the direction from where the white men came to occupy the land inhabited by the Sioux. The arm gesture is part of his response to a question posed by a white fur trader: "Where are your lands?" Crazy Horse extends his arm eastward and answers: "My lands are where my dead lie buried."

Upon Ziolkowski's death in 1982, his wife Ruth (herself once a worker on the mountain) and some of their children assumed management of the venture. Progress over the years has been painstakingly slow. Today, Crazy Horse is certainly recognizable, but still there is much rock yet to be shaped. The target date for completion is unspecified due to an irregular rate of work left to the mercy of random funding. Unlike Mount Rushmore, no government financing is accepted. Twice Ziolkowski rejected $10 million in federal funding.

Ironically, the nearest town to Crazy Horse Memorial is smallish Custer, named after the infamous commander whose 7th Cavalry forces were annihilated by a huge Indian confederation under Crazy Horse at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. When Sioux and Cheyenne Indians began to assemble in southeastern Montana during early 1876 in direct defiance of the U.S. government's attempt to confine them to reservations, the War Department responded by ordering an aggressive campaign designed to intercept the roaming tribes and persuade them to their assigned reservations. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry were part of this mission.

On June 25, 1876, the mighty Indian alliance, led by Crazy Horse, the preeminent Sioux warrior chief, and Sitting Bull, spiritual emissary of the Sioux, obliterated Custer's vastly outnumbered 7th. In less than an hour of fighting, more than 250 soldiers, including Custer himself, were killed. Custer's "Last Stand" was the most decisive defeat of the U.S. Army during the Plains Indian Wars. Unfortunately for the Indians, their great victory was simply disaster deferred. It alienated many of their white sympathizers in the East and, moreover, the government became bent on avenging Custer's defeat. Within just a few months, most of the Indians were placed on the reservations they had fought so bitterly to avoid. Crazy Horse surrendered in 1877; Sitting Bull fled to Canada.

Thunderhead Mountain is approached via the broad Avenue of Chiefs (off U.S. Highway 16/385), leading directly to an elaborate Visitor Complex. Immediately into the main building are two 150-seat theaters which continuously run a 17-minute informative film. The Indian Museum of North America occupies the large wing that juts opposite the theaters. The museum features numerous pictures and artifacts honoring the Plains Indians, especially, but also the works of Indians not native to the Great Plains (such as intricate Seminole cloth patchwork, and rugs and jewelry of the Hopi and Navajo). Adjoining the Visitor Center is the Laughing Water Restaurant. One of its specialties is rich buffalo stew. Ziolkowski's log studio-home and workshop are adjacent. Nearby is the Native American Educational and Cultural Center, built of granite blown off the mountain as well as area pine. Here, local artisans show and sell their work while they converse with visitors. Also on the premises is a gift shop full of souvenirs and trinkets.

The Crazy Horse carving, one mile from the Visitor Complex, is plainly visible from the Viewing Veranda (outdoors) and the Wall of Windows (indoors). Workers used 179 gallons of paint to draw the white line—it is six feet wide—that plainly traces the sculpture's future shape. The mountain itself is not accessible to the general public except during the annual Volksmarch, an organized 10-kilometer hike hosted by the memorial every first weekend of June. Walkers can climb to the surface that will someday be shaped into Crazy Horse's outstretched arm.

Operating hours at Crazy Horse Memorial are from early morning until dark. Admission is $9 per person (young children are free) or $19 per carload (unlimited passengers). Special rates are available for groups, senior citizens, and motorcyclists. Native Americans and military personnel in uniform are admitted free. More than a million people visit the memorial every year.

South Dakota's 1998 tourism campaign issued billboards, posters, and brochures featuring the stone profiles of Crazy Horse and George Washington facing each other. It was the first time the state photographically paired the two monuments in its advertising. Perhaps the ad carries a symbolic message for chiefs and presidents of all peoples to foster interracial peace and harmony, not just in the United States but the world over.


This excursion is a half-day affair. Cost may include nominal bus fare and admission to the memorial (both payable to instructor prior to departure) and meal money (students may bring sack lunches instead). Since some of the activities are outdoors, careful attention to the day's weather forecast is important to determine appropriate outer wear. Students are expected at all times to practice good manners and common courtesy. Please click here for a complete description of this activity.


Students begin with a base of 50 points (assuming fee is paid and no behavior problems arise). Additional points accumulate relative to successful completion of the following activities.
  • Complete the study guide (20 points).
  • View film in one of the theaters (10 points).
  • Browse the museum and other numerous cultural exhibits throughout the visitor complex (10 points).
  • Make a donation of $2 or more to the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation (10 points).
  • Pause momentarily—perhaps on the veranda of the Visitor Complex—to say a small prayer for interracial harmony in America (5 bonus points).


Select the best response for each item according to information learned during the excursion as well as through preparatory lectures and assigned reading.
  1. The concept for Crazy Horse Memorial was proposed in the 1940s by:
    1. some Sioux chiefs
    2. the Bureau of Indian Affairs
    3. sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski
    4. the South Dakota State Historical Society

  2. The initial mountain blast for Crazy Horse Memorial occurred in:
    1. April of 1927
    2. May of 1939
    3. June of 1948
    4. July of 1956

  3. Crazy Horse Memorial is funded:
    1. entirely through private donations
    2. from revenue raised by video lottery
    3. by the State of South Dakota
    4. through financial endowments derived from the Ziolkowski estate

  4. The rock structure of Crazy Horse Memorial is primarily:
    1. quartz
    2. limestone
    3. granite
    4. marble

  5. The major reference tool used to carve the mountain likeness of Crazy Horse was:
    1. existing photographs of Crazy Horse
    2. descriptions of Crazy Horse provided by several people who knew him well
    3. crude sketches made by Korczak Ziolkowski during some of his visits with Crazy Horse
    4. computer-generated images of Crazy Horse derived from numerous sources

  6. Crazy Horse was born circa 1840:
    1. on the bank of the Belle Fourche River at the northern base of Bear Butte
    2. between the Bighorn Mountains and the Black Hills, near the headwaters of Beaver Creek
    3. beside the Platte River, south of Nebraska's Sand Hills
    4. in the Black Hills where the shadow of Thunderhead Mountain reaches the extreme tip of Arrowhead Lake

  7. Crazy Horse's affiliation within the Sioux tribe was:
    1. Hunkpapa
    2. Miniconjou
    3. Sans Arc
    4. Oglala

  8. All of the following are Indian tribes common to the northern Great Plains region except the:
    1. Cheyenne
    2. Arapaho
    3. Comanche
    4. Sioux

  9. The Sioux arrived on the Great Plains:
    1. from the southwest, where they were defeated by the Crows, Kiowas, and other tribes sometime before the European discovery of America
    2. in the early sixteenth century after migrating from Canada due to pressure from ruthless Spanish conquistadors allied with several traditional enemies of the Sioux (namely the Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Seminoles)
    3. from the Ohio Valley, expelled by the powerful Iroquois during the mid-1600s
    4. after being chased westward from the region adjacent to Lake Superior during the late 1700s by the Chippewas, armed with muskets obtained from French fur traders

  10. The lives of the various Indian tribes inhabiting the Great Plains centered around:
    1. government rations
    2. the tepee and the canoe
    3. sacred totem poles
    4. the horse and the buffalo

  11. During the mid-1800s, the American government created two enormous Indian reservations occupying the present-day states of:
    1. Oregon and Washington
    2. Arizona and New Mexico
    3. Colorado and Wyoming
    4. Oklahoma and South Dakota

  12. All of the following directly affected the government's resolve to place the Indians of the Great Plains on designated reservations except:
    1. the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 authorizing construction of a transcontinental railroad stretching from Omaha to Sacramento
    2. easy availability of western lands for settlement through legislation such as the Homestead Act of 1862
    3. discovery of gold in the Black Hills by the Custer Expedition of 1874
    4. creation of the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry in 1876 to provide social and cultural benefits for isolated rural communities

  13. In 1868, Sioux tribal elders chose, along with Crazy Horse, all of the following young braves as honored "shirt-wearers" except:
    1. American Horse
    2. Red Cloud
    3. Sword
    4. Young Man Afraid

  14. Crazy Horse scored battle victories over all of the following except:
    1. Captain William Fetterman (Bozeman Trail; 1866)
    2. General George Crook (Rosebud Creek; 1876)
    3. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (Little Bighorn River; 1876)
    4. Colonel Nelson Miles (Skeleton Canyon; 1886)

  15. Characteristically among Great Plains tribes, warriors won honor in combat by "counting coup" (an act of daring which showed superiority over the enemy). All of the following would be good examples of such bravery except:
    1. mounting a war pony and leading many warriors into battle
    2. stealing the horse of an enemy
    3. rescuing a fellow warrior endangered in battle
    4. striking an enemy

  16. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer's defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn was due to a combination of all of the following factors except:
    1. superior enemy numbers and bold leadership of chiefs like Crazy Horse
    2. the 7th Cavalry's inexperience at fighting Indians
    3. Custer's rash decision to attack before additional forces arrived
    4. the ineptness of some of his subordinate officers

  17. The spiritual chief of the Sioux at the Battle of the Little Bighorn was:
    1. Crazy Horse
    2. Sitting Bull
    3. Red Cloud
    4. Spotted Tail

  18. In 1877, Crazy Horse surrendered to:
    1. Lieutenant William Clark
    2. Major Scott Anthony
    3. Colonel Nelson Miles
    4. General George Crook

  19. Helen Hunt Jackson's book published in 1881, which raised public awareness of the Indians' plight, was entitled:
    1. The Last of the Mohicans
    2. I Will Fight No More Forever
    3. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
    4. A Century of Dishonor

  20. The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 was primarily concerned with:
    1. making each Indian family a landholding unit
    2. keeping alive as much of the Indians' culture as possible
    3. consolidating all Indian land under the control of a single intertribal agency
    4. protecting the rights of the Indians over the lands they currently held

  21. The last Indians to mount stiff resistance against confinement on government reservations were the:
    1. Apaches of the Southwest, led by Geronimo
    2. Kiowas, under Lone Wolf, and the Comanches, led by Quanah Parker, in the Texas panhandle (the Red River War)
    3. Nez Perces in Oregon's Grand Ronde country, directed by Chief Joseph
    4. Florida-based Seminoles, under Chief Osceola (the Second Seminole War)

  22. All of the following statements regarding the Ghost Dance religion are true except:
    1. it was formulated during the 1870s among the Paiute Indians of Nevada and later introduced to the Sioux and other tribes of the Great Plains by a mystic named Wovoka
    2. the doctrine held that the Indian dead would soon be resurrected into a life free from the white man, death, disease, and all other forms of misery
    3. according to belief, the Great Spirit had once sent the white race to punish the Indians for their sins, but now that their sins were expiated, the white man would be completely and forever eradicated
    4. the disappearance of the white man would come at the hands of mighty Indian spirit-warriors who possessed supernatural powers and wore "ghost shirts" which made them invulnerable to white man's bullets

  23. Crazy Horse was killed:
    1. fleeing to Canada in an attempt to elude soldiers sent to arrest him after the Battle of the Little Bighorn
    2. shortly after his surrender in 1877 when he became involved in a scuffle with prison guards at Fort Robinson, Nebraska
    3. battling Arikaras and Crows, long-time enemies of the Sioux, near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in 1888
    4. when soldiers and Indians exchanged fire at Wounded Knee, South Dakota

  24. Work on Crazy Horse Memorial proceeds at a snail's pace, sometimes even halted completely, due to:
    1. protests of white supremacist groups in Washington, DC
    2. irregular funding
    3. disagreements and indecisions regarding the project after the death of Korczak Ziolkowski in 1982
    4. instability of the internal rock structure which forms Thunderhead Mountain


Provide five important facts you learned from this excursion, assigned reading, and lecture about the Plains Indians in general and/or Crazy Horse in particular.


Choose one of the following. Your response should be 3-5 typed, double-spaced pages and include a list of sources used (minimum of two required).
  1. Give a brief account of the government's policies and resulting actions relative to the western Indians during the post-Civil War period. How could the overall Plains Indian policy have been modified to achieve better results?

  2. For each of the following American government policies affecting Indians, present one argument to demonstrate that the intent of the measure was benevolent in nature toward the Indians, and then provide an argument showing general failure of the action to achieve beneficial results for the Indians—Northwest Ordinance of 1787; Dawes Severalty Act; Wheeler-Howard Act; 1953 House Concurrent Resolution 108.

  3. Select any two of the following items and describe the impact of each on the Indians—Proclamation of 1763; Worchester v. Georgia (1830); Battle at the Little Bighorn; A Century of Dishonor, by Helen Hunt Jackson; Indian Self-Determination Act; Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"When the legends die, the dreams end; there is no more greatness."

Click here to learn more about the Crazy Horse and the Sioux Indians.