Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Faces in the Rocks

Sunday we had to go to Rapid City to pick up another engineering student who will be spending the rest of the summer here. On the way we managed to capture this rather amazing photo:

Things really are wild out here in South Dakota -- horses, buffalo, cows, deer, rattle snakes, mountain lions, and the occasional brontosaurus!

In all seriousness, though, a lot of amazing dinosaur fossils have been found around here so dinosaur images, memorabilia, and models are rather abundant.

It turns out that Mt. Rushmore is about thirty miles from Rapid City , so we figured we ought to go check it out. The faces are quite impressive in person, with the whole rest of the mountain face beneath piled high with rubble. Each chunk was at one point meticulously blasted off with dynamite.
Taking advantage of the same trip, we also went and checked out the Crazy Horse Memorial. Although the sculpture is nowhere near finished -- only his face has any definition -- the memorial made a much bigger impression on me than Mt. Rushmore.


Here is how the carving looks now. It was started in the late 1940s and, when finished, will be as tall as the Washington monument. The idea came from a group of Lakota Elders who wanted to show that American Indians had great heroes too, like the white man's leaders being carved at Mount Rushmore. They found a sculptor by the name of Ziolkowski who was born thirty one years to the day after Crazy Horse died. Ziolkowski took up shop and, by himself, began blasting away chunks of the mountain. He has since died and now his wife and seven of his ten children continue the effort. The project has never received any federal funds because the creators believe it needs to come from the good will and support of individuals, not the government.

Here is the model of what the sculpture will look like when it is finished. There are no known photographs or portraits of Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota chief who helped defeat Custer in 1876 and then was bayoneted after surrendering a year later. The portrait is, therefore, a symbolic one--of one of the last Lakotas who never lived on a reservation, never signed a treaty, and never spoke English. In the sculpture he is gesturing along with one of his most famous quotes: "My lands are where my dead lie buried."

Although the statue is intended to be symbolic of all American Indians, it is kind of neat that Crazy Horse was an Oglala Lakota, the same group we are living with on this reservation.

It also turns out that there is a huge museum at the Crazy Horse Memorial. I absolutely loved seeing all the beaded moccasins, arrowheads, garments, baskets, quillwork, etc. I saw some amazing stuff from different tribes in Wisconsin, which was really fun. Those kinds of experiences always make me extremely reflective about the past, present, and future... about cultures, about cruelty...about the planet and our role on it...about the world and my role in it. I have no conclusions or words of wisdom except to know that it is something so important to grapple with, to seek to understand, and really just feel.

If you are still curious about Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, you can check out this interesting article I ran across about the two memorials.

1 comment:

Froy said...

Hola guerita, espero que te la estes pasando bien alla con mis compas los Lakotas. Me gustaria caminar por dias por esos parajes, talvez aprenda mucho tan solo al caminar por esos ambientes platicando con la gente.

Te extra├▒o y te deseo lo mejor,
desde jerusalem,
froy