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What Is the Crazy Horse Memorial?

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota, in the form of Crazy Horse, an Oglala Sioux warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain on land considered sacred by some Native Americans, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles away from Mount Rushmore.

More than 8 million tons of rock has been blasted from the mountain to create a sculpture depicting Native American chief Crazy Horse, who led the Oglala Sioux at the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. At the invitation of local Indian leaders, Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began work on Thunderhead Mountain back in 1948.

The crew uses precision explosive engineering to remove and shape mountain rock, the explosives being loaded into holes drilled to a depth of 35 ft (11 m). The final surface is smoothed by a jet torch, which operates at 3,300°F (1,815°C).

With the face complete, work is now progressing on the horse’s head, which will stand 219 ft (66.7 m) high — the equivalent of a staggering 22 stories — and for which another 4 million tons of granite must be removed.

The final memorial will also feature a poem written by Ziolkowski, which will be carved into the hard mountain rock in letters 3 ft (0.9 m) tall.

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