PIERRE, S.D. – Crazy Horse was recognized among his people as not only a legendary warrior, but also a leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life. He is still a sacred figure to modern Native Americans and is one of South Dakota’s Great Faces.
While his exact birth date is unknown, it is estimated that Crazy Horse was born in the 1838-1840 period. Before the age of 20, he was an experienced warrior and led his first war party. Crazy Horse married a woman of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and became a leader of the Southern Sioux and Northern Cheyenne.
On Jan. 1, 1876, the U.S. War Department declared that all tribes must be located on reservations. When Crazy Horse and his village refused, Col. J.J. Reynolds and his 450 men destroyed the village of more than 100 lodges.
Crazy Horse continued to refuse life on the reservation and created a camp in the Wolf Mountains, in present day Montana. By then, his band had expanded to more than 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne.
Gen. George Crook sent Red Cloud to meet Crazy Horse and persuade him to surrender. Out of concern for his followers, Crazy Horse finally accepted the general’s promise of reservation land in Powder River country. The band had weak horses, was starving and had no ammunition.
When Crazy Horse left the reservation in September 1877 without authorization, Gen. Crook ordered his arrest, fearing that he was planning a return to battle. Crazy Horse did not resist arrest until realizing he was being led to a guardhouse. During the struggle, a soldier stabbed Crazy Horse with a bayonet.
In 1939, more than six decades after Crazy Horse’s death, Chief Standing Bear asked sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to develop a memorial to the spirit of the Sioux Nation and its great leader Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse Memorial was dedicated in 1948, and work on the mountain continues today.
South Dakota’s Great Faces weekly press release series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism, designed to highlight people who have had significant impacts on South Dakota, particularly in the visitor industry. Click on the special “South Dakota’s Great Faces” link at www.MediaSD.com to access the complete list of articles.