From The Black Hills, South Dakota...

Dear Emma, Sebbie, and Lizzie,

Have you heard of Mount Rushmore before? It’s a place where the faces of four presidents are carved into the side of a mountain. It’s near where we’re camping, but it’s not a place we’re visiting this time.

Instead, we went to see the Crazy Horse Memorial; it’s also a carving on a mountain and it was started by one of the artists that helped with Mount Rushmore, but it’s not finished yet. 

Here you can see a picture of what it looks like now and what it’s going to look like when it’s done:

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Crazy Horse’s arm will be 263 feet long when it’s finished! This is many times larger than Mount Rushmore. There’s a lot more here than just this sculpture though, this place is also home to The Indian Museum of North America, The Native American Educational and Cultural Center, and The Indian University of North America.

Here are some of the things on display in the museum:

A shelter made from bison hides,

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A teepee,

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A well-preserved beaded dress,

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Kachina Dolls and Katsinam,

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These beaded decorations are a modern piece of art inspired by how Native Americans used to decorate their horses.

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I didn’t like history when I was in school, but later on I noticed something... look at the word “hiSTORY”... history is just stories about things that have happened, the trick is to find good stories, or more importantly, good storytellers. (One of our favorite storytellers is Steve Sheinkin. Emma, I think you’re old enough now to listen to him.)

I like stories about people who followed their dreams. What kind of true stories do you like?

The Crazy Horse Memorial has a lot of good stories. There’s the story of Chief Henry Standing Bear who had the idea for the memorial, and Korczak Ziolkowski (pronounced core-chalk jewel-cuff-ski), the man who started carving it in 1947 and his family who still runs the project today.

There’s also the story of Crazy Horse, a famous warrior of the Oglala Band of the Lakota Sioux; he was born here in the Black Hills and had many visions, which are a bit like dreams, of how he was to behave as a warrior.

Have you guys ever fought with each other? I used to fight with my brothers when I was little. When your mom and dad ask why you were fighting, do you sometimes have different ideas about who was right and who was wrong? Guess what, adults are the same way!

There was a lot of fighting here in the Black Hills and we learned about the stories of the Native Americans who fought to keep their land. Eventually they lost and were moved onto marked off pieces of property called reservations; these reservations still exist today. Some of the people who live there are working to share their stories, and teach people about their culture.

Here are some children from nearby Indian reservations performing the Fancy Shawl Dance, a more modern dance, and the traditional Men’s and Grass Dances. I enjoy dancing as much as swimming, so it was hard for me to sit still and watch. I wanted to dance too!

We stayed at the memorial until nighttime when there was a laser light show. I tried to take pictures of it for you, but it was too dark.

I had to buy a sweatshirt at the gift shop to stay warm during the show because I left mine back at our tent.

Did you know that the temperature here can drop by 40 degrees at night? It can be 97 degrees in the afternoon and 57 degrees by midnight. That’s the difference between swimsuit weather, and jeans and sweatshirt weather! We always have to bring lots of layers of clothing with us.

In my next letter I’ll show you a scary drive up the mountain with a tunnel we barely fit through. We had to take that road to get to an amazing lake. I can’t wait for you to see it!

Bear Hugs and Unicorn Kisses,
Chris