Recently I visited Crazy Horse National Memorial in South Dakota. It is the largest mountain carving in the world, located in the Black Hills. Chief Crazy Horse was the leader of the Sioux Nation that defeated General Custer in 1876 and the memorial is dedicated to showcasing the Native American heritage. “My fellow Chiefs and I would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes too” Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote those memorable words to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in 1939, inviting him to carve a mountain memorial to Chief Crazy Horse. Korczak Ziolkowski accepted the invitation and thus began a life-long dedication to a promise, a promise he would work to fulfill until his death on October 20, 1982, a promise that his wife Ruth, and his children continue to fulfill until this very day.

Ziolkowski spent his entire life working on Crazy Horse, with little support, physically and financially. He would carry dynamite on his back up and down the hills several times a day. He worked alone for months, among the company mountain goats. He refused donations by the Government as he did not want bureaucratic interference. Despite the slow progress of Crazy Horse against all odds, he never gave up.

Ziolkowski’s story is inspirational to many of us who have big dreams but may face incessant obstacles making those dreams come to life. It is also about promises; to what extent a man will go to keep his word. I have not come across many people who have such courage and determination to fight all odds and stand up for what they believe in. Ziolkowski is my new hero!

Here are some inspirational quotes from the Ziolkowski family. If you would like to add any, please leave them in a comment below.

You can’t just have the dream. You’ve got to work for that dream. And if it isn’t within you and you don’t love it yourself, you’re not going to do it because somebody tells you to do it. It has to come from within. – Ruth Ziolkowski

Don’t forget your dreams. – Korczak Ziolkowski

You get out of this life what you put into it. It all comes around in a circle. The Indians believe that, and you see it when you get to be 80. There are lots of things that you did
to someone else that comes back to you—good or bad. – Ruth Ziolkowski

Don’t do anything unless you’ll do it really well, and unless you want to do it for the rest of your life. – Korczak Ziolkowski