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Who Speaks for Crazy Horse? (2019) (newyorker.com)
21 points by samclemens 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments





It's tiresome. You can't use the image of a Native American as a symbol of strength and bravery as was done by sports teams and clubs -- despite the explicit intention of honor, it's cast as an insult (the Washington Redskins was an outlier and the antithesis of this -- good riddance to them and their ridiculous logo). A man builds a monument to a famous Native American, and his stated intent is to honor and somehow try and compensate for the wrongs done to them. Naaah, he's bad, too.

When I went to summer camp as a kid, the cabins were divided in two (how they were constructed), with one side being the Comanches, and the other side the Apaches. The idea was strength and bravery (as practically all such references were). Never ever was any of that about denigrating or insulting a group. Do people want their mascot to be a symbol of someone they hate or belittle? Of course not. Anyway, I'm sure that's all gone now, too.

Fine. I guess we should topple all the monuments built for the Indians along with all the other statues of 18th and 19th century Americans. Let's think of the Indians only as victims (there is no pride in victim-hood, and it implies weakness); or, maybe keep them so that people might be able to gain some insight into history.


I think you're right that pretty much any approach to Native Americans by non-Native Americans is going to end up being problematic -- but is that really so surprising, given the immensity of what happened? How to even begin making amends for a multi-century campaign that literally erased a continent's worth of civilizations off the face of the earth? Massive reparations maybe? Massive land reform? If we're not talking about actions at that scale, then isn't any monument, memorial, or other form of honor little more than a sop and, arguably, more about assuaging the feelings of non-Natives?

> How to even begin making amends for a multi-century campaign that literally erased a continent's worth of civilizations off the face of the earth? Massive reparations maybe? Massive land reform?

This is the right question. What is an effective process for the descendants of oppressors and the descendants of the oppressed make amends and move past it? If we can't answer this, our descendants will be quarreling about it forever. 1000 years from now, someone's going to say "Well my Native American great, great, great X 40 grandfather was oppressed by your white great, great, great X 40 grandfather, therefore blah blah blah." It might never end. There are feuds today that go back 1000 years. It's kind of ridiculous. How do you solve it?


This makes it seem like the injustices are all ancient, when this story is an example of non-Indians profiting off the continued misery of Indians. Both government and private oppression is still common, the first act should be resolving as much of that as possible.

>literally erased a continent's worth of civilizations

You're thinking about the USA. Other native american cultures in America (the continent) faced different degrees of destruction, but I wouldn't say "literally erased" them.


It's pretty simple, they're humans, not mascots.

Do you think Comanches felt honored that eplanit in their summer camp won the hot-dog eating contest 'for' the Comanches?

Do you think a single Native will bat an eye if eplanit no longer wears an 'Apaches are strong' T-Shirt?

You want to honor the Natives? Do something that helps them legislatively, e.g. change the boundary conditions that would allow for houses to be bought and generational wealth be accumulated in Reservations.

And frankly, what people want their mascots to be is hardly the imperative here. It stops at the point when they choose real life human beings without consent and likely against their will. I don't understand what's so complicated about it.


> You want to honor the Natives? Do something that helps them legislatively, e.g. change the boundary conditions that would allow for houses to be bought and generational wealth be accumulated in Reservations.

at least here in South Dakota, the problems with the reservations are not of the legislative variety


This doesn't seem to relate to the article's content. FWIW, native tribes of the US have long honored their images as symbols of strength and as warriors, which is why the US military continues to name helicopters after them: https://www.wearethemighty.com/mighty-history/the-reason-arm...

> It's tiresome. You can't use the image of a Native American as a symbol of strength and bravery as was done by sports teams and clubs -- despite the explicit intention of honor

The thing I keep thinking about, in regards to this subject, is there seems an implicit backhandedness even in the case of honor. It could be argued we do the same with animals, take the image of the powerful thing that could kill us, and totemize it. However, the two things implicit here are that we respect it because we fear it and, conversely, we honor it after we have beaten it (and perhaps especially because we have beaten it); we honor the spirit of the wolf by dancing around a fire with the hide of one turned into a headdress.


Is this not reading too much into it? How many sports teams in the US use Vikings, Spartans, or Trojans as mascots? To my knowledge "we" (whoever that is supposed to mean) never defeated these people. They are generally associated by the public as having been fierce warriors.

Your three examples are historical civilizations rather than current, living indigenous tribes. I keep thinking of the "Washington Caucasians" parody shirt when this discussion comes up.

I state "we" because I think it could be argued to be a generic human practice overall, to one degree or another (wearing a wolfskin as described could be as easily attributed to any culture present where wolfs have existed, whether in regards to American or European history.)

In regards to Vikings and Spartans, etc, I would say there is appropriation here nonetheless, the appropriation of legacy. The whole notion of "Western thought" is an appropriated amalgam: we are not Greek (and many Anglo European cultures have reject the notion of Grecians being "white" to varying degrees, but we still use "deep time" to anchor ourselves, justify ourselves. In this way, we don't have to justify that we are "creating something new." Christianity may be the best case in point: it anchors itself to the ancientness of the Torah, yet contradicts its history at will, but this doesn't matter, the anchor remains.

The two can coexist. We can claim others' past glories as our own, and celebrate "our" own. (And in the cultural sense the conquering of the Americas is something that is celebrated, the overcoming of the "Indian as Other to the American self," as I once heard it put.


Do you think the Spartans would feel honored if some 3rd class high-school competitive walking club in Whatchamacallit, IL labels itself 'The Whatchamacallit Spartans'?

I think you are misrepresenting the reasons people might object. From Wikipedia I gather 4 main reasons

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Horse_Memorial#Controver...

(1)

> Crazy Horse resisted being photographed and was deliberately buried where his grave would not be found. Ziolkowski envisioned the monument as a metaphoric tribute to the spirit of Crazy Horse and Native Americans. He reportedly said, "My lands are where my dead lie buried." His extended hand on the monument is to symbolize that statement.[18]

..

(2)

> Elaine Quiver, a descendant of one of Crazy Horse's aunts,[24] said in 2003 that the elder Standing Bear should not have independently petitioned Ziolkowski to create the memorial, because Lakota culture dictates consensus from family members for such a decision, which was not obtained before the first rock was dynamited in 1948.[25] She said:

> > They don't respect our culture because we didn't give permission for someone to carve the sacred Black Hills where our burial grounds are. They were there for us to enjoy and they were there for us to pray. But it wasn't meant to be carved into images, which is very wrong for all of us. The more I think about it, the more it's a desecration of our Indian culture. Not just Crazy Horse, but all of us.[25]

..

(3)

> Seth Big Crow, whose great-grandmother was an aunt of Crazy Horse's, said he wondered about the millions of dollars which the Ziolkowski family had collected from the visitor center and shops associated with the memorial, and "the amount of money being generated by his ancestor's name". He said:

> > Or did it give them free hand to try to take over the name and make money off it as long as they're alive and we're alive? When you start making money rather than to try to complete the project, that's when, to me, it's going off in the wrong direction.[25]

..

(4)

> Other traditional Lakota oppose the memorial. In his 1972 autobiography, John Fire Lame Deer, a Lakota medicine man, said: "The whole idea of making a beautiful wild mountain into a statue of him is a pollution of the landscape. It is against the spirit of Crazy Horse."[26] In a 2001 interview, Lakota activist Russell Means said: "Imagine going to the holy land in Israel, whether you're a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, and start carving up the mountain of Zion. It's an insult to our entire being. It's bad enough getting four white faces carved in up there, the shrine of hypocrisy."[27]

In his 2019 New Yorker article, ‘Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?’, author Brooke Jarvis states: “On Pine Ridge and in Rapid City, I heard a number of Lakota say that the memorial has become a tribute not to Crazy Horse but to Ziolkowski and his family”.[28]

--

First, he deliberately sought to not have a place of honor for himself. Building one is incredibly disrespectful.

Second, his family wasn't consulted. That was too disrespectful.

Third, the builder is making bank on indigenous history.

Fourth, and crucially, this is a complete pollution of the landscape done essentially for vanity. This is maddening.

Note that those four reasons have absolutely nothing to do with any other Native American statue ever. Though I would agree that the representation of Native Americans done by non-native Americans can often be disrespectful (for specific reasons and not because it's a problem in itself)


These are human beings, and deserve to be treated with respect. Misusing them as a patronizing token of whatever it is you think is disrespectful. It's the same thing as 'Asians are good at math', 'Irish are drunk', 'Germans are Nazis - but well organized'. Leave them be. Of course it gets more complicated by their history in the U.S.

Imagine Germany erecting a statue of a cartoon Jew, with big nose and everything, in front of some stock exchange. "But they're good with money!".


> Though the federal government twice offered Korczak Ziolkowski millions of dollars to fund the memorial, he decided to rely on private donations, and retained control of the project

This article contains a lot of opining about a private memorial. If you don't like it, simply don't pay to attend it and build your own. If yours is better and more historically accurate (claims made in the article say the current has certain inaccuracies), yours will become more popular!


There's only one set of Lakota sacred mountains. I don't think the situation would be improved by having 100 sets of wackos blowing up the mountain instead of one.

You don't see an issue with non-Indians making millions off the memory of Sitting Bull miles away from a reservation that is one of the poorest areas in America?

Someone replied and then deleted a comment suggesting it was a money-losing project given the decades spent without completing it.

My impression was that someone might have an interest in perpetuating the "donations towards completion" thing. If someone takes in more than they spend on family slowly carving away, it can be "successful" for decades, right? Turning down millions from the government might suggest the donations were lucrative. "In 2018, the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation brought in $US12.5 million in admission and donations."

A completed, privately-owned ticket-selling attraction in the hands of non-Indians would be less appealing than a project with donations to supposedly honour someone.


The article mentions that the charity raised $12.5 million a year with $77 million in assets, in addition to the Korczak’s Heritage, Inc that runs the gift shop, food, and bussing. edit edited that in I see.

>A completed, privately-owned ticket-selling attraction in the hands of non-Indians would be less appealing than a project with donations to supposedly honour someone

They also use the creation as an attraction. When you see Mount Rushmore, you are left with a desire to see something like that being made. Crazy Horse offers you that chance by selling tickets to when explosions happen.


The "early design" sculpture is so much better than the actual one, particularly around the eyes. This is why I love being a coder. I make blunders like that between design and implementation all the time, but my mistakes aren't set in stone, and I don't need to find a new mountain to fix them.

Visited a few years back. Got the impression that it was a bit of a tourist trap with little incentive to ever be completed (easier for them to get donations towards slowly working on it). Regretted going there.

Well, it is the largest non-publicly funded project of its type in history.

However, I think Crazy Horse would have hated the idea of blowing up a mountain bit by bit to look like him.


I see a lot of people saying "indian" and "non-indian" in this thread. As someone with native american heritage (but not from the USA) I always cringe when I see these terms. Calling native americans "Indian" was a missunderstanding that, for some reason, europeans didn't care enough to rectify for centuries. Next time you're using it, please think about this and go for native american instead :D (or something equivalent!)

From the various "natives" I've talked to, calling them "Americans" is roughly as offensive as calling them "Indians." It's giving them the name of their conquerors. I personally like Canada's term "First Nations," but I'm aware that US tribes have not opted for that name either.

I tend to use the term others are using, in this case I was thinking of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, unless it's obviously being used derogatorily. I probably should have said non-native though.


The best would be to learn the nation’s name. And then use that. In English I guess; in their own tongue would be cool.

It’s like if I want to talk about Germany, or Luxembourg, but only and always use the term European. But because most (?) know there are actual specific nations in Europe, we use those names. Sadly, that knowledge is still lacking in North America amongst the non-First Nations peoples.


'native american' has always seemed off to me given that native people may or may not identify as "american" and america was thrust upon them. When referring to a group i generally use tribal name, "native", indigenous or "native people in america" (when needing to refer to a general world location)

here in South Dakota at least, much of the native population identifies with the term "indian" or "American Indian." as an example: they have a BLM-esque organization that seems to be gaining support called the "N.D.N. Collective." I always thought it was weird growing up



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