Crazy Horse's Ruth Ziolkowski reflects on her life - KOTA Territory News

Crazy Horse's Ruth Ziolkowski reflects on her life


For the last 65 years, a KOTA Territory woman has worked tirelessly to make a dream come true.  It's a dream she will not see realized.  Ruth Ziolkowski, CEO of Crazy Horse, is gravely ill, battling stomach cancer. 

Ruth quotes what an old Indian woman told her just a few weeks ago, "The Indian people believe the day you were born there's a number. It's put beside your name and it has a date. And when that day comes you'll pass upstairs."

Even now, in Hospice of the Hills, in Rapid City, Ruth Ziolkowski faces each challenge in front of her.  She plans to fight this cancer until the very end.  She knows she doesn't have long, but knows the mountain carving for which she has dedicated her life will continue.

"The dream isn't ending. This dream is continuing. That's part of the succession and the youngsters are going to carry on, no matter what. They believe in it because it's fascinating work to do and also because it's such a worthwhile dream, to be able to honor a whole nation of peoples who have been downtrodden, kicked around in the country."

In 1947, Ruth was a young artist moved to the Black Hills, volunteering at Crazy Horse. Ruth soon married sculptor, Korczak in a Thanksgiving wedding, 1950.  The dream they shared; to carve a monument to a Native American hero, Chief Crazy Horse, in the sacred Black Hills.  It would be the world's largest sculpture, in the round.

But in 1982 Korczak died of pancreatitis.  Ruth explains, "When he died you could see the people who believed it would die, they all left.  (Korczak) told me I can't carve this mountain from the grave. You'll have to do what you think is best." 

While Korczak had been working on the horse's head, Ruth changed the focus to the Chief's face.  We watched as it emerged from the mountain.  And while the Ziolkowski's refused government money, Ruth brought world-wide attention and millions of dollars from private donors, most recently, $20 million from Sioux Falls philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

Now, Ruth plans for her final day, and makes plans for succession to her talented and dedicated children.  Ruth has one request.  "I would just like to ask people to continue the friendship to Crazy Horse, to help the family get through all this, and to continue to believe. This project will be here and continue to grow, no matter who is or who is not alive to help do it."

Ruth is 87 years old.  She says thankfully she is not in pain and has a good appetite.  Her daughters Yadviga and Monique, backed by a capable board of directors, will be taking the reins at Crazy Horse once Ruth passes on.


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