Crazy Horse artists provide travelers with more than handcrafted goods
Many visitors fascinated by real-life Native America
By David Arredondo
Native Sun News
Summer Journalism Intern
CRAZY HORSE, SOUTH DAKOTA –– The Crazy Horse Memorial may be a main attraction for millions of tourists every year, but visitors can leave the monument with more than just amazing sightseeing memories – and with a better understanding of different cultures.
People arrive in the masses during the summer to the in-progress monument, the world’s largest mountain carving, and are encouraged to visit the Native American Educational & Cultural Center, a wood-and-rock-walled building where artists from around the country set up vending booths with their elegant works of art. Completed in 1996, the rocks used in constructing the center were blasted from Thunderhead Mountain, the site on which the monument sits.
Around a dozen mostly Native American artists and crafters gather daily in the Educational & Cultural Center to sell, as well as demonstrate, their skills. The artisans’ work includes traditional quillwork and beadwork as well as traditional regalia, jewelry, silverwork and painted pieces.
Along with purchasing their art, fascinated tourists can visit each booth for the opportunity to chat one-on-one with the vendors – who are not employed by Crazy Horse – about their cultures, customs, art and other relevant issues.
“I think the vendors add immeasurably to the experience of the visitors,” said Pat Dobbs, media relations coordinator and general spokesman for Crazy Horse Memorial. “The visitors can have an informal conversation with the vendors and learn about customs without any book or lecturing.”
Vendors currently hail from a wide range of tribes, including the Navajo, or Diné, Lakota and Chickasaw. Some vendors even come from as far away as South America.
Renowned Lakota artists Del Iron Cloud from Standing Rock and Lorenzo Black Lance from Rosebud are among the ranks of the center’s artists.
Some artists and crafters, like Native Sun News’ production manager, Ardis McRae, only set up shop on weekends.
“I enjoy talking to everyone there and seeing where they’re from,” said McRae, an enrolled member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.
She said she’ll do beadwork on just about any contemporary garment and utensil.
There is still room for other artists who may want to showcase and deal their own artwork in the center, according to Harriet Brings, a summertime cultural specialist at the Educational & Cultural Center and Lakota language instructor at Central High School in Rapid City. And the allotted space is provided free of charge.
“We need more Lakota vendors, so if anyone is interested, please give us a call,” said Brings, who is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Brings said that she loves beaded and turquoise pieces and that she does her own beadwork. Additionally, she is a mentor to University of South Dakota students at the memorial.
So non-Native American visitors can depart from the Crazy Horse Memorial with the sights of the tour indelibly etched in their minds and with a better-defined appreciation of Native American history, culture and artwork.
For information about setting up a vendor booth at Crazy Horse Memorial’s Native American Educational & Cultural Center, call (605) 673-4681.
(Contact David Arredondo at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Copyright permission by Native Sun News