It is amazing how some lives are bound together, even if those involved never met. That is exactly the case with the famed Oglala Chief Crazy Horse and the famed sculptor who immortalized him in stone – Korczak Ziolkowski.
The life of Crazy Horse is remarkable in and of itself. Regarding his struggle to keep his people free in the Black Hills region, a white trader once asked of him, “Where are your lands now, Crazy Horse? Your people are captured and put on reservations. Where are your lands you fought for?” Crazy Horse reportedly sat on his pony and said nothing for a long period of time. Slowly, he raised his arm and pointed out over the horse’s head toward the Black Hills, and said proudly, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.”
Crazy Horse went to Fort Robinson, Nebraska Territory, under a flag of truce. He was stabbed in the back by a soldier at the Fort and died on September 6, 1877.
On September 6, 1908, Korczak Ziolkowski was born to Polish parents in Boston. Orphaned at one year of age, Korczak was raised in several foster homes where he was treated poorly. He set out on his own at 16, and took odd jobs to put himself through Rindge Technical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He later became an apprentice patternmaker in the shipyards on the rough Boston waterfront, and experimented with woodworking, making beautiful furniture.
He never took lessons in art or sculpture, but studied the masters to create plaster and clay pieces. In 1932 he carved his first portrait, a marble tribute to Judge Frederick Pickering Cabot. The famous Boston juvenile judge had befriended young Ziolkowski and introduced him to the world of fine arts. From this humble beginning, Korczak embarked on a successful studio career doing commissioned sculpture throughout New England.