Notable Black Hills People-Chief Henry Standing Bear
September 23, 2018

Intancan is the Lakota word for leader. Mato Najen, also known as Chief Henry Standing Bear, was one of the latter day Intancans of the Lakota people. His life spanned the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the Wounded Knee Massacre, and the Indian Reorganization Act.

Chief Standing Bear was born a Brule Lakota, near Pierre, South Dakota, probably in 1874.  A cousin of Crazy Horse, Standing Bear was educated at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania.  There he learned the ways of the non-Native world, and he developed leadership and communication skills that prepared him to be a leader of his Lakota people.

He stood as a proud and progressive leader as his culture was forcibly transformed. It was his leadership which ensured that the Lakota people, and all Native people, would be forever honored by the largest mountain carving on earth.

Chief Standing Bear wanted a memorial of Crazy Horse, and he lobbied Gutzon Borglum to include a likeness of Crazy Horse on Mount Rushmore along with the presidents.  This was likely dismissed as no such addition transpired.  Chief Standing Bear then turned to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who finally accepted after ten years of persistent persuasion.  Standing Bear declared that the memorial “is to be entirely an Indian project under my direction.”  Ziolkowski agreed, and he began work on the Crazy Horse Memorial in 1947.

Chief Standing Bear knew he must be pragmatic if his dream were to materialize. There was a great deal of mutual respect between Henry Standing Bear and Korczak Ziolkowski and together they agreed on a plan for the monument. Chief Standing Bear’s quiet dignity and pride was never as evident as the day he witnessed the inaugural blast on the mountain on June 3, 1948.

Information obtained from and "The Best of the Black Hills" by Alan Leftridge.

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