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Fakes Claimed from Famous Sources

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  • Fakes Claimed from Famous Sources

    Fake "Wounded Knee" Relics

    Changes to Federal Law which took effect in 1990 required the return of items taken from the dead at the Wounded Knee “battlefield” (more accurately a massacre site) to the Oglala Sioux tribe or the Wounded Knee Survivors Association. In 1993, a lawyer acting for the association sought to recover more than 100 artefacts on display at the museum of the Barre Library in Massachusssetts. This represented the largest known collection of items stripped from the bodies of the dead and included beaded shirts and purses, suede leggings, wooden pipes, scalps and some braided locks of hair believed to have come from Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) who was killed in the massacre. The association’s desire was that the items should be buried with the bones of the deceased at the Wounded Knee Memorial in South Dakota. The lawyer was also seeking a grant such that tribal artists could be paid to create replicas of the non-sacred items in the collection for the museum to keep.

    The Miniconjou and Hunkpapa (Lakota Sioux) bands that the US Cavalry escorted to Wounded Knee Creek in 1890 with the intention of disarming them were equipped with modern weaponry in the form of rifles and pistols. It’s possible that there were tomahawks, war axes and lithic items within assemblage of “weaponry”, but largely they would have been ceremonial or status items, not fighting weapons as such. The vast majority of the dead (on both sides) were shot, and there’s a strong suspicion that many of the US Cavalry dead and wounded were victims of “friendly fire”. The Wikipedia entry for the incident is here:

    Wounded Knee “relics” need to be treated with a high degree of scepticism unless there is solid provenance which establishes a link. The old paper labels, brass plaques etc which frequently claim such provenance do not in themselves provide adequate proof. Many items were falsely “legitimized” by being put on public display immediately after the event and have labels or documentation which record their display history rather than demonstrate their authenticity. After the event (in fact for a long time after), there was a roaring trade in items for the “collector market” with demand far outstripping supply. That imbalance was addressed by subsequent theft from the cabins back at the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, fictitious heritage, outright fakery and also exploited by the non-participant Oglala people back on the reservation selling purpose-made items which had no connection to the massacre.

    George H. Harries (correspondent for the Washington Evening Star) visited the site about three weeks after the massacre and observed:

    “Fictitious relics soon succeeded those mementoes which would naturally interest most people and then followed fictitious values... That was the Ogallalas' picnic. Everything saleable was dragged out of the tepee and disposed of at 'war prices.' The average collector was not in it, and the wise man ceased to look at bead work or the fragments which were alleged to have been saved from the strife at Wounded Knee. Never was there such a plentitude of war clubs, each guaranteed to have been the instrument with which Capt. Wallace's life was terminated. Big Foot's clothing would have filled any ordinary baggage car."

    George D. Wallace was Captain of the 7th Cavalry’s K Troop at the time and the only officer to be killed at Wounded Knee. He wasn’t clubbed to death - his roll of honour records cause of death as “gunshot wounds to head and abdomen.”

    The Nebraska State Historical Society has an interesting article by R Eli Paul titled Wounded Knee and the “Collector of Curios” which talks about the collector frenzy for artefacts in the period after the massacre:
    Last edited by painshill; 01-27-2016, 03:54 PM.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.