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Chief Joseph war shirt sells for $877,500

A war shirt worn by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe that can be seen in a painting hanging in the Smithsonian Institution has sold for $877,500 at auction.

The shirt is considered to be one of the most important Native American artefacts to ever come to auction.

It had been expected to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2million at the annual Coeur d'Alene Art Auction in Reno, Nevada on Saturday.

Auction spokesman Mike Overby said: 'Anything associated with Chief Joseph is highly desirable, and that's a pretty special shirt.'

Chief Joseph wore the shirt in 1877 in the earliest known photo of him, and again while posing for a portrait by Cyrenius Hall in 1878. That painting, which was used for a U.S. postage stamp, hangs in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

The poncho-style war shirt was made of two soft skins, likely deerskin. It features bead-work with bold geometric designs and bright colours.

Warriors kept such prestigious garments clean in a saddle bag on their horse or carefully stored while in camp, to be worn only on special occasions, American Indian scholar Theodore Brasser noted.

The shirt surfaced at an Indian relic show in the 1990s and was sold without any knowledge of its link to the photo and portrait. It changed hands again before the connection was discovered.

Its quality makes it desirable for collectors, but it's the 'surprising discovery of the shirt's role in history that reveals its true importance,' said Mr Brasser, a former curator of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, Netherlands, and at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.

The photo and portrait showing the war shirt were made shortly after Chief Joseph led 750 Nez Perce tribal members on an epic 1,700-mile journey from Oregon to Montana in an unsuccessful bid to reach Canada and avoid being confined to a reservation.

They were forced to surrender in 1877 after U.S. troops stopped them about 40miles south of the Canadian border.

In a famous speech made after the surrender, Chief Joseph said: 'From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.'
This war shirt worn by Chief Joseph of Nez Perce tribe sold for $877,500 at auction in Reno, Nevada, on Saturday

The shirt's sale involved private collectors.

Mr Overby said: 'It was a wild-card piece. We're real happy where it ended up.'

Despite its price, it was not the top-selling piece at the auction.

The painting Scout's Report, by Howard Terpning, went for $994,500, followed by $965,250 for Cowboys Roping The Bear by Frank Tenny Johnson.

Some 400 bidders took part in what's billed as the world's largest Western art sale.

About 300 works were sold for a total of $17.2million, up from $16.9million last year and $9.2million the year before.
SOURCE

Iconic: Chief Joseph wore the shirt while posing for a portrait by Cyrenius Hall in 1878. That painting, which was used for a U.S. postage stamp, hangs in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC


Chief Joseph in 1877. Warriors kept such prestigious garments clean in a saddle bag on their horse or carefully stored while in camp, to be worn only on special occasions



Chief Joseph and 750 Nez Perce tribal members were forced to surrender in 1877 after U.S. troops stopped them about 40miles south of the Canadian border, which they had been trying to reach

NOTE: This historic War shirt does belong to the Nez Perce tribal members and need to be returned to them!

Responses to "'War shirt' worn by Native American Chief Joseph sells at auction for $900,000"

  1. Anonymous says:

    huh. wonder what i can get for Mike Overby's clothes.

  2. The Honorable Chief Joseph still has descendant's what part do they play in all of this if any at all, they should have the rights to this artifact not public for sale like a slave or trinket that has no personal value. This upset's me, unless it is the plan of his People to sell this item, why is this happening. If this is a Native vs the current White establishment thing, then this is why I get upset with status , non status feud's, United we stand Divided we will continue to fall. Let's band together once and for all we need one more last stance.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This special historic shirt does belong to the Nez Perce tribal members and need to be returned to them!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Again the white man takes/steals from the Natives. This belongs to his ancestors no one else.. You have taken enough from our people..

  5. This shirt does belong to his family, not to someone who only wants to say they own a piece of history. This is like the others said, another case of the white people not caring what they take from the Native American. It is NOT theirs to take. Would you want some stranger selling you grandfathers sacred items?

  6. Anonymous says:

    This really should be taken to Court! If a Corporation can have the same rights as a person, a Tribe should also. I feel that a Tribe should have even more rights, as Corporations are usually made up of unrelated people. Fight for what is right!

  7. Clarke M. Mahaney says:

    This shirt belongs to the Nez Perce nation and should be returned to them.

  8. SLuG says:

    How did it end up in other hands to begin with? THAT would be a huge factor in ownership.

  9. Figures. White men benefiting from stealing.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The buyer should return this back to his family.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It should of been back to Nez Perce Nation, as should anything taken from any tribe without their agreement.

  12. Thanks, "Hemene Hihhih", for bringing this unconscionable sale to attention.

    Isn't there a US law whereby Native artefacts of historic significance should be returned to the tribes? In this case, to the Chief Joseph Band of Nez Perce in the Colville Indian Reservation, WA.

    This shirt should be preserved in the Nez-Perce longhouse in Nespelem or at the Colville Tribal Museum in Coulee Dam, WA.

    Erik Abranson, France
    http://facebook.com/erik.abranson1

  13. BSB says:

    Yes, this shirt should stay with the ancestors of the owner.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The Nez Perce Tribe had every right to be there as a bidder as well.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Oh the white , no respecto los chief own people indians do have a lot too many stuffs a wore the clothes lost of memory , that all your faluts the people ..., what do that for , ....hmmm..... Dang it ...... .

  16. Anonymous says:

    ...... amen

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