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Lakota Country Times: Tribes fail to stop auction of warrior shirt

Filed Under: Arts & Entertainment | Law | National | World
More on: arpa, france, john yellowbird steele, lakota country times, nagpra, oglala sioux, rosebud sioux

Despite pleas from multiple tribal-nations an auction that included multiple objects considered sacred to Native American people were sold to the highest bidders at an auction in Paris, France, on May 30, 2016. This item was described, in French, as a "Warrior Vest" made of "Scalps." It's origin is "probably" Lakota or Sioux, according to the catalog. Photo from EVE auction house

Ancient Lakota Artifacts Sold
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE – The Oglala Sioux Tribe failed to prevent the sale of an ancient Lakota war shirt that was put up for auction at the Eve Auction House in Paris, France.

On May 27, 2016, Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellowbird Steele wrote a letter addressed to United States Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, Secretary of State John Kerry, and United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch imploring the federal government to intervene on behalf of the tribe in attempt to prevent the sale of a more than 100-year-old warrior’s shirt from being auctioned off to highest bidder. The Oglala were joined by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Pueblo of Acoma in an effort to prevent the sale of hundreds of sacred objects that were auctioned off on Monday.

“When encountering protected Native American cultural items, such as the identified shirt, the Tribe uses its Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to make assessments in identifying the provenance of an item. The Tribe requires adequate time to assess and establish the shirt’s status as a protected cultural item of the Tribe,” wrote President Steele in the letter. “We implore you to take immediate action to assist the Tribe in calling upon French officials to take all action necessary to cease the sale of unlawfully obtained American Indian cultural items, including the upcoming sale of the identified shirt,” he added.

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The shirt that drew the attention of both the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe was likely worn by a Lakota warrior sometime in the 18th century and was adorned with what appears to be human hair. A detailed description of the object by the Eve Auction House notes that the shirt is made up of skin, glass beads, human hair, vegetable fibers, sinew, pigments, felt and porcupine quills. The items belonging to the Southwest tribes included several religious items that are considered so sacred that only citizens of their nations are supposed to be in possession of them.

President Steele cited both the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and the Native American Graves Repatriation Act as grounds for U.S. governmental intervention into the matter, but these efforts were unsuccessful as it estimated that the shirt was sold for approximately $12,000 to an unidentified collector.

The shirt in question was one of 433 items that were listed in an “American Indian and Pre-Columbian Art” catalog that included multiple sacred objects from the Pueblo of Acoma, Zuni Pueblo, and Hopi Nations.

The Acoma Pueblo were successful in having a shield removed from the sale that they claim had been been acquired illegally.

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Kurt Riley, Governor of the Pueblo of Acoma, said in a statement that the shield “had been in the care of an Acoma family until it was stolen four decades ago from their home on the Pueblo.”

Eve Auction House has claimed that United States law has no bearing on any of the proceedings in France and that the items being sold in their auctions are being done so legally. Art collectors have argued that if efforts by tribal-nations are successful it could have devastating effects on the industry as a whole.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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Related Stories:
Editorial: Acoma Pueblo needs justice for theft of sacred property (6/6)
Auction of tribal property goes ahead in France amid opposition (06/01)
Auction house in France won't stop sale of sacred tribal property (5/26)
Cronkite News: Tribes seek return of property up for sale in France (5/25)
Tribes meet to discuss sale of ancestors and property in France (5/24)

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