On October 4, 2021, the Mniconjou Lakota Tribe received donations of a pistol and knife that belonged to Chief Spotted Elk (1826-1890), who was killed in the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee (South Dakota). Maine auction company Thomaston Place Auction Galleries managed the transfer of these important artifacts on behalf of an anonymous client who wanted them returned to the Tribe.
Steve Vance, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, said: “We greatly appreciate the donation of these important pieces to our collection at the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Cherry Creek, SD, Chief Hump’s camp and the oldest still inhabited Mniconjou community in the Dakota’s, was the place Spotted Elk stopped before the final journey towards Wounded Knee.”
Chief Spotted Elk’s Smith & Wesson Schofield Second Model 45-caliber single action pistol was one of his possessions later found in Geronimo-Mangas Caves (Canada). It is accompanied by documentation from Deborah Spotted Tail Elk, the Chief’s great-great-granddaughter, confirming that this pistol was his.
His personal knife with 19th Century blade, stag elk handle, and brass fittings was assembled by Spotted Elk himself as part of the Ghost Dance tradition. This piece was removed from the Chief’s frozen body by a soldier after the Wounded Knee massacre.
“We’re honored to support the return of these historic artifacts;” noted Thomaston Place Auction Galleries owner and auctioneer Kaja Veilleux. “Our client, a collector and dedicated student of Native American history, is thrilled to see them back home where they belong and where they can be preserved for future generations.”
Spotted Elk became hereditary chief of the Mniconjou Sioux in 1874. He participated in the Indian Wars of 1875-1876, most notably the Battle of Little Big Horn, and he took part in the exodus to Canada in 1876. On return to the United States, the Tribe was assigned to the Wounded Knee Creek Reservation. With the rise of the “Ghost Dance” (a spiritual movement that prophesied the reunion of Indian tribes and removal of the white man), of which he was a proponent, and the death of Geronimo in 1890, the leader known by U.S. soldiers as “Big Foot” was deemed to be the last major threat from the Sioux, which the Army solved by massacring them all in their winter camp.
Based in Thomaston, ME, Thomaston Place Auction Galleries is an international auction company that is a leader in discovering antique and fine art treasures. Their expertise in researching and marketing antiques and fine art has earned Thomaston Place the respect of buyers, collectors and experts worldwide.