Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions
One of three guns being auctioned that were used by the 7th Cavalry during the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.

Auction House to Sell Guns Used At Wounded Knee Massacre

Sheena Louise Roetman

On the heels of a Paris auction house withdrawing from sale an Acoma Pueblo shield, a Dallas-based house is set to auction off more than 100 items from Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations, including three cavalry guns used in the Wounded Knee Massacre and two pipes.

Heritage Auctions plans to open its Legends of the West auction on June 11. The lot contains more than 400 items, including everything from letters and photographs to weapons, beadwork and even a scalp lock. Starting bids range from $1, for a wig used in an old Wild West show, to $12,500 for an autograph book containing signatures from both James Butler Hickok (“Wild Bill”) and William F. Cody (“Buffalo Bill”).

The collection of items from Pine Ridge and Rosebud currently belongs to Paul Rathbun of Colorado. According to the AP, the items were collection by Rathbun’s family members when they had owned a general store near Pine Ridge.

"I'm just a regular person; I don't have a vault or really I guess I don't have the means to care for it the way it should be," Rathbun told the AP. "And there's, of course, a bit of an economic factor."

Among beaded and quilled moccasins, pipe and tobacco bags and dresses and shirts, all ranging from $24 to $3,200 for starting bids, three guns used by the 7th Cavalry during the Wounded Knee Massacre are being auctioned off at $5,000 each. All three guns are described as “wonderful Indian guns” in the auction lot directory, and all three descriptions specifically mention the guns were gathered from the site of the massacre.

The lot also includes a pipe belonging to Chief Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota, which is set to open at $7,500, and another belonging to Chief Spotted Elk, Mniconjou Lakota, who died at Wounded Knee, opening at $5,000.

According to the Gazette, Rathbun’s great-grandmother and his then-teenaged grandfather “salvaged the three guns after they arrived at the site of the Wounded Knee massacre and found many of their Native American friends dead.” Rathbun also told the AP that his grandfather had befriended Chief Red Cloud, who had given him the pipe as a gift.

"I would object to the sale," Trina Lone Hill, the historic preservation officer for the Oglala Sioux, told the AP. "It would be like me selling any item of the pope, any possession of his or anything from the church. They would say it is a heresy."

Lone Hill also said the tribe is speaking with attorneys to seek a way to prevent the sale.

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