Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 4  March, 2011

Custer flag to be sold by DIA
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Condensed by Native Village

Michigan: On June 25, 1876, George Armstrong Custer led his 7th Cavalry in a battle against the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne. The fight took place near the Little Bighorn River in Montana.

It was not, shall we say, Custer’s finest hour. All 210 men under his immediate command died in the battle. So did Custer.

A few days later, an Army burial detail surveyed the carnage.  Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson discovered an American guidon (swallow-tail flag) beneath a dead soldier. He picked it up, folded it and squeezed it into his pocket.

Four years later, Culbertson gave the guidon to Rose Fowler, whose husband was a military man. In 1895, Fowler sold it  to the Detroit Museum of Art for $54.

Now, 115 years later, the Detroit Institute of Arts plans to sell Custer’s Last Flag this fall at Sotheby's auction house in New York.

The estimated price it is expected to fetch?

$2,000,000 - $5,000,000

So, why does Sotheby’s think a tattered 19th-century silk flag would sell for that amount?

Their estimate is based on many factors. These include Custer’s iconic status in American mythology, the flag’s witness to one of the best-known battles in American history, and the flag's connection to America's troubled relationships with American Indians.

“It is one of the most famous stories in American history and here you have one of the most important symbols of that story that you could possibly have,” said David Redden from Sothebys. “The guidon represented the soul and heart of what the soldiers were fighting for.”

The 27 1/2-by-33-inch flag is in relatively good condition despite the fact that sections were cut away as souvenirs in the 19th century.

Only one other 7th Cavalry guidon -- the Keogh guidon --survived the battle. It is housed at the Little Bighorn monument. But the flag's condition is so poor that it rarely gets displayed.

And, why would the Detroit Institute of Arts decide to Custer's flag after 115 years of stewardship?

Despite its historical significance, it flag not a work of art. Proceeds from it's sale could be used to purchase something with true aesthetic value. 

“It’s a standard-issue military flag,” said David Penney from the DIA.  “The only thing distinctive or unique about it is its story, and the fact is, we don’t have the context or expertise to properly display and interpret it. It needs an appropriate home.

But many in nearby Monroe, Michigan are not celebrating. Custer considered Monroe his hometown.

“It’s disappointing news for anyone from Michigan,” said John Gibney from the Monroe County Historical Museum. The museum houses one of the country's largest permanent exhibitions devoted to Custer, who was a bona fide Union hero in the Civil War.

“This is Michigan and this is Custer, one of the greatest heroes Michigan has produced, so the possibility that this flag could end up somewhere where you might never see it again is just horrible," Gibney said. "Professionally, I understand why they’re selling it, but emotionally I wish it were different.”


 Volume 1
On Day Dedicated to Native Americans, A Move to Honor Hopi Tribe's Code Talkers
New Office to Serve as Advocates for Tribal Veterans 
Metis Livid About Proposed Status System
Saying NO to $1 Billion Dollars
New Images of Remote Brazil Tribe
Amazonian Indians More Advanced Than We Knew
Australia's Aborigines to Launch Political Party
Irish Travellers to Shed Light on Indigenous Research

Volume 2
Berenstain Bears to Speak Lakota
Students Tell Saanich Myths Through Computer Animation  
Children's Book Exhibit Depicts Native Path to Diabetes Prevention
Mentoring Program Coming to Kodiak
100% Knights to Create Career Pathways for Aboriginal Students
Arizona Culinary School Recruits American Indians, Now Available for Federal Financial Aid
Book Lets Great Lakes American Indians Tell Their Own Story
Volume 3
UN Declares 2011 the "International Year of Forests"
Think the Super Bowl Battle was Big? Fight Over Conservation Funding Looms Larger
Limit Set for Native Polar Bear Hunters Under International Treaty
White House: Tribes Fare Well in 2012 Budget
Ziebach County South Dakota: America's Poorest County
Top 5 Obama Regulations that American Businesses Hate Most
The Top 11 Corporate Cash Hoarders
Volume 4
Donna Karan Collaborates With an Indigenous Artist as Part of "Nomad Two Worlds" Art Exhibit
Alligator Wrestling and the Men Who Do It
Custer Flag to Be Sold by DIA
Museums Work to Credit the Individuals Behind Native American Artwork
All My Relations Gallery Showcase for Native Art
Grammy Winner Helps Locals Build, Understand Flutes
German TV Crew Films Program About Nokota Horses

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