03-14-2015 03-14-2015
Skinner Auctions
Skinner Auctions Boston MA
2791B Boston
March 14, 2015 10:00AMCalender

Two Historic Lakota German Silver Pendants Owned by Famed Chiefs Red Cloud and Spotted Tail

Auction: American Indian & Ethnographic Arts - 2791B Location: Boston Date / Time: March 14, 2015 10:00AM


Two Historic Lakota German Silver Pendants Owned by Famed Chiefs Red Cloud and Spotted Tail, c. 1850s, the first cloud-shaped form with hide suspension, engraved on the front with four-petal and arrow design, the back with etched figure of a man wearing a similar pectoral, and ink inscription reads "Ornament Red Cloud," the accompanying envelope with pencil note, "Ornament Red Cloud Indian Chief," written by William Starring and stamped from his post at "Headquarters, Department of the Columbia, Vancouver Barracks, Washington Territory," lg. of pectoral 6 in.; the second pectoral with buffalo hide suspension loop, rocker engraved quatrefoil and spider web design, inscribed on the back, "Ornament of Spotted Tail Sioux Chief," with similar marked envelope from the Headquarters, Department of the Columbia, lg. 7 1/2 in.; both pectorals have a hole at bottom center for an additional suspension, and a patina that is consistent with a mid-19th century date.

Provenance: Both pendants collected by William Starring.

Note: According to previous research, these gorgets were probably given to William Starring in the fall of 1866 at Fort Laramie, where he is known to have been stationed at the time. Plains Indians did not prefer the trade silver gorgets found in eastern North America, but instead favored the variant shape called "Pectoral," adopted primarily by the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Teton Sioux, and Shoshone. They were made primarily of German silver, an alloy of nickel, zinc, and copper.

A true career military man, William was born in New York in 1841 to Sylvanus Seaman Starring and Adeline Starring. He had a brother, Frederick Augustus Starring, who became a brigadier general.

William moved to Illinois when young, but returned east to attend West Point from 1860 to 1865. He then entered service in the US Army, most of which was spent out in the western territories. The period Starring spent in Fort Laramie in 1866 is notable, as it is the first known occasion on which he would have been in the vicinity of Red Cloud and Spotted Tail.

Access to the Powder River Basin was an issue in the late spring of 1866. Negotiations were underway for a treaty at Fort Laramie, which was attended by war chiefs Red Cloud, Standing Elk, Spotted Tail, Dull Knife and other leaders. During the negotiations, a few hundred troops under Col. Henry Carrington arrived at Fort Laramie to build forts along the Bozeman Trail. The arrival of Col. Carrington's troops meant that the negotiations underway were useless for the Sioux leaders, and that the Bozeman Trail would be opened without agreement of the chiefs. This became the spark that led to Red Cloud's War, as well as the defeat at Fort Kearny, Wyoming, in December of 1866 of the eighty men under the command of Lieut. Col. William Fetterman.

This also happened to be the same month that Starring and J.K. Hyer published their Sioux dictionary at Fort Laramie, an invaluable tool needed to communicate with the native leaders.

The documents related to Starring do not say when he might have received the two pectorals, although his knowledge of the Lakota language might mean that he was present at the treaty negotiations, both in the early spring or fall of 1866, and may have received the pieces at that time.

Additional history available at preview.
Estimate $20,000-30,000

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William Starring, Fort Laramie, William Fetterman, Department of the Columbia, Colonel, Washington Territory, Sioux Chief, spider web design, eastern North America, Sylvanus Seaman Starring, Adeline Starring, brigadier general, Frederick Augustus Starring, United States Army, Bozeman Trail, Fort Kearny, Wyoming, invaluable tool