Memorial to display Crazy Horse knife

Rapid City, South Dakota (AP) 5-08

The Crazy Horse Memorial has acquired a knife that reportedly belonged to Sioux warrior Crazy Horse, although a historian has raises questions about its authenticity.

The knife and sheath are being prepared for display at the Indian Museum of North America at Crazy Horse Memorial, a mountain carving that’s under way near Custer.

Using $20,000 from an anonymous benefactor, museum director Anne Ziolkowski bought the knife and beaded sheath in telephone bidding from an auction gallery in Texas on April 19. 


Auction coordinators rated the knife, because of its extensive records that included a 38-page provenance – or facts supporting its authenticity – as the top item at a sale featuring 1,500 historic Western pieces, according to a news release from Crazy Horse Memorial.

The gallery said its expert authenticated the knife and sheath, confirming that its design and materials were from the 1850s to 1900s.

But doubts about the item’s authenticity were raised last week by Donovin Sprague, a Native American historian and descendant of the Crazy Horse family.

Sprague, a university instructor at Black Hills State University and Crazy Horse Memorial, said he has read the 38-page provenance.

“They spent a lot of time researching, but I’ve found a whole lot of areas of question,” Sprague said.

He said designs in the sheath’s beadwork were more prevalent in the early 1900s, not the 1870s.

Crazy Horse died in 1877 after being stabbed at Fort Robinson, Neb. Sprague believes Crazy Horse may have surrendered his knife while at Fort Robinson, but, according to historians there, weapons were tossed into a big pile, and it would have been difficult to know which item belonged to which person.

“It would have been difficult to identify one as his,” said Sprague, who said he is a descendant of the Crazy Horse family from Chief Hump, also known as High Back Bone.

Ziolkowski, who is in her 25th year as museum director, believes the knife and sheath likely were owned by the famed Lakota warrior and leader, who played a key role in the defeat of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.

“As historic things go, I have never seen anything that’s this well documented,” Ziolkowski said.