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American Indian Artifacts for Sale

December 2, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ An engraved brass tablet, dug up from the Little Big Horn battlefield 117 years after Lt. Col. George Custer and his 7th Cavalry met disaster there, didn’t sell Tuesday when the highest price offered at auction fell short of its minimum selling price.

``We felt strongly that this needed to be in an institution, but institutions have limited budgets. That’s probably part of it,″ said Hadley Freeman, a specialist in American Indian art at Christie’s auction house.

The tablet _ actually a piece of brass kettle, hammered flat and etched with a depiction of American Indians pursuing three fleeing soldiers _ was the centerpiece of a varied collection of native American items being offered at the auction house.

``Everyone recognizes it as a very esoteric piece. It was very rare and highly unusual, and buyers looked at it differently because of that,″ Freeman said.

Other offerings included pottery, carvings, weavings and basketry.

Christie’s placed a pre-sale value of $200,000 to $250,000 on the tablet, which it said was authenticated by National Park Service and University of Nebraska experts as possibly made by a member of the Hunkpapa, one of the six Sioux nations.

Sitting Bull, the overall leader of the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors who proved the impetuous Custer’s undoing at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, was a Hunkpapa medicine man.

The highest bid Tuesday night was $150,000, which did not reach the minimum acceptable price, which Freedman would not disclose.