Chief Joseph has never been much of a fashion icon, but that didn't stop one Native American artifact collector from shelling out $877,500 for a war shirt worn by the Nez Perce tribe leader. The buyer is a private collector whose identity was not revealed.
The shirt was sold in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, falling within the $800,000 to $1.2 million expected range, according to the auction's organizer Mike Overby. The war shirt is considered one of the most important and best-preserved Native American artifacts to come to any auction.
The shirt is recognized as the one Chief Joseph wore in a photo taken in 1877, the oldest known picture of the great Indian leader.
Anything associated with Chief Joseph is highly desirable, and that's a pretty special shirt, Overby said, according to The Associated Press.
The war shirt consists of skins, with intricate beadwork, and was worn only on special occasions, according to American Indian scholar Theodore Brasser. Yet the shirt went unrecognized until the 1990s, changing hands for small sums before its connection to Chief Joseph was made.
While the condition of the poncho-style shirt makes it somewhat valuable, it's its history that merited the price. Chief Joseph was best known for leading the Nez Perce tribe out of Oregon on a 1,700-mile journey to freedom in Canada to escape living on a reservation. He failed, and was forced to surrender in 1877.
That capture led to his most famous quote: From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.