SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. — A prized possession of the Panhandle has returned from an extended stay in Washington, D.C.
The American Horse war club, an artifact of the American West, has been on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian for the past year and recently returned to its home at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument near Harrison.
The club was seen by millions of Smithsonian visitors, and Park Ranger Mark Hertig said Agate Fossil Beds is proud to once again display it in its museum.
“It’s certainly one of our most important items,” he said.
The club is an artifact of the 1860s and represents a time when native resistance to intrusions on promised hunting grounds resulted in the famous Fetterman Fight near present-day Buffalo, Wyo. American Horse and Crazy Horse were part of a decoy party that lured 80 American soldiers to their deaths outside Fort Phil Kearny.
The incident eventually led to the U.S. abandonment of the fort and Bozeman Trail as well as the signing of a peace treaty. Hertig said American Horse’s club is tied to that struggle and is a unique remnant of an important slice of American history.
“It’s a prominent relic from that period. It’s a symbol of two cultures clashing,” Hertig said.
Rancher James Cook received the club from American Horse along with many other items from his Lakota and Cheyenne friends. Many of those items are now on exhibit at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument.
In Washington, D.C., the club became one of more than a hundred items in the Smithsonian’s special exhibit “A Song for the Horse Nation.” The artifacts were displayed until this January.