Feds: Some Custer Museum artifacts were stolen

By Matthew Brown

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 19 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2011 file photo, Custer Battlefield Museum director Christopher Kortlander describes a painting depicting the Battle of Little Bighorn on display at the museum in Garryown, Mont. Kortlander is seeking the return of artifacts seized by the government during a five-year investigation of alleged artifact fraud that was dropped with no charges filed.

Matthew Brown, File, Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — Government attorneys say a cache of American Indian artifacts seized during raids on a Custer-themed Montana museum includes items allegedly stolen from members of the Crow Tribe.

That assertion was detailed in court documents filed by the government to explain why it has not returned the artifacts to the Custer Battlefield Museum in Garryowen.

Federal officials investigated museum director Christopher Kortlander for alleged artifact fraud from 2005-2009. Government attorneys contend 22 items seized in the raids are "contraband" that cannot be returned, including war bonnets, medicine bundles and other items containing protected bird feathers.

Four artifacts were allegedly stolen. There is no indication Kortlander was directly involved.

No charges have been filed. Kortlander says he acquired the artifacts legally and has filed a lawsuit seeking their return.

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