History Is Written by the Victor. Finally.

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National Park Service

The 7th Cavalry Monument

The U.S. military is pretty good at honoring its history, with statues, memorials and that kind of thing. Heck, there’s even an American Battle Monuments Commission, which says it “commemorates the service, achievements, and sacrifice of U.S. armed forces.”

Not sure what they’re going to think of the Department of the Interior’s plan to honor the several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors who killed U.S. Army Lieut. Colonel George A. Custer and his 262 men at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25 and 26, 1876.

As the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument’s website says:

Toward the end of the fight, soldiers, some on foot others on horseback, broke out in a desperate attempt to get away. All were pulled down and killed in a matter of minutes. The warriors quickly rushed to the top of the hill, cutting, clubbing, and stabbing the last of the wounded. Superior numbers and overwhelming firepower brought the Custer portion of the Battle of the Little Bighorn to a close.

The battle marked “one of the Indians’ last armed efforts to preserve their way of life.”

The main memorial in the Montana park atop Last Stand Hill celebrates Custer’s 7th Cavalry. But in recent years, an Indian memorial, and markers of where Indian warriors fell during the battle, have been added (the federal government changed the park’s name, from Custer Battlefield National Monument, in 1991).

Now the National Park Service wants to fill 12 blank granite panels – 44 inches high and up to 91 inches wide – with engravings at the Native American Memorial site on the battlefield. “The contractor will be required to transfer the template graphic on to the surface of the granite panels through carving, engraving, sandblasting, and etching techniques on site without removing panels from existing mounting,” the NPS says.

The park service says that “stone artist” Andy Dufford of Denver’s Chevo Studios is the only person who can etch the “government-provided graphics” (not included in the solicitation) on to the granite:

Andy Dufford of Chevo Studios was intimately involved in the development and presentation of the final concepts for the Indian Memorial and participated actively in tribal consultation meetings on site at LIBI, at tribal government headquarters, and via telephone with designated tribal representatives. The ability for the NPS and tribes to concur on the final, pre-fabrication panel designs was due largely to the ability of Mr. Dufford and the Chevo Studios team to translate the visions of the tribal representatives into granite as a medium. The project discussions included culturally sensitive information that is not typically shared with contractors. Mr. Dufford’s background in public art projects, landscape architecture, and artistic stone rendering enabled him to enhance the overall goal of the project while honoring the individual preferences and unique perspectives of each participating tribe and family. This fact, combined with the fact that Chevo Studios via Andy Dufford is the only possible source for the unique combination of multi-faceted skills that the project necessitates, makes competition unfeasible.

NPS makes clear that hiring someone else would be risky. “If the engraving is not acceptable,” it warns, “replacing the granite panels would cost in excess of one million dollars.”

The government expects to pay Chevo and Dufford between $150,000 and $500,000 for the work.