Century-old Native American artifact dropped off at Goodwill

SEATTLE -- Someone recently donated an old vest to Goodwill, and while that could happen everyday, this one was unusual.

By old, we mean a century old. It's a beaded Native American vest that's so valuable, Goodwill couldn't bear to sell it.

Instead, the non-profit decided to make its own donation. Now, curators from the Burke Museum are analyzing the vest.

It's an exquisitely detailed piece from the early 1900s. Everything from the color of the beads to the geometric designs to the velvet lining is a clue pointing to the vest's history.

"Whoever gave it to Goodwill probably knew more about it. They probably knew their grandfather got it while on a train ride through Glacier. That's the kind of information we'd love to have," said Robin Wright, Curator of Native American Art.

The vest was inside a trunk, donated to Goodwill in 2006. Someone recognized its value, and instead of going up for sale, the vest went into storage.

Katherine Boury of Goodwill explained, "We have to make the decision, what's the best use of the donation. In this case because it's of cultural significance, it seems it would be best to be accessible to everyone."

Assessors pinpointed it as Native American work from the northern plains.

"There's been some discussion with various experts about which particular tribe and we're not able to say precisely which tribe it might be," said Wright.

It might have been regalia for a pow wow, but at some point, it seems it was sold to a tourist.

Written on the lining - a price tag of $18 - for a vest that probably took several months to make. There is no price on the vest now, and while there are still questions about where it came from, there's no question where it's going.

The museum will keep the vest in its collection for the public to see and treasure.

Do you think you have an artifact in your home? Take up to three objects to the annual Artifact ID Day at the Burke on Feb. 9.