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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)
Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Funerary Objects Potentially Affiliated with the Kaigani Haida in the Collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Region: Alaska
Associated Cultures: Haida, Tlingit, Hydaburg Cooperative Association , Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, Organized Village of Kasaan, Ketchikan Indian Community, Organized Village of Saxman

2012
This report provides an inventory and assessment of human remains and associated funerary objects in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from Prince of Wales Island and the adjacent mainland region of southeast Alaska that are potentially affiliated with the Kaigani Haida of Alaska, in response to a request by the federally recognized Hydaburg Cooperative Association, of Hydaburg, Alaska.

The remains of one individual sent to the museum by Reverend J. Loomis Gould were assessed to determine possible cultural affiliation because the remains were listed in the NMNH catalog as possibly being Haida from Alaska. The tribal affiliation of the remains was not identified by Gould and appears to have been identified as Haida by the museum because Gould resided at Jackson Mission, near the Haida village of Howkan. Howkan was originally a Tlingit village, but later became a Kaigani Haida village sometime in the early eighteenth century. Museum records identify the remains as those of a “medicine man.” While this information is not present in the available Gould correspondence records, it was most likely obtained from Gould directly. Cultural affiliation was based on three lines of evidence: 1) the remains were sent from the Jackson Mission and if the remains were found near there, they are likely to be Haida or Tlingit; 2) the history of occupation of the Howkan area suggests that the Haida people occupied it for at least the last 250 years; and 3) a craniometric analysis determined that the individual was most likely to be Haida. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that the individual is most likely to be Haida and most likely from the Howkan area. The individual is jointly affiliated with the Kaigani Haida represented by the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, the group that represents Haida descendents from Dall Island and its surrounding areas, and with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA), the federally recognized native group that represents all Haida and Tlingit peoples of southeast Alaska.

The skeletal remains of 13 individuals in seven catalog numbers were collected in 1918 by Edwin Kirk in the vicinity of the village of Klinkwan on Prince of Wales Island. Klinkwan originally was a Tlingit village and was occupied by the Haida in the eighteenth century. The earliest museum records identify the remains as Haida. A note, probably written by Kirk, was found with the remains and indicates they were obtained near the village of Klinkwan. The remains were identified as Haida in a different handwriting on the note. Because of these lines of evidence, the 13 individuals are found to be culturally affiliated with the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, who represents the descendents of the Kaigani Haida from the village of Klinkwan and surrounding areas, and the CCTHITA.

One individual in one catalog number was collected in 1918 by Edwin Kirk from an unknown location in southeast Alaska. The museum and archival records do not record additional provenience or tribal information for this individual. Craniometric analysis of this individual demonstrated that the remains were most probably Haida. The individual is found to be culturally affiliated with descendents of the Kaigani Haida, but cannot be linked to a specific Haida village location within southeast Alaska. Therefore the individual is found to be culturally affiliated with the Kaigani Haida federally recognized tribes in southeast Alaska, the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, the Organized Village of Kasaan, the Ketchikan Indian Community, and the CCTHITA.

The remains of one named individual, Charles Staast, a Haida who lived in Hydaburg, Alaska, cannot be located at the museum. Staast died in Juneau, Alaska, at about the age of 75, and his brain was reportedly sent to the museum shortly after his death in 1928 by Dr. Charles Firestone. An examination in 1999 by Robert Cohn, M.D., of Howard University of the brain in the catalog number attributed to Charles Staast revealed that the brain was that of a young individual and therefore could not be the remains of Charles Staast. No evidence has been found to indicate that Staast’s remains were inadvertently switched at the museum with those of another individual. It is possible that Dr. Charles Firestone erroneously sent the remains of another individual to the museum and identified the remains as those of Charles Staast. If the remains of Charles Staast are identified at the museum, then the Hydaburg Cooperative Association and the CCTHITA will be immediately notified. These remains are not included in the total number of individuals.

A minimum of six individuals in six catalog numbers and 48 funerary objects in 11 catalog numbers were collected by Julian Steward at the Bob’s Bay site on Dall Island in 1940. Cultural affiliation was based on four lines of evidence: 1) research into the archaeological and historical records has demonstrated that the Kaigani Haida exclusively occupied Dall Island from the middle of the eighteenth century until the middle of the twentieth century when most Haida from that area and the closest documented Haida village of Sukkwan relocated to Hydaburg for economic and social reasons; 2) the burial tradition represented and documented by Steward in the rockshelter at Bob’s Bay appears consistent with those documented among the Haida in the early historic period; 3) the material culture, comprised primarily of carved and painted wooden mortuary boxes, collected from the Bob’s Bay site and associated with the human remains have been assessed by both Haida and Tlingit experts and found to have most likely been created by Haida peoples; and 4) the preservation condition of the objects and human remains suggest the age of the funerary objects collected from Bob’s Bay are not of great antiquity and are probably less than 200 years old, within the period of Kaigani Haida occupation of Dall Island and surrounding areas. There is also no indication of any other group occupying Dall Island after the early eighteenth century. For these reasons, the six individuals and 48 associated funerary objects are found to be culturally affiliated with the Kaigani Haida represented by the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, the group that represents Haida descendents from Dall Island and its surrounding areas, and with the CCTHITA.

Five individuals in five catalog numbers and 56 associated funerary objects in 11 catalog numbers collected in 1940 by Julian Steward at the Pennock Island site near Ketchikan, Alaska, were assessed for cultural affiliation because they were cataloged at the NMNH as being possibly Haida. Cultural affiliation of these remains and funerary objects was based on several lines of evidence: 1) examination of the history of Pennock Island and the surrounding region suggests it was occupied not by the Haida, but by Tongass Tlingit groups for centuries; 2) the Pennock Island burials date to at least the late nineteenth century based on the presence of historic European artifacts; 3) the associated mortuary boxes were probably created by Tlingit craftsmen based on evaluations by Tlingit representatives and experts in traditional Tlingit art; and 4) a Tlingit representative identified the island as a traditional Tlingit burial location. For these reasons, five individuals and 56 funerary objects are found to be culturally affiliated with the Tongass Tlingit of the Ketchikan Indian Community of Ketchikan, Alaska, the Organized Village of Saxman, and the CCTHITA. These groups represent Tlingit descendents of the individuals buried on Pennock Island.

Therefore, the Repatriation Office recommends the human remains of a minimum of 20 individuals and 48 funerary objects obtained by Gould from southeastern Alaska, by Kirk near Klinkwan, and by Steward from Bob’s Bay, be made available for repatriation to the Hydaburg Cooperative Association and the CCTHITA. The human remains of one individual obtained by Kirk in southeast Alaska are recommended to be made available for repatriation to the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, Organized Village of Kasaan, Ketchikan Indian Community, and the CCTHITA. The human remains of a minimum of five individuals and 56 funerary objects obtained by Steward from Pennock Island are recommended to be made available for repatriation to the Ketchikan Indian Community, Organized Village of Saxman, and the CCTHITA.

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