Associated Cultures: Inupiat, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation, Native Village of Barrow
In compliance with Public Law 101-185, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, this report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains in the possession or control of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from the region around Barrow, Alaska.
Documentation of remains from this region was initiated in June 1994 in response to a request from Ms. Jana Harcharek, Liaison Officer, Inupiat History, Language and Culture Commission, North Slope Borough Planning Department, for the return of any remains from settlements associated with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. This claim, submitted in August 1993, requested the return of any culturally affiliated remains from the geographical region of the Arctic Slope Native Corporation. Examination of relevant documentation indicated that the NMNH holds human remains and objects from the native communities of Barrow, Wainwright, Anaktuvuk Pass, and Point Hope. Reports on remains and objects from Anaktuvuk Pass, Point Hope, historic period cemeteries associated with Barrow, and Wainwright are completed and have been sent to the appropriate communities. The previous Barrow report documented 127 individuals in 102 catalog numbers from sites near Barrow, Alaska.
This report documents the remains of an estimated 142 individuals in 128 catalog numbers and 132 funerary objects or object fragments in 56 catalog numbers in the collections at the NMNH from the following sites: Kugok, Birnirk, Kugusugaruk, Nunavak, Utkiavik, Sinaru and Skull Cliff. A total of 12 individuals in 12 catalog numbers and 100 funerary objects in 30 catalog numbers are from Kugok. A total of 12 individuals in 13 catalog numbers and 16 funerary objects in 11 catalog numbers are from Birnirk. Fifty-three individuals in 43 catalog numbers and 11 funerary objects in 10 catalog numbers were excavated from Kugusugaruk. From Nunavak there are nine individuals in seven catalog numbers and one funerary object. A total of 50 individuals in 47 catalog numbers and four funerary objects in four catalog numbers were collected from Utkiavik. From Sinaru there are five individuals in five catalog numbers, and from Skull Cliff is one individual.
These remains and funerary objects were collected by several individuals beginning with the members of the International Polar Expedition to Point Barrow under Lt. Patrick H. Ray from 1881 to 1883. Human remains and artifacts were purchased from local Inuit residents by members of the expedition. These included the remains of two individuals and one funerary object from the vicinity of the Birnirk site and seven individuals and four funerary objects from the Utkiavik site.
Human remains and funerary objects in the NMNH from the Kugusugaruk and Nunavak sites were excavated by William B. Van Valin in 1917-1919 for the John Wanamaker Expedition under the sponsorship of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology (then known as the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania ). The remains of 53 individuals and 11 funerary objects from the Kugusugaruk site and six individuals and one funerary object from the Nunavak site were donated to the Smithsonian.
Human remains from three sites were collected by Ales Hrdlicka of the Smithsonian Institution in 1926 during his expedition in the Bering Straits region and along the coast to Barrow, Alaska. These remains include 42 individuals from the Utkiavik site, five individuals from the Sinaru site and one individual from Skull Cliff.
Human remains and funerary objects in the NMNH from several Barrow area sites were collected by James A. Ford in 1931-32. These remains were accessioned into the Smithsonian Institution in 1933, but the funerary objects were not accessioned until 1962. The majority of the remains collected by Ford have been documented in a previous Repatriation Office report. Remains and objects collected by Ford discussed in the following report include one individual from the Utkiavik site; 12 individuals and 100 objects or object fragments from the Kugok site; and 10 individuals and 18 funerary objects from the Birnirk site. An additional three individuals from the Nunavak site, which may have been excavated by A. H. Hopson in 1929, were collected by Ford in 1932.
Review of the evidence indicates that some of the remains and objects described in this report date to the Late Thule/Historic period (A.D. 1500-1900s) of the Point Barrow area and include: 49 individuals and four funerary objects from the Utkiavik site, two individuals and one funerary object from the Birnirk site, five individuals from the Sinaru site and the remains of one individual from Skull Cliff. The preponderance of evidence indicates that these remains and funerary objects are culturally affiliated with the present-day people of the Barrow community. The Barrow community is represented by the Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government and the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation. It was recommended that the remains of these 57 individuals in 54 catalog numbers, and five funerary objects in five catalog numbers be offered for return to the Native Village of Barrow Inupiat Traditional Government and the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation. The recommended return of these remains is in addition to 127 individuals in 102 catalog numbers and 31 objects in 17 catalog entries from the Utkiavik and Nixeruk sites that have been offered for return in previous reports. Combined, the remains and objects from the Barrow area available for repatriation total 184 individuals in 156 catalog numbers and 36 funerary objects in 22 catalog entries.
The preponderance of evidence indicates that the rest of the remains and objects documented in this report belonged to the Birnirk Culture (A.D. 500-1000) of the Point Barrow area and include: 12 individuals and 100 funerary objects from the Kugok site, 10 individuals and 15 funerary objects from the Birnirk site, 53 individuals and 11 funerary objects from the Kugusugaruk site, one individual from the Utkiavik site, and nine individuals and one funerary object from the Nunavak site. Birnirk Culture peoples of the Barrow area cannot be culturally affiliated with the present-day people of the Barrow community or with any other federally recognized tribe. The preponderance of the evidence indicates that the people of the Birnirk phase of the Barrow area migrated eastward across the High Arctic to western Greenland. The biological and archaeological evidence shows that the Inuit population of the Upernavik District of western Greenland is culturally affiliated to the Birnirk population of Barrow. Because the Greenlandic Inuit are not a federally recognized tribe and are therefore ineligible to receive repatriations under the National Museum of the American Indian Act, it was recommended that these remains, representing an estimated 85 individuals in 74 catalog entries, and 127 funerary objects in 51 catalog numbers be retained at the NMNH.
The culturally affiliated human remains and funerary objects were repatriated jointly to the Native Village of Barrow and the Ukpeagvik Iñupiat Corporation on September 7, 2005.
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