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

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Funerary Objects from the Hooper Bay Region of Alaska in the Collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Region: Alaska
Associated Cultures: Native Village of Hooper Bay, Native Village of Chevak, Native Village of Paimiut

2011
Documentation of human remains and funerary objects potentially affiliated with the Native Village of Hooper Bay was initiated in response to an official request from Mr. Patrick Lake, President of the Native Village of Hooper Bay, for the identification and return of any human remains and funerary objects from indigenous settlements associated with the Native Village of Hooper Bay. Mr. James Ayuluk, Tribal Chief of the Chevak Traditional Council, forwarded an official request for the identification and return of human remains and funerary objects from indigenous Kashunamiut settlements associated with the Native Village of Chevak, including the ancestral village of Kashunak. Examination of the relevant museum records indicated that the NMNH houses the remains of an estimated 31 individuals represented by 30 catalog numbers from the village of Hooper Bay, one individual in one catalog number from Cape Romanzof, and three human remains in three catalog numbers from the village of Kashunak. Two associated funerary objects in one catalog number and 12 unassociated funerary objects represented by 10 catalog numbers in the collections of the NMNH have been identified as coming from the village of Hooper Bay.

The evidence reviewed suggests that the remains and funerary objects from Hooper Bay and the remains of one individual from Cape Romanzof date to the period of the seventeenth through early twentieth century. The Cape Romanzof remains were collected by Henry B. Collins of the U.S. National Museum (later NMNH) in 1927 at a burial site approximately 20 miles north of Hooper Bay. An additional 16 individuals were collected by Collins in 1927 at burial sites in the village cemetery of Hooper Bay. Collins also recovered 12 unassociated funerary objects from graves at Hooper Bay. Dr. Aleš Hrdlička of the U.S. National Museum acquired three human remains from Hooper Bay in 1929. Two human remains from Hooper Bay also were incorporated into the collections of the U.S. National Museum through a 1931 gift from archaeologist Otto W. Geist of the Alaska Agricultural College. Geist collected the human remains in 1928 during the Bunnell-Geist Bering Sea Expedition. Father John P. Fox transferred 10 additional human remains from Hooper Bay to Aleš Hrdlička and the U.S. National Museum in 1937 and 1938. The remains of three individuals collected at the village of Kashunak (circa A.D. 1640 – A.D. 1950) 20 miles south of Hooper Bay were incorporated into the collections of the U.S. National Museum through a 1929 gift from Father Philip I. Delon.

Several lines of evidence support the cultural affiliation of the Hooper Bay remains and funerary objects to the Native Village of Hooper Bay. These include the historic record of local Yupik settlement and land use, the historic record of Yupik mortuary customs, the proximity of recorded burial sites to the village of Hooper Bay, and the taphonomic characteristics of the remains themselves. Taken together, this information constitutes a preponderance of evidence in support of the conclusion that the human remains and funerary objects dating to the seventeenth through early twentieth century are culturally affiliated with the Native Village of Hooper Bay. Therefore, it is recommended that the remains of 31 Native Alaskan individuals in 30 catalog numbers and 14 funerary objects in 11 catalog numbers be made available for repatriation to the Native Village of Hooper Bay.

The preponderance of evidence supports that the human remains of one individual in one catalog number collected at Cape Romanzof, Alaska, by Henry B. Collins in 1927 are culturally affiliated with the Native Village of Paimiut. Furthermore, three human remains in three catalog numbers acquired from the village of Kashunak have been found to be culturally affiliated with the Native Village of Chevak. These determinations of cultural affiliation are based on the historic record of local Yupik settlement and land use in these areas, the proximity of recorded burial sites to the historic villages of Paimiut and Kashunak, and documents and recorded statements provided by the Native Village of Hooper Bay, the Native Village of Chevak, and the Native Village of Paimiut. Therefore, it is recommended that the human remains of one individual be made available for repatriation to the Native Village of Paimiut, and three human remains be made available for repatriation to the Native Village of Chevak.

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