Associated Cultures: Kauweramiut, Sinramiut, Bering Straits Regional Corporation
In compliance with the repatriation provisions of Public Law 101-185 (20 U.S.C. Section 80q), the National Museum of the American Indian Act, this report provides an inventory and assessment of the cultural affiliation of the human remains and funerary objects in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from within the territorial boundaries of Native communities associated with the Bering Straits Native Corporation, Alaska. This report pertains specifically to remains from three locations in the Seward Peninsula: the village of Kauwerak, the site of Akavingayak and the Port Clarence area, Alaska.
The repatriation request was submitted by Mr. Matt Ganley, Staff Archaeologist, Bering Straits Foundation, and specified the return of any culturally affiliated remains from the geographical region of this corporation. In August 1994, Ms. Vera Metcalf, Repatriation Coordinator, Bering Straits Foundation, assumed repatriation responsibilities for the Corporation. The Bering Straits Foundation secured resolutions from village corporations and traditional tribal councils in the regional corporation authorizing the Foundation to act on their behalf in repatriation matters.
This report documents the remains of an estimated 62 individuals represented by 60 catalog numbers in the collection of the NMNH. Of these, an estimated 27 individuals in 27 catalog numbers are from Kauwerak, an estimated 26 individuals in 26 catalog numbers are from Akavingayak and an estimated nine individuals in seven catalog numbers are from Port Clarence.
All skeletal remains from Kauwerak and Akavingayak, and eight individuals from Port Clarence were collected by Henry Collins in 1929. Thirteen funerary objects were collected by Collins and were associated with nine burials from Kauwerak and two burials from Akavingayak. In addition, Collins collected 25 other objects that he identified as having been included with burials.
Tarleton H. Bean collected the remains of a single individual from Port Clarence. It is presumed that this occurred during Bean's 1880 trip to Alaska. No funerary objects have been identified for this individual. This set of remains was included in a transfer of material from the United States National Museum (USNM), the former name of the NMNH, to the Army Medical Museum (AMM). The remains were originally given AMM catalog number 2707. The remains were received by the AMM on July 7, 1886. They were transferred back to the USNM and accessioned on May 7, 1898.
The remains covered in this report are believed to date to the 19 th or early 20 th century. The 18 th and 19 th century records for this area indicate that the Kauweramiut controlled access to a large portion of the interior of the Seward Peninsula. This area centered around the Imuruk Basin and their main village of Kauwerak, close to the present site of Mary's Igloo. For various reasons, including the collapse of the caribou herding industry, epidemics and the failure of mines, many Kauweramiut moved to Teller and Nome in the early part of the 20 th century. The Sinramiut territory concentrated around Grantley Harbor and Port Clarence. Their main village, Singaq, was located directly across Grantley Harbor from the modern location of the Native Village of Teller. The site of Akavingayak is located in Sinramiut territory, south of Teller. Akavingayak was also abandoned and the Sinramiut moved to Teller and Brevig Mission.
Although other cultural groups have inhabited the Seward Peninsula, during the time period that the individuals in the collection of NMNH were buried, the Kauweramiut were culturally affiliated with the site of Kauwerak. Similarly, the Sinramiut were culturally affiliated with the site of Akavingayak and the general Port Clarence area during the probable time of burial of the remains.
Despite shifts in population and social structure, continuity exists between the early 19 th century societies and present-day inhabitants of Native villages in the region. A relationship of shared group identity can reasonably be traced between these remains and the Kauweramiut and Sinramiut peoples. The Kauweramiut peoples are represented by the present-day Native Village of Teller and the Native Village of Mary's Igloo. The Sinramiut people are represented by the present-day Native Village of Teller and the Native Village of Brevig Mission. It was, therefore, recommended that the remains from the site of Kauwerak be offered jointly to the Native Village of Teller and the Native Village of Mary's Igloo. It was recommended that the remains from Akavingayak be offered jointly to the Native Village of Teller and the Native Village of Brevig Mission. It was recommended that the remains from Port Clarence be offered jointly to the Native Village of Teller and the Native Village of Brevig Mission. The Bering Straits Foundation were notified of these recommendations. The communities received the report in 2002, but repatriation has not yet occurred.
Back to top