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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 Yokuts Tribes from Kern and Tulare Counties, California, in the Collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Insitutition

Region: California
Associated Cultures: Yokuts, Tule River Indian Tribe, Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians

2011

This report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains and funerary objects from Kern and Tulare Counties in the possession or control of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) potentially affiliated with Yokuts tribes.

The report documents the human remains of 92 individuals in 89 catalog numbers and 8,108 funerary objects in 147 catalog numbers in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History. An additional six objects in three catalog numbers are non-statutory objects, arrowheads embedded in human vertebrae that do not fit the definition of funerary objects under the NMAI Act, but are included here as inseparable from the remains.

The majority of the remains and objects considered in this report resulted from excavations conducted in 1933 and 1934 for the Civil Works Administration (CWA) by the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of American Ethnology along the southwestern shore of Buena Vista Lake, in Kern County, California. Human remains of 21 individuals were collected from what was originally referred to as Tulamniu Site 1 (KER-39/KER-116). An additional 44 individuals were collected from Site 2 (KER-60/KER-116). Another seven individuals were removed from Site 3 (KER-40). Finally, remains of three individuals were excavated from Site 4 (KER-41). The Civil Works Administration also excavated remains of seven individuals and 738 funerary objects from Lokern Mound, in the slough region northwest of Buena Vista Lake.  One individual is identified in museum records only as originating at “Tulamniu, Buena Vista Lake,” with no specific site listed.  Nine individuals and eleven funerary objects were collected in 1950 from the Slick Rock Village Site (4TUL10) in Tulare County by the River Basin Survey of the Smithsonian’s Bureau of American Ethnology. 

The majority of the remains and objects from the Buena Vista Lake and Lokern Mound sites excavated by the Smithsonian date to the Late Prehistoric period between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1200. The remains of two additional individuals from Site 2 (KER-60/KER-116) were found in a deeper stratum of the site that probably dates to 4,000 to 2,000 B.P. 

The use of the Direct Historical Approach establishes connections between the Late Prehistoric components at Buena Vista Lake and the historic period Tulamni Yokuts tribe. The mortuary practices and numerous material culture attributes of the Late Prehistoric components identified by the Smithsonian’s excavations are consistent with early historic components found nearby on the northwestern shore of Buena Vista Lake. In the terms of the repatriation legislation, the earlier identifiable group in this case can be defined as the Late Prehistoric Yokuts inhabitants of the Buena Vista Lake area. The sites on the northwestern shore of Buena Vista Lake are linked with the historically known Tulamni Yokuts village recorded by Spanish explorers as Tulamniu or Buena Vista Village in the 1770s. This shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the Tulamni Yokuts tribe were the descendants of the inhabitants of the Late Prehistoric Buena Vista Lake sites. The present day descendants of the Tulamni Yokuts are represented by the federally recognized Tule River Indian Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians. 

The remains of the two individuals found in the deep stratum of Site 2 (KER-60/KER-116) were buried using mortuary practices that differed from later periods and practices of historic Yokuts. Material culture traits of this stratum show no continuity with the material culture of the later components. The stratigraphy of the site exhibits evidence of a hiatus in occupation between the early components and the late components. The archaeological evidence from this period (4,000 to 2,000 B.P.) in the southern San Joaquin River Valley does not show cultural continuity or affiliation with later Yokuts cultural occupations. Linguistic evidence suggests Yokuts speakers had not entered the southern San Joaquin River Valley before around 1,500 B.P. and were probably still in the Great Basin area of western Nevada during the time of the early period occupation of Site 2. Therefore, the preponderance of the evidence does not support a cultural affiliation of the remains of these two individuals with present day Yokuts tribes.

The remains of the seven individuals and 738 funerary objects from the Lokern Mound site belonged to a Late Prehistoric Yokuts component which can be considered an earlier identifiable group under the repatriation legislation. Ethnohistoric and geographic evidence indicates the site was probably ancestral to the historic Tuhoumne Yokuts tribe, a group ancestral to the Tule River Indian and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians.

The remains of the nine individuals from the Slick Rock Village Site (4TUL10) in Tulare County were buried using mortuary practices, including cremation, that were consistent with the practices of historic Yokuts. The site is identified as a historically documented Wukchumni Yokuts village. Artifacts found at the site date the occupation to the early 1800s. House forms and artifact types found at the site were also consistent with historic Wukchumni Yokuts forms. In the terms of the repatriation legislation, the earlier identifiable group in this case can be defined as historic Wukchumni Yokuts. The descendants of the Wukchumni of the early 1800s are represented today by the federally recognized Tule River Indian Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians.

To summarize the cultural affiliation assessments and recommendations for the remains and objects reviewed in this report, a total of 90 individuals in 89 catalog numbers, 8,108 funerary objects in 147 catalog numbers, and six non-statutory objects in three catalog numbers in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History are considered to be culturally affiliated to Yokuts tribes. The remains of two individuals in two additional catalog numbers cannot be affiliated to Yokuts or other tribes by a preponderance of the evidence. Of the affiliated remains and objects, 74 individuals, 7,359 funerary objects, and six non-statutory items were identified by a preponderance of the evidence as Late Prehistoric Yokuts ancestral to the historic Tulamni Yokuts tribe and are culturally affiliated with the Tule River Indian Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians. The remains of seven individuals and 738 funerary objects were identified by a preponderance of the evidence as Late Prehistoric Yokuts ancestral to the historic Tuhoumne Yokuts tribe and are culturally affiliated with the Tule River Indian Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians. The remains of nine individuals and eleven funerary objects are identified by a preponderance of the evidence as historic Wukchumni Yokuts and are also culturally affiliated with the Tule River Indian Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians. The Repatriation Office recommends repatriation of the remains of 90 individuals and 8,114 cultural items to the Tule River Indian Tribe and the Santa Rosa Rancheria of Tachi Yokuts Indians. The remains of two individuals could not be culturally affiliated by a preponderance of the evidence and the Repatriation Office recommends that they be retained by the NMNH until cultural affiliation can be established based on a preponderance of the evidence.

 

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