Associated Cultures: Chippewa, Ojibwa
The museum received a repatriation request from the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians and the Bay Mills Indian Community for the human remains and funerary objects obtained by Army staff stationed at Fort Brady at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan from across the river in Ontario, Canada.
The remains of one individual are present in the NMNH collections from an unknown location in Ontario, Canada. The individual was recorded as having been killed at Batchawana, Ontario, but it is not clear if the individual had been buried at Batchawana or at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The remains were removed from the site by an unknown person at an unknown date. A transmittal letter dated May 21, 1875 by U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon Dr. Joseph H. T. King suggests that he was personally involved in collecting the remains and they were probably collected recently. The remains were sent to the Army Medical Museum (AMM) by Dr. King on June 10, 1875 from Fort Brady, Michigan, where he was stationed at the time. The remains were transferred to the Smithsonian in 1898.
At the time that Dr. King sent the remains to the AMM, he noted that the remains were those of a Chippewa and that the individual had been “Killed in a fit of jealousy by another Indian at Batchewanoung on the north shore of Lake Superior about ten years ago.+ ” This suggested the individual was probably killed around 1865. The specificity of the information raised the possibility that this person’s death, and his or her name, might have been recorded in local histories or church records. However, no additional information on the identity of this person was found.
In addition to this individual, the remains of five unknown individuals and four objects are present in the NMNH collections from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. The remains are from unknown cemetery sites at and near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. These remains were collected by U. S. Army Assistant Surgeon Dr. Joseph H. T. King during May, June and August of 1875. The remains were then sent by Dr. King from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to the AMM and then were transferred to the NMNH in 1898. Dr. King identified the remains of these individuals as Chippewa buried between 50 and 100 years earlier.
Although the original sites in or around Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, from which these remains were removed is unknown, Dr. King described the burials as “Chippewa Indians.” He also described historic artifacts as having been found with the remains of several individuals. Four historic metal objects were found curated with the remains of one of the individuals. These artifacts all support a historic late eighteenth to early nineteenth century date for these burials.
The specific cultural attribution ascribed by Dr. King as “Chippewa Indian” constitutes a preponderance of evidence in support of a cultural affiliation with the historic Chippewa or Anishnabeg of the Sault Ste. Marie region. No information contradicts this attribution and historical and geographical evidence reinforce the interpretation. Historically, the Anishnabeg inhabiting the Sault Ste. Marie region moved freely on both the Canadian and U.S. sides of the border for hunting, gathering, and trading, but they regularly congregated at the rapids of the St. Mary’s River to fish and interact. The fluidity of the border for these people continues to exist today as Anishnabeg from Sault bands intermarry and perpetuate a common identity as “people of the rapids.” The descendants of the Anishnabeg of the Sault Ste. Marie region today are found among the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians and the Bay Mills Indian Community as well as the First Nations at Batchawana and Grand River. The Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians and the Bay Mills Indian Community are federally recognized tribes with standing to make repatriation requests under the National Museum of the American Indian Act. Therefore, it is recommended that the remains of these six individuals and the four associated funerary objects be made available for return upon request for return jointly to the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians and the Bay Mills Indian Community.
A textile adhering to one cranium was cataloged as a funerary object after this report was completed and it was included among the objects offered for repatriation.
The remains of six individuals in six catalog numbers and five objects in three catalog numbers in the collections of the NMNH were repatriated to the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians and the Bay Mills Indian Community on August 17, 2010. Representatives of the Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways participated in the repatriation at the NMNH. The remains and objects were then driven to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, where on August 19, 2010, the remains and objects were transported by Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways Chief Dean Sayers, Sault Ste. Marie representative Cecil Pavlat and other representatives by birch bark canoe (see attached photo) across the Saint Marys River to Ontario. Anishnabeg from throughout the region had gathered on the Canadian side of the river to receive the remains. They were transported to a tribal cemetery at Goulais Bay, Ontario, where they were reburied with full ceremony.
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