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

Inventory and Assessment of the Cultural Affiliation of Human Remains and Funerary Objects Potentially Affiliated with the Klamath Tribes at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Region: Northwest Coast
Associated Cultures: Klamath, Paiute, Modoc, Snake

2008

This report provides an assessment of the cultural affiliation of human remains and funerary objects potentially affiliated with the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).  A request was received from the Klamath Tribes in 1998 for the return of culturally affiliated human remains and funerary objects.  The Klamath Tribes represent Klamath, Modoc, and Yahooskin Band of Snake peoples. 

Records for archaeological and physical anthropology collections from Klamath, Modoc and Snake traditional territories were examined in order to identify human remains and funerary objects potentially affiliated with the Klamath Tribes.  This report documents the remains of 12 individuals in 12 catalog numbers, as well as 36 unassociated funerary objects or object fragments in 21 catalog numbers.

One individual was killed near Camp Lyon, Owyhee County, Idaho, in March of 1868.  His remains were collected by Army Surgeon W. A. Cusick in 1868 and sent to the Army Medical Museum (AMM) in 1869.  The remains were later transferred to the Smithsonian in 1904.  The preponderance of evidence indicates that this individual was a member of one of the Northern Paiute Snake bands which participated in the Snake War of 1866-1868 and is, therefore, culturally affiliated with the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.  All three of these federally recognized tribes represent descendants of those bands.  We recommend that the remains be offered jointly for return to the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.

Remains of a second individual, from Tule Lake, Siskiyou County, California, were sent to the Smithsonian in 1906 by Edward Preble, an employee of the Biological Survey of the Department of Agriculture.  Tule Lake is within Modoc traditional territory and the remains likely date to the post-contact period.  However, the method of burial is not consistent with Klamath or Modoc traditional practices and the individual does not exhibit cranial modification, a trait common to Modoc and Klamath people.  Based on limited craniometric comparisons of this individual to a small number of Northern Paiute, Snake, Southern Paiute, Shoshone, and Modoc individuals, there is a possibility that this person is Northern Paiute.  One statistical measure used, Linear Discriminant Function analysis, found a secondary affinity to the Modoc individuals in the comparison.  Although the Modoc traditionally practiced cremation as their primary mortuary ritual, this was abandoned after 1868 in favor of inhumation burial (Gatschet 1890:86).  The condition of these remains suggests that they date to fairly recent times and may have been at least partially buried.  Given the probable age of the remains and the location of the remains well within historic territory, there is a preponderance of evidence that this individual is Modoc.  The remains are, therefore, culturally affiliated with the Klamath Tribes of Oregon and the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma.  It is recommended that the remains be offered for return jointly to these tribes.

The remains of a third individual were sent from Fort Klamath, Klamath County, Oregon, by Assistant Surgeon Curtis Munn in February 1888.  They were transferred to the Smithsonian in 1898.  Munn noted that he found these remains in a storage room at Fort Klamath.  Fort Klamath is directly adjacent to the Klamath Indian Reservation and Munn suggested that the remains were Klamath.  They exhibit posterior cranial modification which is consistent with that traditionally practiced by the Klamath Tribes, as well as other Northwest Coast groups (Barrett 1910:257; Hrdlička 1905:360; Stern 1998:452).  Given the probable historic nature of the remains (based on the presence of cranial modification), the donor’s attribution, the type of cranial modification, and the location of the remains, there is a preponderance of evidence that this individual is culturally affiliated with the Klamath Tribes.  We recommend that the remains be offered for repatriation to the Klamath Tribes.

The remains of a fourth individual were collected from Steens Mountain, Harney County, Oregon, by a party of U.S. Army troops during the Snake War.  The remains were sent to the AMM in 1869 by U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon Peter Moffatt and transferred to the Smithsonian in 1898.  The collector identified this individual as Snake and the remains were collected in an area where Northern Paiute Snake bands were fighting with the U.S. Army during the Snake War.  Based on limited craniometric comparisons of this individual to a small number of other Northern Paiute, Snake, Southern Paiute, Shoshone, and Modoc individuals, this individual is most likely Snake.  The preponderance of evidence indicates that this individual was a member of one of the Northern Paiute Snake bands who participated in the Snake War of 1866-1868 and is, therefore, culturally affiliated with the descendants of those bands in the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.  We recommend that the remains be offered jointly for return to the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.

A fifth individual was collected from the battlefield site of the Battle of Infernal Caverns in Modoc County, California by Azor Nickerson, an Army captain involved in the battle.  The remains were first sent to the AMM in 1869 and then transferred to the Smithsonian in 1898.  Although some Pit River and Modoc individuals participated in the Battle of Infernal Caverns, the majority of the battle participants were members of Northern Paiute Snake bands.  Nickerson noted that this individual was “Snake” and craniometric analyses support this identification.  The preponderance of evidence indicates that this individual was a member of one of the Northern Paiute Snake bands who participated in the Snake War of 1866-1868 and is, therefore, culturally affiliated with the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.  All three of these federally recognized tribes represent descendants of those bands. We recommend that the remains be offered jointly for return to the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.

Remains of four individuals identified as “Snake Indians” from an unknown location in “Idaho Territory” were sent to the AMM by U.S. Army Surgeon Clinton Wagner in November 1868.  In 1898, they were transferred to the Smithsonian.  Wagner’s identification and limited craniometric analyses support the identification of these individuals as Snake.  The preponderance of evidence indicates that these four individuals were members of one of the Northern Paiute Snake bands who participated in the Snake War of 1866-1868 and are, therefore, culturally affiliated with the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.  All three of these federally recognized tribes represent descendants of those bands. We recommend that the remains be offered jointly for return to the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.

The remains of a tenth individual were collected by David Turner from Langell Valley, Klamath County, Oregon and donated to the Smithsonian by Dr. Truman Michaelson in 1926.
Although Langell Valley is within Modoc traditional territory, no information is available about the antiquity of these remains.  Based on limited craniometric comparisons of this individual to a small number of other Northern Paiute, Snake, Southern Paiute, Shoshone, and Modoc individuals, there is a possibility that this person is Northern Paiute.  Many different subdivisions of Northern Paiute peoples occupied a wide area of the western part of the Great Basin in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Idaho (Stewart 1938:405).  The craniometric comparative evidence is not strong enough on its own to merit the identification of cultural affiliation.  No additional information is available to corroborate this identification or identify the earlier group who inhabited the Langell Valley area prehistorically.  Given the extant information, there is not a preponderance of evidence for cultural affiliation of these remains.  We recommend that the remains be retained by the NMNH at this time. 

In 1940, remains of an eleventh individual identified only as a “Flathead Indian” from Oregon were donated to the Smithsonian by the Geological Museum of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point when that Museum closed.  There is no further information available about the provenience or affiliation of this individual.  Many groups, including the Klamath, practiced cranial modification historically in Oregon.  Given the extant information, there is not a preponderance of evidence for cultural affiliation of these remains.  We recommend that the remains be retained by the NMNH at this time.

Remains of a twelfth individual and 36 objects were excavated from cremation mounds on the Klamath Reservation, Klamath County, Oregon by C. K. Smith.  They were sent to the Smithsonian in 1888.  These cremation mounds were exclusively funerary in nature, date to the historic period, and were located on the Klamath Reservation in areas known to have been used by the Klamath Tribes for funerary purposes.  The preponderance of evidence indicates that the remains of one individual and 36 unassociated funerary objects in 21 catalog numbers are culturally affiliated to the Klamath Tribes of Oregon.  We recommend that the remains and funerary objects be offered for return to the Klamath Tribes of Oregon.

In sum, the remains of seven individuals identified as “Snake” are offered for repatriation jointly to the Klamath Tribes of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Burns Paiute Tribe of the Burns Paiute Indian Colony of Oregon.  The remains of two individuals and 36 unassociated funerary objects in 21 catalog numbers are offered for return to the Klamath Tribes of Oregon.  The remains of one individual are offered for return jointly to the Klamath Tribes of Oregon and the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma.  The remains of two individuals from Oregon are found to be culturally unaffiliated at this time. 

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