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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)
Executive Summary
Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains from Northwestern Oregon in the National Museum of Natural History
Region: Northwest Coast
Associated Cultures: Cathlamet, Chinook, Clackamas, Clatsop, Grande Ronde, Kalapuya, Siletz, Tillamook

1996
In compliance with the National Museum of the American Indian Act (20 U.S.C. Section 80q), this report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from northwestern Oregon. Documentation for this case was initiated in response to a request from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon for the return of any human remains of Native American origin from their aboriginal territories. To insure that all remains potentially affiliated with the Grand Ronde Confederated Tribes were identified, all of the human remains in the NMNH from the northwestern quarter of Oregon were documented as part of this request. Besides the Grand Ronde, the other Native American group potentially affected by the findings of this report are the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians.

A total of 64 sets of human skeletal remains are documented in this report. Eight sets of remains housed in the Physical Anthropology Division of the Department of Anthropology were identified as having come from northwestern Oregon. Three other sets of skeletal remains catalogued in the Archaeology Division were also found to have come from this region. In addition, 53 sets of remains found in an archaeological collection awaiting cataloguing at the Museum were determined to be from this area and are also treated here. Only 11 of the 64 sets of remains documented here have standard NMNH catalogue numbers; the rest are identified by field numbers or temporary numbers assigned by the Repatriation Office.

Seven sets of remains come from fairly secure historic contexts. One individual was recovered in 1893 near the mouth of the Clackamas river. Associated funerary objects consisting of glass and shell beads, copper bracelets, and metal buttons date this burial to the early historic period. Another burial, possibly from the same area, was reportedly found in association with copper artifacts, suggesting that it, too, likely dates to the historic period. Two other sets of remains were collected in 1877 by a U.S. Army surgeon from a cemetery associated with a historic Clatsop village located east of modern day Astoria. Three sets of remains from the Mowick and Aldrich Point sites near Astoria also date to the historic period based on the archaeological evidence. The burials from these two sites also have associated funerary objects.

The other four sets of catalogued human remains from northwestern Oregon are from poorly documented, unknown, or ancient contexts. One set of remains may have come from the same burial area near the mouth of the Clackamas river as the first two mentioned above, though available documentation is minimal. Another was sent to the Museum by a Washington, D.C. area resident in 1905 and has no associated documentation or reliable provenience information. Two other sets of remains were recovered from archaeological contexts in northwestern Oregon: one from a coastal site near the mouth of the Yaquina river, and the other from a mound site in the central Willamette valley. There are no funerary objects in the NMNH associated with these remains.

The majority of the uncatalogued remains (n=51) are from the Par-tee site (35CT20) in Seaside, Oregon. A series of radiocarbon assays from the Par-tee site date the principal period of occupation to between A.D. 245 and A.D. 915 (Phebus and Drucker 1979:27). The two other sets of remains in the uncatalogued collection come from two nearby sites. One appears to date to the protohistoric period (Wheatly Burial), while the other (`Burial 35') is presumed to date to approximately the same time period as the Par-tee site remains for lack of any evidence to the contrary. Both archaeological evidence and early historic information suggest that the modern town of Seaside lies at an ancient boundary between riverine cultures to the north and maritime cultures to the south. Given the available evidence, which includes the fact that the region is known to have been occupied by different culture groups prehistorically, that the mortuary treatment observed at the site does not match known practices among ethnohistorically recorded occupants, that there is no evidence of the characteristic head flattening known to have been practiced by historic Native peoples in this area, and that the site was abandoned several centuries prior to contact, it is not possible to specify the cultural affiliation of the remains from the Par-tee site. Only two of the excavated burials had funerary objects reportedly in association (Burials E and H) and only one item, a bone bipoint was accessioned into the NMNH.

Based on the sum of the available evidence, which includes museum and archival records, information on aboriginal village locations, mortuary practices, local archaeology, skeletal biology, and the context of the burials, it was recommended that six of the 64 sets of remains documented in this report be offered to Native groups, and that consultation be initiated on four others. Two sets of remains recovered from the vicinity of Fort Stevens, and the single set of remains and associated funerary objects recovered from the Mowick site were offered for return to descendants of the Clatsop division of the lower Chinook. It is similarly recommended that the two sets of remains and associated funerary objects from the Aldrich Point site be offered for return to descendants of the Cathlamet division of the lower Chinook.

Though the information available for the four sets of remains recovered from the Willamette valley is minimal, the preponderance of the evidence in one of the four cases suggests that the individual is culturally affiliated with the one of the Kalapuya divisions. It was therefore recommended these remains and associated funerary objects be offered for return to the descendants of the Kalapuya. In the case of the other three sets of remains, it was impossible to determine whether the individuals are more likely to be culturally affiliated with the Kalapuya or the Clackamas division of lower Chinook. Accordingly, it was recommended that the potential descendant groups be notified of the presence of these remains in the Museum and consulted about their wishes regarding the disposition of these remains.

In the case of the single set of remains identified as the 'Wheatly Burial' from Seaside (no SI cat. no.), it is not possible to determine whether the individual is more likely affiliated with the Clatsop band of the lower Chinook or the Tillamook; for this reason, it was recommended that both groups be consulted about their wishes regarding the disposition of these remains.

Two individuals have no secure provenience information nor cultural identities. It was therefore recommended that these remains be retained by the Museum unless or until additional information bearing on the question of cultural affiliation is forthcoming.

The human remains from the Par-tee site (Acc. No. 361357) cannot clearly be identified as culturally affiliated with any modern populations on the basis of the available evidence. It was therefore recommended that these remains also be retained by the Museum until or unless additional information is forthcoming.

Repatriation Update
Four sets of remains identified as Kalapuya or Clackamas, were repatriated to the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon on September 15, 1999.

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