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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)
Executive Summary
Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains Identified as Nez Perce in the National Museum of Natural History
Region: Plateau
Associated Cultures: Bannock, Colville, Crow, Nez Perce, Umatilla

1996
In accordance with 20 U.S.C. Section 80q, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, this report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains identified in Museum records as Nez Perce in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). Documentation of the remains was initiated in 1994 in response to a request from the Nez Perce Tribe for the return of all culturally affiliated human remains and associated funerary objects. Originally, the remains discussed here were to have been documented in a more comprehensive report considering additional remains from southern Idaho and western Montana. In accordance with the wishes of the Nez Perce Tribe, the remains considered here have been documented separately in order to expedite their return.

Three sets of skeletal remains are identified in Museum records as Nez Perce. One of these, was taken from the Bear Paw Battlefield, Blaine County, Montana, and donated to the AMM by U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon David S. Snively in 1879. A second individual, was taken from the Big Hole Battlefield, Beaverhead County, Montana, and was also donated to the AMM by Snively, in 1882. Finally, a third set of skeletal remains, was removed from Fort Lapwai, Idaho, and donated to the Museum in 1869 by U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon Edward Storror. All three sets of remains were transferred from the AMM to the Physical Anthropology Division, NMNH, around the turn of the century.

In addition to the skeletal remains, a scalp cataloged in the NMNH's Ethnology Division is described as having been taken from a Nez Perce individual by a Crow at Canyon Creek, Yellowstone County, Montana in 1877. The scalp was subsequently acquired by Brevet Lt. Col. James Montgomery Bell, and deposited in the Museum's collections as a loan in 1894. Because the scalp was loaned to the Museum, the NMNH did not have clear possession of the scalp in accordance with the repatriation provisions of the NMAI Act.

Based on the sum of the available evidence, which includes information from the Museum's catalog and accession files, archival records housed in the National Archives and the National Anthropological Archives, published historical accounts, oral histories, and physical anthropological evidence, the three individuals represented by skeletal remains are found to be of Nez Perce cultural affiliation. It was recommended that these remains be offered for repatriation to the Nez Perce Tribe.

Additional tribes potentially affected by the findings of this report are the Nez Perce descendants at the Colville Reservation and the Umatilla Reservation, the Crow Tribe, and the Bannock tribes. (1)

Repatriation Update
The Crow Tribe has been consulted regarding the scalp, and have declined to claim it as a either a sacred object or object of cultural patrimony. The Museum has since identified the scalp as that of a Nez Perce individual named Teeweeyonah (Over the Point), and his remains were repatriated to his descendants, the Red Heart family of the Nez Perce Tribe on September 11, 1998 (see Addendum to the 'Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains Identified as Nez Perce in the National Museum of Natural History' ).

The human remains of one individual killed in the Bear Paw Battle of the Nez Perce War were repatriated to the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation on October 7, 2005.

 On December 19, 2005, the human remains of one individual from the Big Hole Battle of the Nez Perce War were repatriated to lineal descendants of Pahkatos Owyeen, and on December 21, 2005, the human remains of one individual from Fort Lapwai were repatriated to the Nez Perce Tribe.

1. The Crow Tribe and the Bannock Tribes were present at many of the battles of the Nez Perce War, and thus have an interest in the findings of this report.

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Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History