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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)
Executive Summary
Assessment of Apache Objects Requested for Repatriation as Funerary Objects, Objects of Cultural Patrimony, and Sacred Objects in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Region: Southwest
Cultural Affiliation:
Apache, White Mountain Apache Tribe, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Tonto Apache Tribe

2008

This report is an evaluation of nine cultural objects in the ethnological collections of the Department of Anthropology of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) to determine if they are eligible for repatriation under the National Museum of the American Indian Act (20 U.S.C. 80q et seq.).  The report provides an analysis of available documentation of the items in NMNH records, in conjunction with additional historical and cultural information from archival and published sources, and information provided by the requesting Apache tribes.  This documentation focuses on information relevant to the assessment of the cultural affiliations of the objects and their status as unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony under the law.  For objects confirmed by the assessment process as unassociated funerary objects, objects of cultural patrimony, or sacred objects, the report also considers the history of acquisition of each item as it bears on right of possession.

A total of nine cultural objects listed in museum records as “Apache” were requested for repatriation in a single claim.  The initial request was received in January of 2004 from the Western Apache NAGPRA Working Group on behalf of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the Apache of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, and the Tonto Apache Tribe. 

This report documents nine cultural objects in nine catalog numbers from Arizona.  These items were collected by five individuals and sent to the museum between 1872 and 1931.  In 1872, William Frederick Milton Arny sent a “war cap” (E011318) to the NMNH which he had obtained at an unknown date “from the White Mountain Apache Indians.”  In 1875, Dr. Warren E. Day sent the Army Medical Museum (AMM) a “medicine stick” (E016759) which had been presented to him by the “Chief Medical Man” at an unknown date.  The stick was received at the Army Medical Museum on April 1, 1875, and transferred to the Smithsonian on April 2, 1875.  Captain John G. Bourke received a “wooden charm” (E177577) from a Chiricahua Apache prisoner at an unknown location prior to 1892 and it was sent to the museum at an unknown date prior to being accessioned in 1897.  In 1905, Dr. Aleš Hrdlička collected three cradles (E233956, E233957, and E233958) from grave sites of infants at San Carlos, Arizona.  In 1931, two medicine hats (E358280 and E358632) and a shirt (E361030) possibly from Arizona or New Mexico, were sent to the NMNH by the widow of Victor Justice Evans as part of a large collection made by Evans over many years.  The hats and shirt were originally collected at an unknown date by an unknown person.

The preponderance of evidence indicates that the three cultural items identified as cradles (E233956, E233957, and E233958) are culturally affiliated with the present-day San Carlos Apache Tribe.  The evidence indicates that the cradles had been removed from the grave sites of infants and they are considered to be unassociated funerary objects.  The evidence also suggests that the museum lacks the right of possession to these objects because they were removed from the grave sites by Aleš Hrdlička and thus were not alienated by an individual that had the authority to do so under Apache common law at the time.  It is recommended that the cultural items identified as cradles (E233956, E233957, and E233958) be offered for return to the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

The preponderance of the evidence indicates that the cultural item identified as a “wooden charm” (E177577), is not culturally affiliated with any of the requesting Western Apache tribes.  Captain John G. Bourke obtained the item from a Chiricahua Apache person at an unknown date prior to 1892.  Therefore, the item is considered to have been culturally affiliated to the Chiricahua Apache at the time it was alienated.  The descendants of the Chiricahua Apache are represented today by the Mescalero Apache and the Apache Tribe of the Fort Sill Reservation and are not members of the Western Apache NAGPRA Working Group.  Because the object is not culturally affiliated with the requesting tribe, and only the culturally affiliated tribe can provide evidence of the significance and use of a particular object as it relates to that tribe, it is recommended that this object be retained at the NMNH and the Mescalero Apache Tribe and the Apache Tribe of the Fort Sill Reservation be provided with a copy of this report.

The preponderance of the evidence supports a cultural affiliation between the cultural item identified as a “war cap” (E011318) and the White Mountain Apache Tribe.  However, although the item is requested by the White Mountain Apache Tribe as an object of cultural patrimony and a sacred object, the evidence is insufficient to support recognition of this item as having been considered an object of cultural patrimony or a sacred object, as defined by the law, at the time that it was alienated.  The preponderance of the evidence indicates caps of this type were personal property eligible to be alienated by their individual owners.  They were not considered medicine objects “devoted to a traditional religious ceremony or ritual and which have religious significance or function in the continued observance or renewal of such ceremony” (43 C.F.R. Part 10, Section 10.2(d)(3)).  Furthermore, there is no evidence that this object had been removed from a context in which it had been ritually and permanently “put away” in accordance with Western Apache cultural prescriptions for the disposition of important ceremonial objects.  It is recommended that this “war cap” be retained at the NMNH.

The preponderance of the evidence supports a cultural affiliation between the cultural item identified as a “medicine stick” (E016759) and the Tonto Apache Tribe.  However, although the item is requested by the Tonto Apache Tribe as an object of cultural patrimony and a sacred object, the evidence is insufficient to support recognition of this item as having been considered an object of cultural patrimony or a sacred object, as defined by the law, at the time that it was alienated.  The preponderance of the evidence indicates that ritual items of this type were personal property eligible to be alienated by their individual owners.  They were not considered medicine objects “devoted to a traditional religious ceremony or ritual and which have religious significance or function in the continued observance or renewal of such ceremony” (43 C.F.R. Part 10, Section 10.2(d)(3)).  Furthermore, there is no evidence that this object had been removed from a context in which it had been ritually and permanently “put away” in accordance with Western Apache cultural prescriptions for the disposition of some kinds of important ceremonial objects.  It is recommended that this “medicine stick” be retained at the NMNH.

 The preponderance of the evidence supports a cultural affiliation between the cultural items identified as two “medicine hats” (E358280 and E358632) and either the White Mountain Apache Tribe or the San Carlos Apache Tribe.  The crescent and cross symbols affixed to the caps are evidence that they were caps of a kind worn by all men participating in the messianic religious movement known as Daagodigha (Da-xo-di-ya) in orderto identify them as believers in the teachings of the movement’s leader, DaslahdnDaagodigha was practiced most commonly by the White Mountain Apache Tribe and the San Carlos Apache Tribe during the period between 1903 and 1907.  However, although these items have been requested by the Western Apache NAGPRA Working Group on behalf of the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache tribes as objects of cultural patrimony and sacred objects, the evidence is insufficient to support recognition of these items as having been considered objects of cultural patrimony or as sacred objects, as defined by the law, at the time that they were alienated.  The men participating in the Daagodigha movement employed such caps as badges of their faith, but did not employ them as medicine caps used for healing rituals in what was commonly referred to as the “old medicine way.”  Furthermore, there is no evidence that these objects had been removed from contexts in which they had been ritually and permanently “put away” in accordance with Western Apache cultural prescriptions for the disposition of important ceremonial objects.  It is recommended that these two “medicine caps” be retained at the NMNH.

There has not been a showing by a preponderance of the evidence of any specific cultural affiliation between the cultural item identified as a “shirt” (E361030) documented in this report and the requesting tribes.  The preponderance of the evidence indicates only that this shirt is listed as “Apache,” but no further information has been identified indicating to which specific Apache tribe the shirt was culturally affiliated to at the time it was alienated.  The NMNH has no record of where, or from what, Apache group this shirt was acquired.  The Western Apache NAGPRA Working Group provided no additional evidence of cultural affiliation.  Because only the culturally affiliated tribe can provide evidence of the significance and use of a particular object as it relates to that tribe, it is recommended that this object be retained at the NMNH.

This documentation and assessment is based on the best information available to the Repatriation Office at the time.  If additional information from the requesting tribes or other sources is identified and determined to have bearing on these findings and recommendations, the Smithsonian Institution will take this new information into consideration.

Repatriation Update

The human remains of one individual from the 1871 massacre of Arivaipa Apache at Camp Grant, Arizona, and the human remains of one individual from near Camp Grant, Arizona, were repatriated to the San Carlos Apache Tribe in September 25, 2012.

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