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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects from Anaktuvuk Pass Alaska, in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Alaska
Associated Cultures: Athapaskan, Di'haii, Gw'ichin, Inupiat, Nunamiut, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation

In compliance with the repatriation provisions of Public Law 101-185 (20 U.S.C. Section 80q), the National Museum of the American Indian Act, this report provides an inventory and assessment of cultural affiliation of the human remains in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from the Anaktuvuk Pass area within the geographical boundaries of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the North Slope Borough. Documentation of the remains from this region was initiated in June 1994 in response to a request from Ms. Jana Harcharek, Liaison Officer, Inupiat History, Language and Culture Division, North Slope Borough Planning Department, for the return of any culturally affiliated remains from the North Slope Borough. This claim encompassed the territories of the communities of Point Barrow, Wainwright, Anaktuvuk Pass, and Point Hope.

This report addresses the North Slope claim with a review of the human remains and funerary objects from at or near Anaktuvuk Pass. Separate reports cover the human remains and funerary objects from Wainwright, Point Hope, and Barrow. These reports are available, upon request, from the Repatriation Office. All reports in response to the repatriation claim are sent to the Inupiat History, Language and Culture Division, North Slope Borough Planning Department and other Native organizations in the North Slope.

The skeletal remains of two individuals, represented by two catalog numbers, in the Physical Anthropology division of the NMNH were identified as having come from Anaktuvuk Pass. Five catalog numbers in the Archaeology collection have been identified as funerary objects.

A consideration of the history of the region shows that the burials and associated artifacts date to a period (ca. A.D. 1700-1900) in which both the Nunamiut Inupiat and the Di'haii Athapaskans occupied the Anaktuvuk Pass region. The skeletal remains and associated artifacts are certainly affiliated with one of these two groups. The ability to distinguish the skeletons of the Nunamiut and Di'haii from one another is not possible based on presently available information. The use of cranial morphology to determine probable affiliation of these remains could be pursued should this prove desirable. The archaeological data are similarly insufficient to determine cultural affiliation at this time.

The Repatriation Office recommended that these remains and associated funerary objects be repatriated to the Nunamiut or Di'haii, or both groups, following consultation. Further discussion of the matter with the appropriate Di'haii and Nunamiut communities may reveal further information regarding the affiliation of these individuals, or lead to a consensus on the appropriate disposition of these remains. There is, however, sufficient evidence that one set of unassociated funerary objects is affiliated with the Di'haii Athapaskans, and it was recommended that these be offered for repatriation to the appropriate Di'haii groups. The affected communities were notified of these findings in 1995, but consultation has not resolved the affiliation and repatriation has not taken place.

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