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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains from Little Diomede Island, Alaska, in the collections of  the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Region: Alaska
Associated Cultures: Native Village of Diomede

Documentation of the remains potentially affiliated with the Native Village of Diomede was initiated in response to a request from Mr. Matt Ganley, Staff Archaeologist of the Bering Straits Foundation (BSF) and Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) in Nome, Alaska, for the repatriation of culturally affiliated human remains from the Native Village of Diomede and several other Native Alaskan communities of the Bering Strait region. Examination of the relevant museum records indicated that the NMNH houses the remains of an estimated 12 individuals represented by 12 catalog numbers from graves above the village. No funerary objects in the collections of the NMNH have been identified as being associated with or coming from the Native Village of Diomede.
The evidence reviewed in this report suggests that the remains described here date to the nineteenth or early twentieth century. The human remains of 12 individuals were acquired at historic gravesites by Aleš Hrdlička of the U.S. National Museum (later NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, on July 26, 1926 above the village of Inalik, Little Diomede Island, Alaska. 
Several lines of evidence support the cultural affiliation of these remains to the Native Village of Diomede. These include the historic record of local Ingaliqmiut settlement on Little Diomede Island, Alaska; the historic record of Ingaliqmiut mortuary customs; the proximity of historic burial sites to the village which is the only habitation site located on the island; and the taphonomic characteristics of the remains themselves. Taken together, this information constitutes a preponderance of evidence in support of the conclusion that the remains are culturally affiliated with the Native Village of Diomede. Therefore, it is recommended that the remains of 12 indigenous Alaskan individuals be made available for repatriation to the Native Village of Diomede.

Repatriation Update
The human remains were repatriated to the Native Village of Diomede in April of 2011. 

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Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History