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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 Northeast Norton Sound, Bering Straits Native Corporation, Alaska in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Alaska
Associated Cultures: Inupiat, Yu'pik, Bering Straits Regional Corporation,Chinik Eskimo Community (Golovin), Native Village of White Mountain

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 a partial inventory and assessment of the cultural affiliation of the human remains and funerary objects in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from within the territorial boundaries of the Bering Strait Native Corporation. This is the first of a series of reports and pertains specifically to remains from locations in the northeast corner of Norton Sound.

Documentation of the remains was undertaken in June 1994 in response to a request in 1993 from Mr. Matt Ganley, Staff Archaeologist, Bering Straits Native Corporation, for the return of any culturally affiliated remains from the geographical region of this corporation. In August 1994 Ms. Vera Metcalf, Repatriation Coordinator, Bering Straits Foundation, took over repatriation responsibilities for the Corporation. The Bering Straits Foundation secured resolutions from village corporations and traditional tribal councils in the regional corporation authorizing the Foundation to act on their behalf in repatriation matters. This first report addresses the concerns of the Golovin, White Mountain, Elim, and Koyuk Village Corporations and traditional tribal councils.

This report is the first part of the response of the Repatriation Office to the repatriation claim put forward by Mr. Matt Ganley on behalf of interested Native communities within the geographical region of the Bering Straits Native Corporation. Other reports in response to this repatriation claim currently in preparation encompass remains and materials from St. Lawrence Island and from the western Seward Peninsula.

Remains of a minimum of 167 individuals, represented by 157 catalog numbers, in the Physical Anthropology division of the NMNH were identified as having come from northeast Norton Sound. In addition, a total of 182 catalog entries were identified as funerary objects in the Archaeology Division of the NMNH were identified as coming from the same cemeteries. The contexts from which these remains and objects were removed, and available information about associated settlements suggests that all the remains date to post-European contact populations. A consideration of the history of the region indicates that cultural affiliation exists between the skeletal populations and the requestors. It was, therefore, recommended that these human remains and associated funerary objects be offered for repatriation to the appropriate communities.

A total number of 120 sets of remains, represented by 110 catalog numbers, come from cemeteries associated with communities on the southern tip of the Rocky Point Peninsula which forms the western margins of Golovnin Bay. The tip of this peninsula is known as Rocky Point. In addition, a total of 111 archaeological catalog entries were identified as funerary objects from this cemetery. These remains and objects were offered jointly to the Native communities of White Mountain and Golovin. Both of these communities claim descendent status from settlements at Rocky Point and jointly submitted a claim for the return of these remains. Also offered to White Mountain and Golovin were three sets of remains from unspecified locations on the Rocky Point Peninsula. There were no funerary objects identified from these unidentified locations.

A single set of remains from the pre-modern settlement of White Mountain on the Fish River was offered to the Native community of White Mountain for repatriation. There were no funerary objects in the NMNH associated with these remains or identified from this community.

Seven individuals, represented by seven catalog numbers, and one associated funerary object were identified as coming from the site of Chingikchuak. The settlement was located on the Rocky Point Peninsula, across Golovnin Bay from Golovin. These remains and the single object were, therefore, offered to the Native community of Golovin for repatriation. In addition, all of the remains and objects from Golovnin Peninsula, forming the eastern arm of Golovnin Bay, were offered to the Native community of Golovin for repatriation. These consist of two sets of remains and one funerary object from Golovin (formerly known as Cheenik), and eight sets of remains, represented by eight catalog numbers, and five funerary objects from Atnuq.

A total of 12 sets of human remains, represented by 12 catalog numbers, and 23 catalog entries identified as funerary objects were removed from a settlement on the coast of Norton Sound east of Golovnin Bay. The exact location of this site, whether on Moses Point or at the mouth of the Kwik River, could not be determined. This portion of the coastline is affiliated with the Native community of Elim; the remains were, accordingly, offered to Elim for repatriation. Elim designated the Native community of Koyuk as their representative in repatriation matters.

A total of 14 sets of remains and 41 funerary objects were removed from a cemetery associated with a settlement on the Koyuk River. This area is affiliated with the Native community of Koyuk; the remains were offered to Koyuk for repatriation.

Repatriation Update
The remains and funerary objects from Northeast Norton Sound were deaccessioned for repatriation on July 21, 1997.

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