Skip top nav and go to the page contentSkip top nav and go to the left navigation
Repatriation Office
Website Search Fields:
Department of Anthropology  
Repatriation Office - Department of Anthropology
Home | What is Repatriation? | Consultation & Repatriation | Collections | Repatriation Reports | FAQ | Contact
Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

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

Region: Alaska
Associated Cultures: Yu'pik, Calista Regional Corporation, Native Village of Mekoryuk

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 and funerary objects in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from Nunivak Island, Alaska. Separate reports covering the archaeological and ethnographic collections will be forthcoming; these reports will serve as points of departure for consideration of other categories of repatriatable items in the NMNH. Documentation of the remains and funerary objects from Nunivak Island was initiated in the spring of 1994, in response to a letter from Mr. Solomon Williams, President of the Native Village of Mekoryuk. At that time Mr. Williams indicated the intent of the Nunivak Islanders to request repatriation of human remains and funerary objects.

The human skeletal remains of at least 191 individuals from Nunivak Island are in the Physical Anthropology collection of the NMNH, represented by 168 catalog numbers. Twelve catalog numbers in the Archaeology collection were identified as funerary objects. In the Ethnology collection 249 catalog numbers were identified as funerary objects, most of which were associated with the human remains now in the NMNH. It has not, however, been possible to determine exactly which artifacts were found with particular skeletons. Finally, eleven uncataloged items were identified as funerary objects. There are a total of 272 catalog numbers for funerary objects, representing approximately 550 artifacts.

A consideration of the history of Nunivak Island, Alaska, and the archaeological evidence and physical evidence showed that the collections in the NMNH were of a recent age and were culturally affiliated with the Alaska Native residents of the village of Mekoryuk. The Repatriation Office recommended that these human remains and the associated and unassociated funerary objects be offered for repatriation to the community of Mekoryuk, Alaska.

Repatriation Update
The remains were deaccessioned for repatriation on September 20, 1996. At the request of the Native Village of Mekoryuk, the funerary objects are being curated at NMNH.

Back to top

Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History