Region: Great Basin
Associated Cultures: Shoshone, Bannock
This report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains potentially affiliated with the Northwestern Band of Shoshone.
The report documents the remains of four individuals in four catalog numbers in the collections of the NMNH.
The remains of two individuals present in the NMNH collections are from the Bear River massacre site in southeastern Idaho. These individuals were killed by the U.S. Army on January 29, 1863. They were removed from the site by an unknown medical officer soon after the incident and were cleaned by hospital steward Arthur Fleming. In November 1868, they were sent to the Army Medical Museum by Dr. Franklin Meacham, U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon. They were transferred to the National Museum of Natural History in 1898.
At the time that Dr. Meacham sent the remains to the Army Medical Museum, he noted that the remains were those of chiefs Bear Hunter and Lehi who were killed in the incident. Meacham originally had doubts about the identity of the remains, but he apparently received "satisfactory evidence" supporting their identification before forwarding them to Washington. However, the remains present are inconsistent with those of the chiefs. Both of the individuals are probably too young to have been the named chiefs, who were mature men, and the remains previously thought to have belonged to Lehi actually belonged to a female. The condition of the remains that had been attributed to Bear Hunter exhibit none of the evidence of trauma that would be expected given the accounts of his death.
Although the remains are not the skeletal remains of the chiefs Bear Hunter and Lehi, the preponderance of the evidence does suggest they are remains of individuals removed from the site of the Bear River massacre. The victims of the massacre were all Shoshone and the descendants of the massacre survivors are represented today by the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. Therefore, the preponderance of the evidence indicates that these remains are culturally affiliated to the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. It is recommended that the remains of these two individuals be offered for return to the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.
Remains of a third individual, a mandible identified here as SI catalog number P243770A, were found curated with the cranium cataloged as P243770 from the Bear River massacre site. This mandible was apparently inadvertently associated with the cranium while it was housed at the Army Medical Museum between 1868 and 1898 and bears no relationship to the Shoshone remains. Neither Bear River Massacre crania had associated mandibles when they were originally received by the Army Medical Museum. Because the origin and affiliation of the mandible is unknown, and it is possible that it is not from a Native American individual, this mandible cannot be culturally affiliated at this time. It is recommended that the mandible be retained by the National Museum of Natural History while the investigation into the origin of the mandible continues.
Remains of a fourth individual were collected by Colonel Philetus W. Norris, Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, in 1880 or 1881 from Bottler Cliffs, on the Bottler Ranch in Yellowstone (Paradise) Valley, Park County, southwestern Montana. Norris sent the remains to H. C. Yarrow, Acting Assistant Surgeon, at the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. and Yarrow presented the remains to the Army Medical Museum in 1881. In 1898, the remains were transferred to the National Museum of Natural History.
Although the condition of the remains, burial type, and location of the grave are not sufficient to distinguish this burial from other tribes that traveled through the region during the mid to late 1800s, the analysis of craniometric and post-craniometric data support the likelihood that this individual was biologically Bannock or Shoshone as opposed to the other groups historically associated with the region. The specific cultural attribution ascribed by Norris as "Bannock" constitutes a preponderance of evidence in support of a cultural affiliation of Bannock and the physical anthropological analyses lend support to the Bannock affiliation. The Bannock today are represented by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho. Therefore, it is recommended that the remains of this individual be offered for return to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation of Idaho.
The remains of two individuals from the Bear River Massacre were repatriation to the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation on January 9, 2013.
Also see the Goshute Report
Back to top