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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Funerary Objects from the Puget Sound and Grays Harbor Regions of Washington State in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Northwest Coast
Associated Cultures: Chehalis, Cowichan, Duwamish, Klallam, Nisqually, Puyallup, Quileute, Squaxin, Steilacoom, Suquamish

In compliance with Section 20 U.S.C. - Section 80q (Public Law 101-185), the National Museum of the American Indian Act, this report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from Puget Sound and Grays Harbor, Washington. This report represents one of a series of comprehensive reports documenting collections of human remains and funerary objects curated by the NMNH. Documentation of the remains from this area was initiated in June 1992, in response to a request from the Tulalip Tribes of Washington for the return of culturally affiliated remains and funerary objects from their aboriginal territories. To ensure that all remains potentially affiliated with the Tulalip Tribes were identified, all Native American human remains from the Puget Sound and Grays Harbor in the NMNH were documented as part of this request. In addition to the Tulalip Tribes, other tribes potentially affected by the findings of this report are the Lower Chehalis, Klallam, Nisqually, Puyallup, Quileute, Squaxin, and Suquamish, all of which are federally recognized tribes. Other tribes affected by this report are the Duwamish and Steilacoom, both tribal entities in the state of Washington, and the Cowichan, a Canadian tribe residing on Vancouver Island.

A total of twenty-seven sets of remains, representing twenty-eight individuals, in the Physical Anthropology Division of the NMNH are identified as having come from Puget Sound and Grays Harbor, Washington. The remains are enumerated as follows: eight sets of remains were collected from the area around Fort Townsend. Four sets of remains were collected from around Ft. Steilacoom. Five sets of remains were collected from the Grays Harbor region, two from Bruceport, while the remaining three have no specific locality data. One set of remains was collected from the Port Orchard region. Another set of remains was recovered from a farm near the mouth of the Nisqually River. The remaining eight sets of remains can only be identified as being from " Puget Sound." Six of these have no specific provenience data, while two are identified in museum records as coming from the Tulalip Agency, but no supporting data can be found for this assertion. A single unassociated funerary object was collected from Fox Island, just east of Tacoma, Washington.

Based on the sum of the available evidence, which includes museum and archival records, information on aboriginal village locations, mortuary practices, local archaeology, the skeletal biology, and the recovery context of the remains, it was determined that five sets of remains can be identified as Lower Chehalis. One set of remains is identified as Duwamish. Three sets of remains are identified as Nisqually. One set of remains is identified as Suquamish. In each instance, it was recommended that these groups be consulted for repatriation of those remains identified as being culturally affiliated.

Another set of remains is identified as Chemakum. The Chemakum tribe is no longer extant, having been partially absorbed by the neighboring Klallam villages. The Chemakum also share linguistic and historical relations with the Quileute tribe. It was therefore recommended that both these tribes be jointly consulted regarding the disposition of these remains.

Three sets of remains are identified as being affiliated with either the Nisqually or the Steilacoom, based on available evidence. The current policy of the NMNH Repatriation Office is that non-federally recognized groups may only participate in the repatriation process with the support of other culturally affiliated federally recognized tribes. The unassociated funerary object was recommended for return to the Nisqually tribe based on the available evidence.

Six sets of remains are identified as Cowichan, a Canadian native group residing on Vancouver Island. Notwithstanding this affiliation for these remains, presently there is no applicable law or policy which provides for repatriation to Canadian native people.

Four sets of remains cannot be identified as members of a specific tribe, but have been determined to be of Coastal Salish affiliation. It was therefore recommended that the Coastal Salish tribes of Puget Sound be mutually consulted regarding these remains to discuss their options regarding disposition.

Finally, four sets of remains have no data to allow for the determination of affiliation, and are considered to be Native American of unknown cultural affiliation. It was recommended that these remains be retained by the Museum until additional consultation and evidence bearing on the question of cultural affiliation is forthcoming.

Repatriation Update
The remains of one individual identified as Chemakum was repatriated to the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, in consultation with the Quileute Tribe on October 15, 1996.

The remains of six individuals and one funerary object were repatriated to the Nisqually Indian Tribe on September 26, 2007.

The human remains of one individual were repatriated by the Suquamish Indian Tribe in 2016.

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