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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Reassessment of the Cultural Affiliation of Human Remains and Funerary Objects from Seaside, Oregon at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Region: Northwest Coast
Associated Cultures: Chinook, Clatsop, Tillamook

In compliance with the National Museum of the American Indian Act (20 U.S.C. Section 80q), this report provides an assessment of the cultural affiliation of human remains from archaeological sites within the town of Seaside, Oregon in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). Initial documentation of these remains was undertaken in 1993 in response to a request from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Reservation of Oregon for the return of all culturally affiliated human remains and funerary objects from their aboriginal territory, and a report was completed in 1996 titled Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Funerary Objects from Northwestern Oregon in the National Museum of Natural History. The 1996 report found the remains from the town of Seaside, Oregon to be culturally unaffiliated based on the extant information.

The present report was initiated in response to a request from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Reservation of Oregon to reevaluate the cultural affiliation of these remains in light of new evidence. The Repatriation Office agreed to investigate the matter further, and a multi-tribe consultation meeting was held in Gleneden, Oregon in 2000. Several archaeological experts from Oregon and tribal representatives from the area attended the consultation meeting, along with members of the Repatriation Office and Smithsonian Native American Repatriation Review Committee members and staff. The evidence presented there, and a more detailed review of archival and published information, were evaluated for this report.

All of the remains and objects discussed in this report were collected by George Phebus, Jr. and Robert Drucker in their excavations of the Seaside, Oregon area in the 1960s and 1970s, and were accessioned in 1984. The majority of these remains, totaling a minimum of 31 individuals in 75 catalog numbers, were excavated from the Par-Tee site (35CLT20) in Seaside, Oregon. The majority of the remains were from burials that intruded into a shell midden that had been created between A.D. 300-1150. All the remains from the sites discussed in this report, however, date to the protohistoric or historic periods, immediately prior to known early historic Tillamook occupations and later historic Clatsop occupations in the area.

The partial remains of another individual were excavated from the Avenue Q site (35CLT13), which was occupied principally between A.D. 400-1000, and have not been evaluated in any NMNH Repatriation Office report. The Avenue Q site was initially listed by the excavators as site number 35CT46, but it was later determined to be site 35CLT13. At the time of the 1996 report, these remains had not yet been identified with an Avenue Q provenience.

Another individual originally listed only by the name "Burial 35," has been determined to be from the Palmrose site (35CLT47), which was occupied principally from 800 B.C. to A.D. 300. However, two glass beads were found curated with the skeletal remains from Palmrose, suggesting that the remains might date to the historic period. The preponderance of evidence indicates that these beads are associated funerary objects.

Finally, another individual was identified as originating from the Wheatly Burial site (35CT55), which dates to the historic period.

Reassessment of information regarding stratigraphy and radiocarbon dates have led us to conclude that the majority of the human remains from Par-Tee were interred after the main occupation which formed the shell midden, in the late prehistoric period, and some burials may date to the historic period. In their 1979 publication, the excavators argued that the main occupation of Par-Tee, which produced the shell midden, was likely ancestral to the Tillamook. In notes dated to after the 1979 publication, they apparently thought that the post-midden burial component was also proto-Tillamook. Phebus and Drucker never published a planned volume on the mortuary practices of Par-Tee and Palmrose, but we have been able to infer some of their interpretations from field notes and radiocarbon forms. The unanimous opinion of the tribal representatives who attended the 2000 consultation meeting in Gleneden , OR was also that Par-Tee was an ancestral Tillamook village. Archaeological evidence links the post-midden burials of Par-Tee with late prehistoric Tillamook sites in the area. Although Lower Chinookan Clatsop groups occupied the area with the Tillamook historically, no archaeological or ethnohistoric evidence is available to evaluate the antiquity or nature of late prehistoric/protohistoric Clatsop sites to compare to Par-Tee.

Although less information is available about the partial skeletal remains from the nearby Avenue Q site, it is also likely that these remains were buried after the main site occupation, based on stratigraphy and radiocarbon dating. Due to their proximity and contemporaneity with the remains from Par-Tee, it is likely that post-midden burials at Avenue Q were part of the late prehistoric occupation of the area by Tillamook residents.

Finally, the available evidence for the Palmrose site indicates the presence of a typical Chinookan/Salishan style plank house, a subsistence base focused on salmon, and various carved and elaborately decorated objects in the southern Northwest Coast style in the prehistoric occupation. However, the presence of glass found in association with the remains of a single individual from the Palmrose site indicates that these remains date to the historic period. By the nineteenth century, Tillamook and Clatsop peoples inhabited the Seaside area.

Based on a preponderance of available evidence compiled since the 1996 report, the skeletal remains of a minimum of 32 individuals within 76 catalog numbers, and nine funerary objects within three catalog numbers from the Par-Tee (31 individuals) and Avenue Q (one individual) sites in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, have been found to be culturally affiliated with Tillamook descendants, represented today by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indian Reservation. The skeletal remains of one individual and two funerary objects in one catalog number from the Palmrose site and one individual from the Wheatly Burial site date to the historic period, and have been found to be culturally affiliated to Tillamook and Clatsop descendants, also represented by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Reservation and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indian Reservation. The non-federally recognized Chinook Indian Tribe of Washington have asked to be kept informed of repatriation issues involving the Lower Chinook, and they will also be notified of this decision.


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