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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Associated Funerary Objects in the National Museum of Natural History Affiliated with the Assiniboine

Region: Plains
Associated Cultures: Assiniboine

This report provides an inventory and assessment of funerary articles in the National Museum of Natural History associated with human remains that have been offered for repatriation to the Assiniboine Tribe. The Assiniboine people were split in the last century and placed on two reservations. Today they are federally recognized as part of the Fort Peck Tribes and the Fort Belknap Tribes, both of Montana.

Documentation of these funerary articles was begun in 1992 as part of the Nakota and Central Dakota repatriation case. At that time, the items were believed to be unassociated funerary objects, and as such, were not included in a report that dealt only with human remains. Documentation was completed according to the categories mandated for review in the NMAI Act. The Assiniboine people from the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Tribes have recently requested the return of all culturally affiliated human remains and cultural articles. In response to their request, documentation of the funerary articles was resumed and their association with one of the Assiniboine remains was discovered.

This report addresses 159 separate items, 156 of which are beads, represented by five Smithsonian catalog entries. The funerary articles were collected with the remains of one Assiniboine individual in 1868 from a grave, probably in the vicinity of Fort Buford, North Dakota, by a U.S. Army medical officer who regularly acquired Native American human remains and cultural articles for scientific institutions on the east coast. The remains and funerary objects were contributed directly to the Smithsonian as part of a larger collection acquired from the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, who occupied a village in the immediate vicinity of Fort Stevenson, North Dakota (the transshipment point), and the Yanktonai, who frequented the area.

The cultural affiliation of the articles described in this report was determined through the collector's original correspondence and the museum's catalog records. It was recommended that all 159 of these items be offered for repatriation to the designated representatives of the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap Tribes on behalf of the Assiniboine people.

Repatriation Update
The objects were repatriated in September 1996.

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Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History