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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects Affiliated with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Plains
Associated Cultures: Cheyenne River Sioux, Sioux

In compliance with 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 and associated funerary objects in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) affiliated with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Documentation of the remains was begun in October 1993 in response to a claim from Mr. Gregg Bourland, Tribal Chairman, for the return of culturally affiliated human remains and cultural articles. The work was interrupted twice to address special requests from the descendent families of two named tribal ancestors whose remains were held in the museum's collections. Pursuant to the NMNH's long-standing policy to afford the highest priority to the repatriation of named individuals, the Repatriation Office agreed to delay resolution of the tribe's claim in favor of that of the families. Documentation on the tribal request resumed after the named individuals were repatriated.

This report addresses the remains of fourteen individuals represented by thirteen catalog numbers, one of which resided in the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM; the former Army Medical Museum) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center until it was deaccessioned to the NMNH for repatriation documentation. Eight of the fourteen have been identified by subtribal (band) affiliation, linking them to three of the four Lakota bands now residing on the Cheyenne River Reservation. The other six have been identified as Cheyenne River Sioux of unknown band affiliation.

The human remains and associated funerary objects reported herein were collected between 1856 and 1891 from sites in the Missouri and Yellowstone River regions in South and North Dakota and Montana and the North Platte River area in Nebraska. Six were collected for the Army Medical Museum by U.S. Army medical officers, five (with their associated funerary objects) were collected for the Smithsonian by the Cheyenne River Agency physician, and three were collected for the Smithsonian by geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden during the 1856 survey of the upper Missouri. The latter three were transferred from the Smithsonian to the AMM; they and the other AMM holdings were later sent back to the Smithsonian during a series of large inter-institutional exchanges at the turn of the century.

The cultural affiliation of these human remains was determined through consideration of the territories occupied and used by the nineteenth century Lakota, the sites of historic conflicts involving the tribe, and the knowledge and reliability of the collectors. These criteria have been verified through archival military records, published accounts, and consultation with knowledgeable tribal members.

Repatriation Update
All fourteen sets of remains and seventy-eight associated funerary objects documented in this report were repatriated to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in 1996.

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Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History