Skip top nav and go to the page contentSkip top nav and go to the left navigation
Repatriation Office
Website Search Fields:
Department of Anthropology  
Repatriation Office - Department of Anthropology
Home | What is Repatriation? | Consultation & Repatriation | Collections | Repatriation Reports | FAQ | Contact
Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains from the Historic Period Potentially Affiliated with the Eastern Dakota in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Plains
Associated Cultures: Chippewa, Ojibwa, Santee Sioux, Sioux, Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux

This report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) potentially affiliated with historic period Eastern or Santee Dakota, who comprise the eastern division of the Greater Sioux Nation.

Documentation of the human remains identified in the museum's records as ancestral to the Eastern or Santee Dakota was begun in response to the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota's 1991 repatriation claim. At that time, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Nation presented to the Smithsonian a request for the return of all culturally affiliated human remains and cultural articles recovered from their tribal lands. The request was partially resolved by the Anthropology Department of the NMNH prior to the formation of the Repatriation Office. This partial resolution involved the return of all human remains of the appropriate geographical provenience that were determined through museum documentation procedures to be either definitely or probably culturally affiliated with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota, and the retention of those remains that did not fall into these categories.

The Sisseton-Wahpeton, however, maintained their claim for all remains specified in their 1991 request. The remains originally determined by the museum as possibly or doubtfully affiliated with the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota were retained by the museum. They were divided into two categories: those deriving from historic contexts and those recovered from mounds located in the vicinity of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Reservation near Lake Traverse, South Dakota. The historic period remains are addressed in this report.

The human remains from historic contexts not originally recommended for repatriation include three sets of remains claimed by the Sisseton-Wahpeton in 1991 and two that were located independently in the museum's collections during documentation following the1991 study. The cultural affiliations of the six individuals represented in these remains were determined through consideration of the territories occupied and used by the nineteenth century Dakota, the sites of historic conflicts involving the Dakota, and the knowledge and reliability of the collectors of the remains. Cultural affiliation has been further verified through archival military records, published accounts, consultation with tribal representatives, and the correspondence between this information and the results of physical anthropological observations on the remains.

One of the six historic individuals is known by name and belonged to the Rice Creek band of Sisseton Dakota. One is a young man who belonged to the White Lodge band of Sisseton Dakota. A third has been identified as a woman of Sisseton Dakota affiliation. The Repatriation Office recommended that all three be offered for return to the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Nation.

One individual is a woman who belonged to the Santee Dakota. "Santee" is a term that refers generally to all the Eastern Dakota and specifically to two of the four bands that make up that group. The Repatriation Office recommended that representatives of all the Eastern or Santee Dakota bands be notified of these remains and asked to come to an agreement regarding their disposition.

The last set of remains described in this report represents two individuals. The remains were originally claimed by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota because of the collection location's proximity to their reservation. The Repatriation Office has determined the remains to be of Ojibwa affiliation and recommends that all of the Ojibwa bands be so notified and asked to come to an agreement regarding disposition. The remains are described in this report to serve as notification to the Sisseton-Wahpeton people of the results of the documentation procedures employed to determine the identity of this individual.

Repatriation Update
The remains identified as Sisseton Dakota were repatriated in September 1996.

The remains identified as Santee Dakota were repatriated to representatives of the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska in September 1996.

The remains of the two Ojibwa individuals from Fort Abercrombe, North Dakota, were determined to be culturally affiliated with the Pembina Band of Chippewa repatriated jointly to representatives of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, the Chippewa-Cree of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians on July 12, 2006.  The repatriation took place at the Red Bear family cemetery on the Turtle Mountain reservation in North Dakota. (See Pembina Chippewa Report)

Back to top

Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History