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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains Potentially Related to the Kiowa Tribe in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Plains
Associated Cultures: Arapaho, Arikara, Cheyenne, Kiowa

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) potentially affiliated with the Kiowa tribe. Documentation of the remains and associated funerary objects was initiated in October 1993, in response to informational requests from Mr. Herschel Sahmaunt, Chairman of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the tribal Repatriation Representative, Mr. Lawrence Edge. The Chairman formally requested initiation of the repatriation process on 9 February 1994.

A total of seven sets of remains are considered in this report. Six sets of remains were initially identified from museum records as Kiowa and were designated for assessment. In addition, one other set of remains which was identified as Arapaho was found to be a Kiowa. It is important to note that the ongoing documentation of the entire NMNH collection may identify other remains which have not been included in this report. The incomplete nature of the museum records, errors in the data, and the possibility that some remains are mis-identified in the current records all contribute to the possibility that other Kiowa remains are in the collection. All of the remains in this report were contributed to the NMNH by the Army Medical Museum and had been collected by U.S. Army surgeons during the late nineteenth century.

The remains reported here were collected for the Army Medical Museum in the 1860s and 1870s, during an extremely violent period in Indian-White relations on the Plains. A number of the remains were taken from battlefields or massacre sites and it was frequently difficult or impossible for the collectors to obtain accurate information regarding the cultural affiliation of the remains.

Based on the archival and geographic information available for the human remains considered in this report, three sets of remains are determined to be Kiowa, and four are associated with other tribes. Accordingly, it was recommended that the Kiowa tribe be notified of these conclusions and consulted about their wishes regarding the disposition of the remains. The remains of four individuals who were listed in museum records as Kiowa, however, have been determined to be culturally affiliated with other tribes, based on an assessment of the available archival and physical anthropology evidence. One individual was found to be a Comanche, one person to be an Arikara, and two who were killed at the Sand Creek Massacre are either Cheyenne or Arapaho. The Repatriation Office recommended that the information pertaining to the cultural affiliation of these individuals be discussed with the Kiowa representatives and that any new evidence or interpretations be incorporated into a re-evaluation of the status of these remains.

Repatriation Update

The remains of the two individuals from the Sand Creek Massacre were reevaluated in a 2012 report at the request of tribal representatives (see Sand Creek Massacre report). Additional historical documents were found to support the original findings that the cultural affiliation of the two individuals is Cheyenne or Arapaho. The two remains were repatriation to the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Northern Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe on November 21, 2012, and interred at the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.

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Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History