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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains and Funerary Objects Potentially Affiliated with the Mandan and Hidatsa of the Three Affiliated Tribes in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Plains
Associated Cultures: Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan, Sioux

This report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains and funerary objects potentially affiliated with the Mandan and Hidatsa of the Three Affiliated Tribes ( Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). Assessment of the cultural affiliation and documentation of human remains and funerary objects was initiated in response to a request from the Three Affiliated Tribes in September 1989. An inventory of human remains and funerary objects in the NMNH potentially affiliated with the Arikara of the Three Affiliated Tribes is presented in a separate report.

This report documents the remains of 41 individuals in 42 catalog numbers. A review of the available evidence presented in this report indicates that these remains represent 28 Hidatsa individuals; ten Mandan individuals; one Mandan or Arikara individual; one Mandan, Hidatsa, or Arikara individual; and one individual who is most likely Sioux. In addition, six funerary objects were identified: four objects are from an Hidatsa cemetery, one from a Mandan or Hidatsa cemetery, and one from an Arikara cemetery. None of these objects were recovered in association with the human remains at the NMNH.

The majority of human remains in this report were documented for the Mandan and Hidatsa. Included, however, is one individual that is not Mandan or Hidatsa. This individual was listed in some museum records as Mandan, and for this reason is included in the report. Upon examination of the records, however, the individual is most likely Sioux.

The human remains and funerary objects documented in this report are from seven locations in North and South Dakota. The remains of 25 individuals were collected from an Hidatsa cemetery near the Knife River by Lt. G.K. Warren and F.V. Hayden during a military expedition up the Missouri in 1856. Examination of the expedition records indicates that the remains were most likely taken from a cemetery near Big Hidatsa village. Seven individuals were obtained from Fort Berthold and the associated village of Like-A-Fishhook. These include two Hidatsa, two Mandan, and one Mandan or Arikara collected by W. Matthews and C.C. Gray in the 1860s; one Hidatsa collected by T. Culbertson in 1850; and one individual of Mandan, Hidatsa, or Arikara affiliation collected during the 1952 River Basin Survey (RBS) excavations at the site. One individual of probable Sioux affiliation collected by Matthews and Gray is incorrectly recorded with the affiliation of Mandan and provenience of Fort Berthold in some museum records, but after a review of all museum records, the cultural affiliation is most likely Sioux from the vicinity of Fort Stevenson.

Five individuals of Mandan affiliation are from 1957 RBS archaeological excavations at the Initial Middle Missouri Tradition, Anderson phase (A.D. 950-1250) Fay Tolton site. One individual of Mandan affiliation is from the 1938 Works Progress Administration archaeological excavations at the Initial Middle Missouri tradition, Over Focus (A.D. 1000-1300), Mitchell village. An individual from an unidentified Mandan village was obtained in 1905 by an unidentified collector and transferred from the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology to the Smithsonian in 1910. It is most likely that the individual was collected by E. Steinbrueck, whose collection from Mandan sites is at the Peabody Museum. Since Steinbreuck's collection at the Peabody Museum only contains human remains from the Mandan village of On-A-Slant, this individual may also be from this Post-Contact Coalescent Heart River phase (ca. A.D. 1450-1780) village. One human tooth was found on the surface during a 1952 RBS visit to the Double Ditch site, a Post-Contact Coalescent Heart River phase Mandan village.

The report recommends that the remains of 40 individuals and the six funerary objects affiliated with the Hidatsa, Mandan, and Arikara be repatriated to the Three Affiliated Tribes. The one individual identified as a probable Sioux who was erroneously identified as Mandan and attributed the provenience Fort Berthold in some museum records is probably from near Fort Stevenson. This area was occupied by the Blackfoot Sioux, Hunkpapa, Oglala, and Yanktonai in the 1860s when the remains were collected, and representatives of these tribes at the Fort Totten, Standing Rock, Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, and Fort Peck reservations will be consulted about the disposition of this individual.

Repatriation Update
The remains identified as Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara were repatriated on October 22, 1996 to representatives of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

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