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

People of the Stars: Pawnee Heritage and the Smithsonian Institution

Region: Plains
Associated Cultures: Pawnee

This report concludes that there are 12 skeletal lots of definite to possible Pawnee human remains housed in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and the National Museum of Health and Medicine. The cultural affiliation and identification for these individuals was accomplished through the examination of all museum documents (accession records, ledger entries, catalog cards, and other sources of information) from the NMNH and historical and other records (including accession and catalog records from the Army Medical Museum) housed in the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C. Eight of these lots were collected by Post Surgeons for the Army Medical Museum (AMM), two were collected by F.V. Hayden during his 19th century expedition for the Smithsonian Institution to the west, and two were donated to the Smithsonian by A.T. Hill who exhumed these individuals from two historic Pawnee villages. Of the eight skeletal lots originally acquired by AMM, six sets of human remains were transferred to the NMNH during the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries and two sets were retained and are currently housed in the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM, formerly AMM). Through a joint agreement between NMNH and NMHM, all historic Pawnee remains in these two institutions may be repatriated.

This report is divided into four sections: 1) History of Request; 2) Human Remains Identified as Pawnee; 3) Cultural and Historical Overview; and 4) Records and Documentation of Pawnee Human Remains and Recommendations. In addition to these four sections, there is a references cited section and three appendices. The appendices include: 1) a report submitted to the Native American Rights Fund by Dr. James Riding In; 2) a summary of information relating to the Pawnee human remains in the Smithsonian's computer catalog system; and 3) a report by concerning the physical anthropology documentation of the Pawnee remains. Dr. Riding In's report is included because Pawnee tribal representatives believe that the historical circumstances surrounding the acquisition of these remains make a significant case for the U.S. Government to pay for the actual escort and reburial of these remains.

This request was initiated in August 1988 by Mr. Lawrence Goodfox, Jr. on behalf of the Pawnee. In addition to the museum's human remains, the ethnographic and archaeological collections were also searched for any potential funerary objects (either associated or unassociated). No burial goods or items related to the requested individuals could be identified during this documentation process.

The eight lots of human remains from the Army Medical Museum were acquired through a complex series of historical events that are examined in detail in this report. Two of these lots are retained still by the National Museum of Health and Medicine and are included in this report by a cooperative interagency agreement to allow for smoother processing of human remains for the Pawnee. In addition to these eight lots, four sets of human remains are from archaeological contexts from three sites located in Nebraska. These sites include the protohistoric Burkett (25NC1) site and two historic villages, the Palmer (25HW1) and Hill (25WT1) sites.

Several lines of evidence including the original post surgeon's reports, expedition notes, and archaeological catalogs indicate that these individuals are Pawnee. This information is supported by historical and chronological evidence based on reports from Fort Harker, Kansas and obtained from the National Archives and Record Administration and/or archaeological information from the three village sites in Nebraska. Biological data indicates that all but two of the individuals are Pawnee. The two individuals in question have a mixed ancestry (white and Indian), but on the basis of the historical information these individuals are culturally Pawnee.

Repatriation Update
The remains of 12 individuals were repatriated to the Pawnee Tribe in 1995.

Back to top

Smithsonian Institute - National Mueseum of Natural History