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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains from Northeast Washington and Northern Idaho in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Plateau
Associated Cultures: Coeur d'Alene, Colville, Kalispel, Kootenai, Salish, Spokane

In compliance with the National Museum of the American Indian Act (20 U.S.C. Section 80q), this report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from northeastern Washington and northern Idaho. Documentation for this case was initiated in response to a request from the Spokane Tribe for the return of four specific sets of remains. To insure that all remains potentially affiliated with the Spokane were identified, all seven sets of human remains in the NMNH from northeastern Washington and northern Idaho were documented as part of this request. In addition, one cranium from the state of Montana identified in the museum records as Spokane was also documented in this report, for a total of eight sets of remains that are treated in this present report. Besides the Spokane, other Native American groups potentially affected by the findings of this report include the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Coeur D'Alene, the Kalispel Indian Community, and the Kootenai and Salish Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.

Of the six sets of remains from northeastern Washington in the NMNH, four were recovered in or around the modern town of Spokane, while the other two are from Ione in the northern sector of Pend Oreille County. The single set of skeletal remains from northern Idaho was collected near Coeur D'Alene. The final set of remains treated in this report was recovered from west central Montana in the vicinity of Ft. Shaw, located above Great Falls.

Three sets of remains from the Spokane area were collected in 1938 during construction operations at Fort George Wright, Washington. These were subsequently donated to the NMNH by the commanding officer at the fort, Colonel W.R. Wheeler. The other set of remains from Spokane was recovered in 1975 during earth-moving activities associated with the expansion of the local cemetery. This skeleton was sent to the FBI for identification and later offered to the NMNH by the Spokane County Sheriff's Department. The two sets of remains from Pend Oreille County, Washington were recovered from a gravel pit near the town of Ione in 1976. The remains were similarly transmitted to the FBI for identification and subsequently offered to the NMNH by the County Sheriff 's Department.

The cranium from Coeur D'Alene, Idaho was obtained by Assistant Army Surgeon W.G. Spencer in 1881 for the Army Medical Museum (AMM) collections. It was transferred from the AMM to the physical anthropology division of the NMNH around the turn of the century. The final set of remains treated in this report was collected in 1868 by Assistant Army Surgeon R.B. Hitz while stationed at Fort Shaw, Montana. As in the previous case, these remains were originally sent to the AMM but later transferred to the NMNH. These are the only remains among the eight sets treated in this report that have a cultural affiliation given in the museum records, the latter individual being identified as a Spokane chief and the former as a member of the Coeur D'Alene Tribe.

Based on the sum of the available evidence, which includes museum and archival records, information on aboriginal village locations, mortuary practices, local archaeology, the skeletal biology, and the context of the burials, it was recommended that the four sets of remains recovered in the immediate vicinity of Spokane, Washington and the single set of remains from Great Falls, Montana be offered for return to the Spokane people of eastern Washington.

Though the information available for the set of remains from Idaho is minimal and the ascribed affiliation cannot be corroborated, it was nonetheless recommended that these remains be offered for return to the Coeur D'Alene people in the absence of any evidence that negates the original identification.

The specific cultural affiliation of the final two sets of remains evaluated in this report (P0385063 and P0385064) cannot be established on the basis of the available evidence. It was therefore recommended that these remains be retained by the Museum until or unless additional information bearing on the question of cultural affiliation is forthcoming.

Repatriation Update
The remains of five individuals from the vicinity of Spokane, Washington, and the single set of remains from Great Falls, Montana were repatriated to the Spokane Tribe of Wellpinit, WA on September 11, 1995.

The remains of one individual were repatriated to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe on April 28, 2004.

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