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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Addendum to Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains Identified as Nez Perce in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Plateau
Associated Cultures: Bannock, Colville, Crow, Nez Perce, Umatilla

In the above referenced repatriation report, dated 19 September 1996, it was recommended that a human scalp be retained by the Museum pending the receipt of further information that might confirm the identity of the individual represented by the scalp. The report also noted that the scalp had been loaned to the Museum, and that the NMNH, therefore, did not have ownership of the scalp in order to repatriate it under the provisions of the NMAI Act.

Subsequent to the release of that report, new information has become available supporting the identification of the scalp as the remains of Teeweeyonah (Over the Point), a Nez Perce warrior killed at the Battle of Canyon Creek in 1877. The identifying information is reviewed in detail in a report by Mr. Phillip Cash Cash (formerly, Mr. Phillip Minthorn)(1), "The Return of Over the Point." It should be noted that the original repatriation report indicated that the scalp might pertain to Teeweeyonah (Over the Point), as he was one of three warriors killed at Canyon Creek whose remains were not retrieved from the battlefield by the Nez Perce. Mr. Cash Cash provides additional historic and descriptive data that uphold the Teeweeyonah (Over the Point) identification.

NMNH records indicate that the scalp pertains to a Nez Perce warrior killed in battle at Canyon Creek, Montana, in the Nez Perce War of 1877. The lender further indicates that the scalp was taken by a Crow individual. Mr. Cash Cash presents additional potentially corroborating information in the form of a ledger drawing by Medicine Crow, a Crow warrior who participated in the Canyon Creek battle. Mr. Cash Cash describes the drawing as a depiction of Medicine Crow's wounding at the hand of a young Nez Perce warrior, who was subsequently surrounded and killed by Crow warriors. As presented by Mr. Cash Cash, the Medicine Crow ledger is thus consistent with both the lender's description of the scalp as having been taken by a Crow, and with historical accounts of the death of Teeweeyonah (Over the Point), as described by Yellow Wolf, a Nez Perce warrior present at Canyon Creek (see Cash Cash report, attached). Finally, historical accounts indicate that only three Nez Perce bodies were unrecovered following the Canyon Creek battle, and were thus vulnerable to scalping: Tookleiks (Fish Trap), Wetyetmas Hapima (Surrounded Goose), and Teeweeyonah (Over the Point). Because the scalp's hair is very dark, and because Tookleiks (Fish Trap) and Wetyetmas Hapima (Surrounded Goose) were elders, the scalp in all probability does not pertain to them. Thus, given the lender's description, historical accounts, and eyewitness accounts (particularly that of Yellow Wolf), the remaining possibility is that the scalp represents the remains of Teeweeyonah (Over the Point).

The NMNH has also attempted to resolve the loan status of the scalp, however attempts to identify the heirs of the original lender, James Bell, have been unsuccessful. The NMNH was able to obtain a copy of James Bell's will, in which he left his estate to his wife, Emily. The Museum was unable to locate a will for Emily Bell. James and Emily Bell had no children, and it was not possible to identify other potential heirs. It was determined in consultation with the Smithsonian Institution Office of the General Counsel that if the identity of the scalp could be determined, then the scalp could be returned to the appropriate lineal descendant without further need to resolve the Museum's title. The bases for a return in this instance would be the common law rights of family members and the NMNH policy to return the remains of named individuals, with the recognition that a descendant's claim is superior to a claim that might be brought forward by the lender's heirs (letter from Molloy to Pakootas, 3 April 1998; letter from Molloy to Penney, 3 April 1998).

Based on historical information, Mr. Cash Cash's report identifies Teeweeyonah (Over the Point) as the son of Red Heart. Mr. Cash Cash traces the Red Heart descendants to the present generation, based on enrollment records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Census Rolls of Fort Lapwai. This genealogy can be used by the Red Heart family to substantiate their claim for the return of the scalp as the remains of Teeweeyonah (Over the Point).

Mr. Cash Cash provides new information that identifies the scalp as pertaining to a Nez Perce warrior, Teeweeyonah (Over the Point), killed in the Battle of Canyon Creek. The repatriation report, 'Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains Identified as Nez Perce in the NMNH,' had earlier discussed the possibility that the scalp might represent the remains of Teeweeyonah (Over the Point). Teeweeyonah (Over the Point) was the son of Red Heart, whose descendants have been traced to the present generation. It has been previously determined that the NMNH could return the scalp to the appropriate lineal descendants based on common law and the Museum's policy to return the remains of named individuals. It was therefore recommended that the scalp be returned as a named individual to members of the Red Heart family. Notice was provided to the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Crow Tribe regarding the final disposition of the scalp.

Repatriation Update
On September 11, 1998, the remains of Teeweeyonah were repatriated to the Red Heart family of the Nez Perce Tribe.

1. Mr. Cash Cash, although a past employee of the Repatriation Office and a co-author of the report to which this is an addendum, researched and prepared the "Return of Over the Point" report after he had concluded his Smithsonian service and returned to the private sector.

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