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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Assessment of a Brass Patu Traded by Captain Cook in 1778 and an Anthropomorhpic Stone Carving From Northeast Oregon in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Region: Plateau
Associated Cultures: Umatilla

In accordance with the National Museum of the American Indian Act, as amended, (20 U.S.C. 80q) this report provides an inventory and assessment of two objects from northeastern Oregon, from a location referred to Umatilla, in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). There are no human remains within this collection. The objects were initially part of a larger request received from several Columbia Plateau tribes and groups for the return of culturally affiliated human remains and funerary objects. This report is part of a series of reports that address these repatriation claims. One claim, received in 2002, specifically requests the return of the two objects discussed in this report.

Under the National Museum of the American Indian Act, cultural affiliation is the basis for the repatriation of human remains and funerary objects. Cultural affiliation is defined as shared group identity , which means that there is "a relationship of shared group identity which can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group"(Public Law 101-601). The law also establishes preponderance of evidence as the standard by which determinations of cultural affiliation are made. This report summarizes available information bearing on the cultural affiliation and context of two archaeological objects from a location referred to as Umatilla, Oregon. The information includes ethnological, ethnohistorical, archaeological, historical, and linguistic evidence that is relevant to determining the cultural affiliation of the objects in question and in evaluating whether the objects are funerary.

Two objects were evaluated for this report: a brass war club known as a patu and a basalt carving recovered from Umatilla County, Oregon. The patu, a brass copy of a New Zealand stone club, is one of the most significant objects in the museum's collection and was made for Captain James Cook's second voyage to the South Pacific. The patu was traded during Cook's third voyage in 1778, when he visited the northwestern coast of North America. Based on the preponderance of available evidence, the patu has been found to be an unassociated funerary object and has been found to be culturally affiliated with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The finding is based on information contained in museum records and on the traditional territory of the Umatilla during the nineteenth century (Stern 1998). It was recommended that the patu be offered for return to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. However, there is nothing in the records to indicate that the basalt carving is a funerary object and it was recommended that the museum retain it until further information becomes available.

Repatriation Update
The Patu was repatriated to the Confderated Tribes of the Umatillia Indian Reservation on May 10, 2005.

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