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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains Potentially Related to the Apache and Yavapai Tribes in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Southwest
Associated Cultures: Apache, Yavapai

In compliance with 20 U.S.C. Section 80q (Public Law 101-185, the National Museum of the American Indian Act), this report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains and associated funerary objects in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) potentially affiliated with the Apache and Yavapai tribes. Both tribes are included in one report as many of the museum's records erroneously refer to the Yavapai as " Apache, " and it is difficult to treat each tribe individually because the records do not distinguish between the two tribes. Documentation of the remains and associated funerary objects for these tribes was initiated in September 1992, in response to informational requests from the San Carlos Apache Tribal Council in October 1991 and the Yavapai of the Camp Verde Reservation in March 1992. In addition to the San Carlos Apache and the Camp Verde Yavapai Apache, the other Native American communities potentially affected by the findings of this report are the White Mountain Apache (Fort Apache Indian Reservation), the Tonto Apache (Payson, Arizona), the Mescalero Apache, the Jicarilla Apache, the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma (Anadarko, Oklahoma), the Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma (Apache, Oklahoma), the Fort McDowell Mohave Apache, and the Prescott Yavapai.

A total of 49 sets of remains in the Physical Anthropology division of the NMNH were identified from museum records as being Apache or Yavapai (the latter are imprecisely classified as Apache-Mojave, Apache-Yuma, and possibly as Apache-Tonto), or are from the lands of the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache reservations and the Ft. McDowell Mohave Apache reservation. It is important to note that the ongoing documentation of the entire NMNH collection may identify other remains which have not been included in this report; this stems from the incomplete nature of the museum records, errors in the data, and the possibility that some remains are mis-identified in the current records. Thirty-eight sets of remains were contributed to the NMNH by the Army Medical Museum, and had been collected primarily by U.S. Army surgeons during the late 19th century. A further seven sets of remains were recovered by Smithsonian Institution curator Ales Hrdlicka on a 1905 visit to the San Carlos Reservation, and four other remains were donated by archaeologists.

The Apache people are a diverse group of Na-Déné (Athapaskan) speaking tribes and bands, who appear to have entered the southwest several centuries before the arrival of Europeans. In the 19th century the Apaches inhabited a broad area from central Arizona to southern Texas and northern Mexico. Many Apache groups were nomadic or semi-nomadic, and travelled over large areas, including areas visited or inhabited by other tribes. This makes it impossible to correlate geographic locations with any single specific cultural group, or even with a particular tribe. Today there are six distinct tribal divisions, the Western Apache, the Chiricahua, the Mescalero, the Jicarilla, the Kiowa-Apache, and the Lipan. Members of these tribes are resident on several reservations as well as numerous non-reservation communities.

The Yavapai are a Yuman speaking tribe, linguistically unrelated to the Apache, who live in western and central Arizona. Due to the general similarities of material culture and subsistence adaptations, the Yavapai were often referred to as "Apache" by Euro-American observers, and the Yavapai remains in the NMNH retain this inexact cultural designation. The Yavapai currently have three reservations in Arizona, and individual Yavapais also reside in other communities, and perhaps on other reservations.

The majority of the remains reported here were collected for the Army Medical Museum in the 1860s and 1870s, which was an extremely violent era in Indian-White relations in the greater Southwest. A number of the remains were taken from battlefields or massacre sites, and it was frequently difficult or impossible for the collectors to obtain accurate information regarding the cultural affiliation of the remains. There are, however, a total of six named individuals, each of which has specific information on cultural affiliation.

Based on the archival and geographic information available for the human remains considered in this report, 24 remains are determined to be Apache and seven remains are determined to be Yavapai, for a total of 31 remains which can be identified as Apache or Yavapai. Accordingly, it is recommended that the Apache and the Yavapai tribes be notified about the presence of these remains in the NMNH and consulted about their wishes regarding their disposition. Among the 31 identified remains, there are four named Apache individuals and two named Yavapai individuals, and if it is possible to identify living relations then each family would have the right to determine the appropriate disposition of their remains, should that be their wish. Some of the remains have been tentatively identified to tribe and band level using the geographic and archival data available. These identifications are provisional and provide a starting point for discussion; they are not intended by the Repatriation Office as the only basis for the determination of the final disposition of the remains, which is the sole right of the Apache and Yavapai peoples.

In addition, the remains of four individuals identified as "Tonto Apache" cannot be exclusively associated with either the Apache or Yavapai people because this particular term was used by Euro-Americans to describe all the groups which lived in the Tonto Basin, whether they were Apache or Yavapai. The evidence is clear, however, that these four individuals were either Apache or Yavapai. The final disposition of these remains should be determined in consultation with the appropriate Apache and Yavapai groups, such as, but perhaps not exclusively, the Tonto Apache and the Southeastern Yavapai/Kewevkapaya.

Review of available archival documentation and the physical anthropological evidence indicates that fourteen (14) sets of remains included in the Apache and Yavapai case report are of unknown cultural affiliation. The evidence of cultural affiliation for these individuals either cannot be confirmed or has been found to be inconsistent with other lines of evidence. The Repatriation Office recommended that the information pertaining to the cultural affiliation of these individuals be discussed with the appropriate Apache and Yavapai representatives, and that any new evidence or interpretations be incorporated into a re-evaluation of the status of these remains.

Repatriation Update
The human remains of two individuals were repatriated by the San Carlos Apache in 2012. One of the individuals was killed in the Camp Grant Massacre of 1871. The second individual was identified as a Pinal Apache and was likely from the area near Camp Grant.

The human remains of seven individuals assessed as Yavapai were repatriated by the Yavapai-Apache Nation, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, and the Prescott Yavapai Indian Tribe in 2017.

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