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Repatriation at the National Museum of Health and Medicine

The U.S. Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in November 1990, requiring institutions receiving federal funding to report on the holding of Native American human remains, funerary objects, scared objects, and objects of cultural patrimony.

Although at one time the Army Medical Museum (AMM) -- forerunner of the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) -- held extensive collections of Native American and Native Hawaiian human remains, the AMM transferred more than 3,000 sets of human remains to the Smithsonian Institution between 1900 and 1904.

The purpose of these exchanges was to transfer the non-pathological human remains to the Smithsonian Institution; the AMM would only retain specimens demonstrating pathology or trauma. Today, the NMHM holds a very limited number of Native American human remains, and almost all document trauma or pathology.

In response to NAGPRA, the NMHM has provided summaries of cultural items and inventories of culturally affiliated and culturally unaffiliated human remains to more than 250 federally recognized tribes and native organizations. As of January 2003 eight Notices of Inventory Completion have been published and four repatriations to culturally affiliated tribes have occurred.

The NMHM continues to consult with Native American tribes regarding its holdings of both cultural items and human remains. Any federally recognized Indian tribe that believes it may have an interest in these cultural items (Table 1) or culturally unaffiliated human remains (Table 2) is encourage to contact Dr. Lenore Barbian, Asst. Curator at:

National Museum of Health and Medicine
6825 16th St., NW
Washington, DC 20306-6000
barbian@afip.osd.mil.

Table 1: Native American Cultural Objects,
National Museum of Health and Medicine


Affiliation Cultural Objects1 Objects Possibly Falling under NAGPRA
Funerary
Objects?1
Sacred
Objects?1
Objects of Cultural
Patrimony?1
Apache 4   1  
Arapaho 4 1    
Chiricahua Apache 4   1  
Comanche 2      
Crow 1      
Dakota 1      
Hoopa 1      
Kiowa 2      
Manitoba 1      
Mescalero Apache 1   1  
Moguis 1   1  
Navajo 1   1  
Nez Perces 2      
Northern Cheyenne 1   1  
Pitt River 1      
Plains Indian 1   1  
Sioux 7   2  

1Number of catalog numbers

Table 2: Culturally Unaffiliated Native American Human Remains,
National Museum of Health and Medicine


State County Human Remains1
AL Hale 28
Jackson 2
Limestone 1
Washington 1
AR Arkansas 2
Bradley 1
Jefferson 1
Union 2
Unknown 1
AZ Coconino 1
CA Los Angeles? Santa Barbara? Ventura? 1
San Joaquin 1
Santa Barbara 4
Shasta 7
Ventura 1
FL Citrus 1
Duval 4
Franklin 2
Hillsboro 1
Nassau 4
Orange 3
Pinellas 2
St. Johns 2
Sarasota 1
Volusia 3
GA McIntosh 5
IL Alexander 2
Calhoun 2
Jo Daviess 1
Lake 1
IN Posey 1
Spencer 1
Unknown 1
KS Ellsworth 1
KY Christian? 1
McLean 2
Ohio 12
Unknown 1
LA Assumption 1
Bossier 1
Franklin 2
Ouchita 1
MD Charles 1
Dorchester 2
MT Hill 1
NC Onslow 1
ND Pembina 1
NE Unknown 1
NM Greenlee 2
NY Allegany?, Livingston?, Monroe?, Wyoming? 1
Ontario 1
Unknown 2
OH Montgomery 1
Putnam 3
Wyandot 1
OK Woodward 1
OR Unknown 1
SD Marshall 1
TN Hamilton 4
Marion 3
Sevier 3
UT Summit? Washington? 1
VA Botetourt 1
WI Fond du Lac 1
WV Kanawha 1
Unknown Unknown 9
TOTAL   158

1Minimum number of individuals (MNI)