By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Historic human remains, found in Tennessee, will soon be repatriated to several tribes, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and reburied according to Cherokee tribal custom. According to information from the Department of the Interior, the remains were in an inventory of the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
The Interior Department noted that “a detailed assessment of the human remains was made by the NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) Coordinator and museum staff by the Beneski Museum of Natural History, Amhert College, and their agents”. Over 15 federally recognized tribes were contacted in relation to the remains including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma.
The EBCI THPO (Tribal Historic Preservation Office) has been working on this issue. Miranda Panther, NAGPRA officer with EBCI THPO, commented, “The EBCI THPO submitted an official repatriation letter on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, the Chickasaw Nation, the EBCI, the Quapaw Tribe, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. This is a joint repatriation effort, and we will be working closely with all of the tribes represented in the repatriation request letter.”
Panther continued, “We are the lead tribe and will be facilitating a dignified and respectful reburial of this individual. Representatives of the other tribes listed may travel to participate in the reburial once those details are finalized.”
The Interior Department released the following on the remains, “At an unknown date, human remains representing, at minimum, one individual were removed from Tennessee. The remains consist of one cranium that is without the lower jaw, without part of the upper jaw, and missing many teeth. The cranium appears to have been modified during growth. It is markedly flattened in the forehead, and flattened and indented on the back of the cranium, opposite the forehead, so that the forehead and back of the cranium slope toward the top of the cranium. The sides of the cranium bulge out slightly, so that the face looks widened, especially in the cheekbones.”
Several determinations were released by officials of the Beneskie Museum including the following:
- “…the human remains described in this notice are Native American based on the physical evidence from the cranium.”
- “According to final judgments of the Indian Claims Commission, the land from which the Native American human remains were removed is the aboriginal land of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”