FR Doc E9-29299[Federal Register: December 9, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 235)]
[Page 65139-65141]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



National Park Service
Notice of Intent to Repatriate Cultural Items: Denver Museum of 
Nature & Science, Denver, CO

AGENCY: National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.

    This notice is published as part of the National Park Service's 
administrative responsibilities under NAGPRA, 25 U.S.C. 3003 (d)(3). 
The determinations in this notice are the sole responsibility of the 
museum, institution, or Federal agency that has control of the cultural 
items. The National Park Service is not responsible for the 
determinations in this notice.
    The five cultural items are Navajo jish, represented by three 
medicine bundles (AC.11423A-J; AC.11424A-R; AC.11425A-L), one stone 
prayer club (AC.4918), and one fetish and its wrapping (AC.194A-B).
    The first medicine bundle (AC.11423A-J) dates between about 1880 
and 1920, and consists of one outer wrapping blanket (AC.11423A), two 
plain rattles (AC.11423B), three lightning rattles (AC.11423C), three 
eagle feather brushes (AC.11423D), eight medicine bows and arrows 
(AC.11423E), six small medicine bags (AC.11423F), and four horned hats 
    The second medicine bundle (AC.11424A-R) dates to an unknown 
period, and consists of one outer wrapping blanket (AC.11424A), four 
bullroarers (AC.11424B), three lightning rattles (AC.11424C), two small 
plain rattles (AC.11424D), four sacks of medicine (AC.11424E), one 
gourd rattle (AC.11424F), four prayer sticks and hide (AC.11424G), two 
small medicine bags (AC.11424H), one blue stone horse fetish 
(AC.11424I), one bag of minerals and grease (AC.11424J), four fetish 
amulets (AC.11424K), three painted shell pots (AC.11424L), eight 
medicine stones (AC.11424M), one turtle shell (AC.11424N), four claw 
necklaces (AC.11424O), two pairs of claw wristlets (AC.11424P-Q), and 
one pottery painted pot (AC.11424R).
    The third medicine bundle (AC.11425A-L) dates between about 1880 
and 1920, and consists of one outer wrapping blanket (AC.11425A); eight 
streamer racks made of wood,

[[Page 65140]]

metal, and cloth (AC.11425B); two streamers made of wood, metal, and 
cloth (AC.11425C); two eagle feather brushes (AC.11425D); one set of 
fire sticks (AC.11425E); two hide bags (AC.11425F); nine small medicine 
bags (AC.11425G); one corn meal basket tray (AC.11425H); two feather 
prayer sticks (AC.11425I); one small hide (AC.11425J); one medicine bow 
and arrow (AC.11425K); and one lynx hide (AC.11425L).
    The three medicine bundles were originally sold by a Navajo 
medicine man named Mike Salt or Ushie, from Sawmill, AZ. He sold them 
to an art dealer named Don Pablo of Scottsdale, AZ, who in turn sold 
the objects to Mr. Charles M. Eberhart of the Western Trading Post, 
located in Denver, CO. Mr. and Mrs. Eberhart donated the bundles to the 
museum in 1974.
    The stone prayer club (AC.4918) dates to an unknown period. It is 
made from black slate and is approximately 11 x 3 inches in size. The 
club was originally accessioned as "Alaskan," but then later 
changed to "probably Navajo." This change was based on a similar 
object on display at the Navajo Museum of Ceremonial Arts in Santa Fe, 
NM, which had a label reading "Ceremonial knife (slate) held by 
medicine man or patient during certain acts of various ceremonies and 
pressed against certain parts of the patient's body to expel evil." 
Furthermore, in 1978, two Navajo consultants visited the Denver Museum 
of Nature & Science, and explained that this item was "used 
ceremonially in prayer to ward off evil." In 1959, the stone prayer 
club was purchased by Francis V. and Mary W.A. Crane at Southwest 
Indian Arts & Crafts, Santa Fe, NM. The Cranes later donated the club 
to the museum in 1983.
    The fetish and wrapping (AC.194A-B) date to an unknown period. It 
is a carved stone with turquoise, white stone and black stone inlay; 
shell pieces; feathers; yarn; hide (AC.194A); and one calico cloth 
(AC.194B). These objects were accessioned as a "Navajo" "talking 
prayerstick." In 1954, the fetish and wrapping were purchased by 
Francis V. and Mary W.A. Crane at Kohlberg's Antiques and Indian Arts, 
Denver, CO. The Cranes later donated the fetish and wrapping to the 
museum in 1972.
    During consultation, representatives of the Navajo Nation provided 
detailed documentation to demonstrate Navajo rights of possession, and 
that the items are both objects of cultural patrimony and sacred 
objects. In particular, the tribe detailed that these Navajo jish are 
used in the Na'at'oyéé (The Male Shooting Way ceremony) 
and the Hochoiji (The Evil Way ceremony), which are still widely 
practiced by members of the present-day Navajo tribe. The Navajo people 
believe that jish are alive and must be treated with respect. The 
primary purpose of the jish is to cure people of diseases, mental and 
physical illness, and to restore beauty and harmony. Furthermore, the 
Navajo Nation asserts that no single individual can truly own any jish. 
These sacred objects are made by knowledgeable Navajo people and 
Hataaliis (Medicine persons) from animals and plants that unselfishly 
contributed themselves for the benefit of the Navajo people and the 
universe. In order to possess sacred jish, one must have the proper 
ceremonial knowledge with which to care and utilize them. The right to 
control jish is outlined by traditional laws, which vests this 
responsibility in Hataaliis. The Hataaliis only care, utilize, and 
bequeath jish for the Navajo people. Hataalii do not have the right to 
sell jish, because they do not own them, they are only caretakers on 
behalf of the Navajo people.
    The extant anthropological literature substantiates these claims. 
Medicine bags are made during ceremonies out of "sacred" materials, 
stored in special places, used only in prescribed ritual contexts, and 
hold myriad articles to which supernatural properties are attributed. 
Anthropologists have documented, in particular, the use of jish in the 
Male Shooting Way and Evil Way ceremonies, and the ways in which the 
medicine objects are linked to traditional myths. Anthropologists have 
further documented that medicine bundles are sacred items, fundamental 
to the practice of traditional Navajo religion. Jish, used for 
ceremonial healing, are unique from Western notions of medicine in part 
because of the special sacred properties believed to be imbued in the 
bundles. Further, unlike Western medical objects, Navajos consider the 
jish to be animate and, therefore, are subject to culturally-defined 
rules for handling. Therefore, museum officials reasonably believe that 
the jish is a sacred object.
    While the anthropological literature seems to be unanimous that 
jish are sacred objects, some scholars have suggested that they are 
alienable possessions. However, other scholars have documented that 
some Navajos consider certain bundles to be "indestructible property" 
that are "ultimately owned by a definable social group." Other 
researchers emphasize that the medicine ceremonies belong to all 
Navajos and the bundles are cared for by entire clans. Additionally, 
some of the earliest documented efforts to collect jish (by Washington 
Matthews in 1888 and Stewart Culin in 1903), demonstrate that Navajos 
traditionally view jish as inalienable. Moreover, the courts have 
established that jish should be considered objects of cultural 
patrimony. In United States v. Corrow, 119 F.3d 796 (10th Cir. 1997), 
cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1133 (1998), the court held that jish fall 
within NAGPRA's definition of object of cultural patrimony. During 
consultation, the Navajo Nation insisted that the jish is a kind of 
clan property. When a holder of the jish dies and does not have a son 
or student to pass them on to, the jish reverts back to the clan. 
Therefore, museum officials reasonably believe that the jish is also an 
object of cultural patrimony.
    Officials of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have determined 
that, pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 3001 (3)(C), the five cultural items are 
specific ceremonial objects needed by traditional Native American 
religious leaders for the practice of traditional Native American 
religions by their present-day adherents. Officials of the Denver 
Museum of Nature & Science have also determined that, pursuant to 25 
U.S.C. 3001 (3)(D), the five cultural items have ongoing historical, 
traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American 
group or culture itself, rather than property owned by an individual. 
Lastly, officials of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have 
determined that, pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 3001 (2), there is a 
relationship of shared group identity that can be reasonably traced 
between the sacred objects/objects of cultural patrimony and the Navajo 
Nation of Arizona, New Mexico & Utah.
    Representatives of any other Indian tribe that believes itself to 
be culturally affiliated with the sacred objects/objects of cultural 
patrimony should contact Dr. Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Curator of 
Anthropology, NAGPRA Officer, Department of Anthropology, Denver Museum 
of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80205, 
telephone (303) 370-6378, before January 8, 2010. Repatriation of the 
sacred objects/objects of cultural patrimony to the Navajo Nation of 
Arizona, New Mexico & Utah may proceed after that date if no additional 
claimants come forward.
    The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is responsible for notifying 
the Navajo Nation of Arizona, New Mexico & Utah that this notice has 
been published.

[[Page 65141]]

    Dated: November 9, 2009.
David Tarler,
Acting Manager, National NAGPRA Program.
[FR Doc. E9-29299 Filed 12-9-09; 8:45 am]


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