FR Doc E8-20109[Federal Register: August 29, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 169)]
[Page 50985-50986]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



National Park Service

Notice of Intent to Repatriate a Cultural Item: Denver Museum of 
Nature & Science, Denver, CO

AGENCY: National Park Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.
    Notice is here given in accordance with the Native American Graves 
Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 25 U.S.C. 3005, of the intent 
to repatriate a cultural item in the possession of the Denver Museum of 
Nature & Science, Denver, CO, which meets the definitions of "sacred 
object" and "object of cultural patrimony" under 25 U.S.C. 3001.
    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 
item. The National Park Service is not responsible for the 
determinations in this notice.
    The cultural item is a "piki stone" from the Pueblo of Cochiti, 
New Mexico (A661.1). The piki stone is a sandstone slab, measuring 
approximately 26 x 19 x 2 inches, with the top surface blackened from 
baking. On November 10, 1972, the museum purchased the stone for $150 
from Mr. Juan Melchoir of Cochiti Pueblo. Museum accession notes 
indicate that the stone dates to about 1930 and "was used by his 
family for several generations for baking piki bread." The stone has 
long been a part of the museum's "Hopi House" exhibit in the Crane 
American Indian Cultures Hall.
    During a consultation in the early 1990s, a group of council 
representatives from the Pueblo of Cochiti, New Mexico visited the 
museum and identified the stone as coming from the pueblo and 
determined that it was a sacred object and object of cultural 
patrimony; however, a formal claim was not officially submitted until 
2006. The claim states that the Pueblo of Cochiti believes the stone 
"was stored by Mr. Melchoir during remodeling phases of a traditional 
cooking building and sold to the individual who" sold it to the museum 
and could not have been alienated by Mr. Melchoir, and thus is an 
object of cultural patrimony. The formal claim also states that the 
stone "was used, and if repatriated would continue to be used, in 
traditional cooking ceremonies, conducted throughout the year by 
appointed Cochiti women, during times of traditional society events. 
These events involve many culturally sensitive ceremonies in which 
cooking, and piki bread, are of major significance to conduct the 
ceremony." Thus, the claim asserts that the stone is also a sacred 
    "Piki" is a borrowed Hopi term to describe the wafer bread, while 
some use the Tewa term guayave, or a variation thereof; and at Cochiti 
it is ma'tzin. At Cochiti, the "piki stone" itself is also referred 
to as a comal or yo'asha. The anthropology and documentary literature 
has little information about yo'asha at the Pueblo of Cochiti. The few 
references that could be found would suggest that such stones are 
"privately owned real property" which can be owned, exchanged, 
traded, purchased, and inherited. Although the tribe concurs that some 
stones are privately held, during consultation, the Pueblo of Cochiti 
offered compelling evidence that a few special ones are communally 
owned and are stored in communal piki houses. They are used by 
community members for specific ceremonies, thus making them objects of 
cultural patrimony and sacred objects. Because museum documentation 
states that the stone in this notice was sold by Mr. Melchoir, the 
Pueblo knows its history, and that it was used by the entire community 
for religious events. Mr. Melchoir was responsible for the piki house 
in which the stone was placed, but the tribe claims that the people 
knew it was a house for everyone. Each year, specific leaders are 
appointed to do things on behalf of the entire community. According to 
tribal consultation, currently there is one communal piki house with 
one stone, an example of a shared place for making ma'tzin for 
ceremonies. The stone in the museum's possession came from a house of 
this type, and if returned, will go back into this particular house.
    Anthropology and documentary literature does confirm that piki 
bread is used by many pueblos during religious ceremonies. For the 
people of Cochiti, ma'tzin was a traditional everyday foodstuff, but it 
was also eaten on religious feast days and for celebrations. The Pueblo 
of Cochiti concurs that ma'tzin was an everyday food item, but also 
emphasizes that it could have deep religious meanings at particular 
times and events. The Publeo of Chociti NAGPRA representative, Mr. Lee 
Suina, explained, "You can go to a restaurant and have wine and bread, 
but when you go to church and eat wine and bread, it has more meaning. 
Since we know the piki was for this specific reason, then it's special. 
It's not an everyday form of bread, in this case." Mr. Suina explained 
that prayers were likely offered when the stone was quarried, and 
prayers were offered when the stone was used to make ma'tzin for 
numerous ceremonies.
    Officials of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have determined 
that, pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 3001 (3)(C), the cultural item is a 
specific ceremonial object 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 cultural item has 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 which can be reasonably traced 
between the sacred object/object of cultural patrimony and the Pueblo 
of Cochiti, New Mexico.
    Representatives of any other Indian tribe that believes itself to 
be culturally affiliated with the sacred object/object of cultural 
patrimony should contact Dr. Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, Curator of 
Anthropology and NAGPRA Officer, Department of Anthropology, Denver 
Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Boulevard, Denver, CO 80205, 
telephone (303) 370-6378, before September 29, 2008. Repatriation of 
the sacred object/object of cultural patrimony to the Pueblo of 
Cochiti, New

[[Page 50986]]

Mexico may proceed after that date if no additional claimants come 
    The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is responsible for notifying 
the Pueblo of Cochiti, New Mexico that this notice has been published.

    Dated: August 4, 2008.
Sherry Hutt,
Manager, National NAGPRA Program.
[FR Doc. E8-20109 Filed 8-28-08; 8:45 am]


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