- After six grinding years of legal wrangling, a federal
judge late Friday ruled that scientists will be allowed to study the 9,300-year-old
skeleton called Kennewick Man.
- The action, taken by U.S. Magistrate John Jelderks of
U.S. District Court in Portland, denies five Northwest tribes' affiliation
with Kennewick Man and their plea to bury his bones. Jelderks said there
was insufficient evidence to show any cultural link as required by federal
- Jelderks set aside a decision made two years ago by Bruce
Babbitt, former secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, that
the remains should be turned over to the tribes. Jelderks called Babbitt's
finding "arbitrary and capricious."
- "I conclude that the evidence before the secretary
was insufficient to establish cultural affiliation by a preponderance of
the evidence," Jelderks wrote.
- Tribal members were devastated.
- "It's about as unjust a decision as I can think
of in America," said Don Sampson, director of the Columbia Intertribal
Fish Commission and former chairman of the Umatilla tribes. "This
country belonged to Native Americans. We have been dispossessed of our
own country. Now we are dispossessed of our ancestors."
- The judge also issued a sharp rebuke to the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers for allowing Kennewick Man's discovery site to be buried
before it could be thoroughly studied. He said agency decision-makers had
secretly met with tribal representatives and furnished them with letters
and documents while refusing to let the scientists have access to information.
- Decisions made by the federal agencies "were not
made by neutral and unbiased decision-makers in a fair process. . . . ,"
Jelderks wrote. "Allowing study is fully consistent with applicable
statutes and regulations, which are clearly intended to make archaeological
information available to the public through public research."
- The judge gave the scientists -- a group of eight anthropologists
-- 45 days to submit a study plan to the Interior Department.
- "That's terrific, I'm delighted," said Rob
Bonnichsen, one of the eight anthropologists who filed the suit.
- "This has been a long process, and we have been
convinced from the first that the federal law involving these remains was
not being followed," said Bonnichsen, an anthropology professor who
recently left Oregon State University to accept a post at Texas A&M
- Sampson said the case was an international human rights
issue. "We pursued this because of our religious obligation to provide
for our ancestors' remains. We're obligated, religiously and morally, to
do that. Only native people are treated this way in America.
- "We've been dealing with archaeologists digging
up our remains for so long, this is just another slap in the face."
- Federal attorneys were not available for comment. Dana
Perino, a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said attorneys
would review the ruling before commenting.
- Oldest, most complete remains Kennewick Man -- called
"the Ancient One" by tribes -- is a collection of 380 bones and
bone fragments that were found on the banks of the Columbia River at Kennewick,
Wash., in July 1996.
- The legal dispute erupted shortly after a radiocarbon
date determined the skeletal remains were those of a man who died 9,300
years ago. Kennewick Man is the oldest, most complete set of remains ever
found in the Northwest.
- The eight anthropologists sued the Army Corps of Engineers
in 1996 after the agency indicated that it would turn the bones over to
the tribes. The scientists argued that they had a right to study the ancient
remains to glean information about the Northwest's earliest inhabitants.
- The tribes -- the Colville, Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce
and Wanapum -- say the remains are those of an ancestor who should be turned
over to them for burial.
- The Interior Department entered the fray in 1998 after
Jelderks ordered the corps to reassess its decision. Officials with the
National Park Service conducted several scientific tests, including radiocarbon
tests that supported the 9,300-year age and DNA tests that were unsuccessful.
Jelderks heard final oral arguments 14 months ago and pored through 22,000
pages of court documents before reaching a ruling.
- Although the dispute won worldwide attention because
of its "scientists versus tribes" aspect, the legal case focused
on details of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation
Act, or Nagpra. The law requires tribal representatives filing claims to
the remains to show that the tribe is culturally affiliated with the ancient
individual's group. Jelderks said the requirement wasn't met.
- The scientists maintained it is virtually impossible
for a modern tribe to show affiliation with an individual who lived more
than 450 generations ago, especially one found with no artifacts except
a spearpoint in his pelvis.
- They argued that Kennewick Man's long, narrow skull and
other physical charac teristics do not match those of modern Native Americans.
Federally appointed anthropologists reported that the skull features are
not similar to those of any modern human population, but are closest to
Polynesians and the Ainu people of Japan. ___
- Kennewick Man's bones are being stored at the Burke Museum
- Richard L. Hill 503-221-8238 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Michael Milstein of The Oregonian staff contributed to
- © 2002 OregonLive.com. All Rights Reserved.
- From Tib Terry 8-31-2
- When Sen. John McCain and other so-called 'leaders' passed
the 1990 Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)
in a successful effort to block ALL DNA and study of human remains and
related archeological sites predating 1492 -- declaring by law all pre-1492
remains to be *Native Americans* despite mounting evidence they were White,
the Kennewick Man law suit became the major challenge to the anti-Truth
- Yesterday, the Federal Government lost its case (funded
by millions of our tax dollars)!
- It may be too late for the Kennewick Man, however. While
in the government's 'care', his bones were lost, ground up to smithereens,
and possibly even replaced by other remains. But recent discoveries of
European and Welsh artifacts and remains give us hope the Truth Will Out
and the origins of ancient Americans will become known.