Scientists Win
Kennewick Man Lawsuit
By Richard L. Hill
The Oregonian

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 law.
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 University.
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 in Seattle.
Richard L. Hill 503-221-8238
Michael Milstein of The Oregonian staff contributed to this report.
© 2002 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 NAGPRA law.
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.


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