FROM THE ARCHIVE

Kennewick testing to begin

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APRIL 24, 2000

More testing on the 9,300 year old remains known as Kennewick Man will begin Tuesday, April 25, at the Burke Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Seattle. Rendition of Kennewick Man Clay model of Kennewick Man's skull. Photo © TCH Authorized by the Department of the Interior, a group of seven scientists will attempt to perform DNA and other tests on the remains. The results of the tests may demonstrate a link to present-day tribes in the Columbia River area where Kennewick Man was uncovered in 1996.

In January of this year, the DOI concluded the remains were Native American. Under NAGPRA, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, the bones could be repatriated to the five area tribes who believe he is an ancestor if a cultural affiliation can be demonstrated.

Cultural affiliation is defined as a relationship which can be traced historically or pre-historically between present day tribes and earlier ones, such as the one to which Kennewick Man belonged. It can be shown by DNA tests, oral history, kinship, biological, archaeological, linguistic, folklore, and other evidence.

NAGPRA itself is landmark legislation, the result of years of lobbying by Native rights advocates. Under the law, tribes and individual Native Americans have been able to reclaim items from museums and educational institutions throughout the country.

Nevertheless, complaints about the law come from all sides. Tribes often say the process is slow and that their rights are still ignored. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have opposed further testing on Kennewick Man, saying "scientists, with the assistance of the Department of the Interior, can abrogate [the] right to protect our ancestors."

Scientists, like the ones who had filed suit in the Kennewick case, say the government hinders the free exercise of their right to scientific inquiry.

The tribes and others have also suggested the new tests will not be conclusive, citing the difficult and reliability of testing bones the age of Kennewick Man. The DOI has until September to report on the findings of the team.

Staff and news wires contributed to this report.

Relevant Links:
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation
Kennewick Man from the Archaeology and Ethnography Program of the National Parks Service.
The Kennewick Man Virtual Interpretive Center by the Tri-City Herald.

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NAGPRA - The law and resources.
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