"What the tribes want now is
just to have a seat at the table," Smith said. "They want to know
what's going on. That is a right that is being denied them by both the
scientists and the United States."
Scientists begin probe of
SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- Scientists Wednesday began studying the
9,300-year-old remains of Kennewick Man, one of the oldest and most
complete skeletons ever found in North America -- and focus of a long
legal battle between researchers and Northwest Indian tribes.
The remains have been under lock and key since 1998 at the University
of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. A group of
11 researchers from around the country has gathered for the first
comprehensive study of the remains, which include more than 300 bones.
The research has been fiercely opposed by four Northwest tribes -- the
Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Colville -- which wanted the bones
reburied without scientific scrutiny.
The tribes claimed they were entitled to the bones under the Native
American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
"We just want this person returned so he can be properly reburied,"
said Debra Croswell, a spokeswoman for the Confederated Tribes of the
Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon.
In February 2004, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals -- backing an earlier decision by a federal judge ruled in
favor of eight anthropologists who filed a lawsuit seeking to study the
remains. The panel decided there was no link between the skeleton and
Archaeologists and anthropologists will take measurements and record
observations during the 10-day study, attempting to unravel the mystery
of how Kennewick Man died and what sort of effects nature had on his
None of the scientists was available for comment, said Burke Museum
spokesman Mary Anne Barron.
Scientists last month took scans of the skull and the pelvis, which has
a spearhead embedded in it, and created a three-dimensional picture
that has been used to construct models of the bones.
The models will be used for additional research and to minimize impact
to the actual skeleton. Samples taken from fragments of the leg during
government studies in 1999 and 2000 will again be analyzed in the
Scientists have until July 15 to complete the study; the bones will
then be returned to a secure facility at the museum, said Nola Leyde,
an Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman in Seattle. The Corps owns the
property along the Columbia River near Kennewick where the skeleton was
An appeal in the legal battle by the Yakama, Umatilla and Nez Perce
tribes remain pending; a decision isn't expected until next spring,
said Rob Roy Smith, a Seattle attorney for the Confederated Tribes of
the Colville Indian Reservation.
A favorable ruling for the tribes could give them control of what
ultimately happens to the remains.
Legislation also remains under consideration in the Senate that would
allow federally recognized tribes to claim ancient remains even if they
cannot prove a link to a current tribe.
"What the tribes want now is just to have a seat at the table," Smith
said. "They want to know what's going on. That is a right that is being
denied them by both the scientists and the United States."
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