Rob Roy Smith, a Seattle attorney who represented the tribes in
the fight over Kennewick Man, said Native Americans would still have to
demonstrate a "cultural affiliation" with any human remains they claim.
And the new wording would not apply retroactively to Kennewick Man.
"I think what you're hearing is nothing more than a scare tactic," he
Friday, July 15, 2005 - 12:00 AM
THE SEATTLE TIMES
A model of Kennewick Man's skull, accurate to within less than a
hundredth of an inch, was created from a CT scan.
Fate of Kennewick Man study unclear
By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times staff reporter
As they wrapped up initial studies on Kennewick Man
yesterday, scientists already were planning a follow-up session — and
hoping a proposed change in federal law won't rob them of the chance to
continue working with one of the oldest, best-preserved human skeletons
in North America.
"I personally feel a great sense of urgency," said
Cleone Hawkinson, president of Friends of America's Past, a group
formed to help scientists in their nine-year legal battle to win the
right to study the 9,300-year-old bones.
On July 28, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee will
hear testimony on a proposal by Arizona Sen. John McCain to expand the
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The federal law
requires human remains be returned to Native American tribes that can
demonstrate some kinship to them.
Shortly after two hydroplane fans stumbled across
the skeleton on the banks of the Columbia River in 1996, four Northwest
Indian tribes claimed the bones of what they call The Ancient One.
Anthropologists sued, arguing it is impossible to establish lineage
thousands of years in the past.
Federal courts sided with the scientists, who
gathered at the University of Washington's Burke Museum of Natural
History and Culture over the past 10 days to begin their analysis of
McCain wants to amend a section of the law that
defines human remains as Native American if they are "of or relating to
a tribe, a people or a culture that is indigenous" to the United
States. He would add the words "or was" before the word indigenous.
Hawkinson says the change would make it impossible
to study the earliest inhabitants of North America.
"American archaeology would come to a standstill,"
Tribes could even re-assert their claim to Kennewick
Man, she said.
Rob Roy Smith, a Seattle attorney who represented
the tribes in the fight over Kennewick Man, said Native Americans would
still have to demonstrate a "cultural affiliation" with any human
remains they claim. And the new wording would not apply retroactively
to Kennewick Man.
"I think what you're hearing is nothing more than a
scare tactic," he said.
The archaeologists and anthropologists who have been
cataloging the bones will compile their results in a report in October,
said team leader Doug Owsley, head of physical anthropology at the
Among other things, they will answer the question of
whether the man was intentionally buried or simply covered with silt.
Plastic models of the skull and hip will be shipped
to the Smithsonian, where casts will be taken to create additional
models, said David Hunt, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian.
The plastic models, accurate to within less than a
hundredth of an inch, were created from three-dimensional CT scans. The
$20,000 process was paid for by Seattle scientist Nathan Myhrvold,
former chief technical officer for Microsoft and an amateur
The next phase of studies, which should start
sometime this year, will involve detailed analysis of the skeleton's
hands, feet and musculature. Scientists also will compare skull
measurements to populations around the world and through time to see
who the skeleton most closely resembles.
Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company