By Annette Cary, Herald senior writer
Federal legislation introduced
in the U.S. House on Wednesday by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., would protect the
opportunity for scientific study of ancient remains such as
He proposed the legislation in
response to a bill quietly approved by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
last month that
"This change, tucked into
what is being called a technical corrections bill, is very far from a minor
Video of his speech is available by visiting this link.
In 2004, eight years after the
9,300-year-old bones of Kennewick Man were found on the banks of the
The ruling found that Congress had intended the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA, to apply to remains only if a significant relationship could be shown to present-day tribes. NAGPRA was intended to return the remains of ancestors to tribes and protect tribal graves from looting.
This is the third time a change
has been proposed in the Senate that would broaden the definition of Native
American under the act to make it easier for the tribes to claim ancient bones.
And it's the second time
Rob Smith, a
"It can't undo what the courts decided in 2004," he said.
But it would have an effect on remains discovered in the future and "could make it easier for tribes to make claims to get remains back that currently are in an institution," he said.
"The 9th Circuit ruled on
what NAGPRA said today, not what it might say
tomorrow," said Todd Young,
The bill proposed by
According to the oral tradition of tribes that have made their home in the Mid-Columbia, they have been here since the beginning of time, making bones found here those of their ancestors.
But scientists who filed suit said Kennewick Man could not be linked to present-day tribes. Some suggested that rather than resembling Native Americans, the skeleton was more like the prehistoric Jomon of Japan or Polynesians or Caucasians.
"These remains are among
the oldest found in
"I hope the introduction of my legislation will help bring balance to what is being done on the other side of the Capitol, and that scientific inquiry is not extinguished through the quiet acts of the United States Senate," he said.