Thursday, January 06, 2005


WHAT HAPPENED: A federal judge in Portland has denied a request by four Northwest tribes to take part in a plan to study the 9,300-year-old skeleton called Kennewick Man.


Magistrate John Jelderks of the U.S. District Court ruled last month that the Nez Perce, Colville, Umatilla and Yakama tribes would not be allowed to participate in negotiations between scientists and federal agencies in studying the remains.


BACKGROUND: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year backed a decision by Jelderks to allow a group of scientists to study the bones, which are being stored at the Burke Museum in Seattle. Eight anthropologists sued the federal government eight years after federal agencies had determined that Kennewick Man should be turned over to tribes for burial.


Jelderks said the tribes' continued effort to participate in the case "constitutes an attempt to litigate matters that have been previously decided in favor of the plaintiff scientists."


WHAT'S NEXT: Rob Roy Smith, a Seattle attorney representing the tribes, said several options are being considered, including an appeal to the circuit court.


"The tribes have a legal right to be consulted and play a role in crafting the study plan," Smith said. "The tribes are discouraged but not defeated. The tribes remain hopeful that they will be included in discussions with the United States and the scientists, and that they will eventually have the remains of their ancestor returned to them." -- Richard L. Hill


Copyright 2005 Oregon Live. All Rights Reserved.