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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

The Bones of The Kennewick Man

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Kevin P. Casey/Associated Press, DR. DOUGLAS W. OWSLEY EXPLAINS THE EXACT MODEL OF THE SKULL AND HIP FROM THE KENNEWICK MAN (2000). Courtesy of AP/Wideworld.

Creator Kevin Casey/The Associated Press
Context The scientific discovery of the complete skeleton of a man who inhabited the Columbia River basin 9,000 years ago near Kennewick, Washington
Audience Readers of Associated Press newspapers
Purpose To examine the legal case over the rights of scientists to study the bones for the advancement of knowledge versus the individual rights and group rights of Native Americans to claim the remains as a member who belonged to the tribe

Historical Significance

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which required the return of all remains and artifacts discovered on federal lands if Native Americans tribes could prove it belonged to them. Five Native American tribes (the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama, Wannapum, and Colville) challenged the legality of forensic anthropologists to keep the remains of "Kennewick Man," and demanded repatriation in 1996 so that he could receive a traditional tribal burial. For Native Americans, the issue was about identity as a basis for the rights of groups. In 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the five Native American tribes had not established a cultural link to the skeleton and allowed the scientists to continue their scientific study.

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