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Judge rules tribes can appeal ruling on ancient skeleton
Tuesday, October 22, 2002
By WILLIAM MCCALL
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal judge has ruled that American Indian
tribes can appeal his earlier order to let scientists study an
ancient skeleton known as Kennewick Man, officials said Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate John Jelderks in August had overturned a decision by
former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt to give the 9,000-year-old
remains to Indian tribes for reburial.
Jelderks instead ordered the federal government to let scientists
examine the skeleton discovered along the banks of the Columbia River
in central Washington state in hopes of finding clues about how the
first people arrived in America.
But on Monday, Jelderks held a status conference on the case and
decided to allow several Indian tribes to intervene in the lawsuit.
"I can't say for certain at this point that we will appeal, but
chances are pretty good," said Debra Croswell, spokeswoman for the
Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern
Government attorneys have said they are considering an appeal but no
decision had been reached by Tuesday, said Charles Miller, a Justice
Department spokesman in Washington, D.C.
The government has until Oct. 29 to decide whether to appeal the
original Jelderks order allowing scientific study of the skeleton,
"We're certainly going to encourage the federal government to file an
appeal as well," Croswell said.
Other Northwest tribes interested in joining an appeal are the Nez
Perce, the Yakama, Colville and Wanapum, she said.
Alan Schneider, the attorney for the scientists who sued the Interior
Department to allow them to study the bones, said that allowing the
tribes to intervene could delay resolution of the lawsuit another two
to four years.
"We had hoped we would be able to get in and study it this spring,
before some of the plaintiffs retire," Schneider said. "But in all
probability, this will mean the skeleton will remain unstudied for a
number of years."
Efforts to reach some of the scientists involved in the lawsuit since
it was filed shortly after the bones were discovered in 1996 were
In his ruling in August, Jelderks harshly criticized the Interior
Department and the Army Corps of Engineers -- which manages Columbia
River navigation -- for the way they handled they case, saying the
federal government failed to consider scientific evidence and legal
questions before Babbitt announced his decision to return the bones
to the tribes.
Jelderks said that, after six years and wading through 20,000 pages
of documents filed in the case, he could find "nothing" to support
the government decision.
The skeleton is called the "Ancient One" by Northwest tribes, who had
argued the skeleton was an ancestor protected by the Native American
Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The bones are being stored at the Burke Museum in Seattle pending the
outcome of the case.
Posted by Ishgooda -- Native News Online
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