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Seattle Times Editorial: "Probing the mystery of Kennewick Man"

Thursday, September 05, 2002

"U.S. Magistrate John Jelderks gave the federal government every chance to make its case that the 9,400-year-old remains known as Kennewick Man should be turned over to tribes for burial.

In the end, Jelderks sided with the plaintiffs, well- credentialed scientists who have been seeking to study the bones almost since they were discovered in Columbia River shallows six years ago. Although, typically, the judge would remand the case for a fair decision to the agency with jurisdiction, Jelderks concluded the government first the Army Corps of Engineers and later the Department of Interior was incapable of doing so because of its history of less-than-neutral shenanigans in this important case.

Jelderks rejected claims of the government and tribes that the remains fall under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) simply because of their age, that they were found on federal property and that the tribes' oral traditions mention no migration stories.

Interior ignored anthropological findings that the remains' features were different from modern Native Americans. The study suggested they more closely resemble groups of Polynesia and the Ainu of Japan a finding that bolstered the scientists' suggestion that Kennewick Man might shed some light on theories that early America was peopled by immigrants who traveled from Asia over a land bridge.

While NAGPRA is important legislation that protects remains and artifacts of Native Americans, Kennewick Man as science and Jelderks found is clearly in a different category."

Copyright 2002 The Seattle Times

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