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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
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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