Kennewick Man History and legalities

Essay by BocephusUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, April 2002

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The Kennewick Man Trials and Tribulations

On July 28, 1996 a human skull was found along the banks of the Columbia River at Kennewick, Washington ( 2002, 1). This skull would lead to the discovery of a complete skeleton with characteristics of a Caucasian male. The significance of this discovery is that it's dated to between 9,300 and 9,600 years ago, making it one of the earliest skeletons found in the United States and the second oldest found in Washington ( 2002, 1). With this great archeological find controversy was soon to follow. The skeleton was found on a portion of the Colombian River maintained by the United Sates Marine Corps of Engineers, but also part of the traditional home of the Umatilla tribe. According to federal law these remains must be returned to the Umatilla people, but things weren't that easily solved.

On Thursday, January 13, 2000 it was announced that studies of the Kennewick Man were complete and dated to 9,320 and 9,510 years old, making it Native American therefore making it subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) which refers to defining the term Native American, and who remains found to be Native American should belong to (

2002, 1). In a letter to the Corps of Engineers the National Park Service said that the remains would be subject to NAGPRA, thus giving the remains to the tribe indigenous to the Kennewick Man. The problem is finding the modern day tribe that is the direct descendant of the Kennewick Man. At the present time there are five tribes claiming the Kennewick man to be their ancestor, the Umatilla, Colville, Wanapum, Nez Perce, and Yakama ( Patterson, 1).

The next step in this case was to scientifically find who the actual descendants of...