Friends of America's Past provides information about the
Kennewick Man lawsuit and studies, news of other ancient remains, a variety
of views on these issues, and how you can help meet the challenge
to our rights to learn about America's prehistory.
News & Comment
The recent press coverage has misunderstood, and thus mislead the public on the significance of the DNA results of the Kennewick man and completely forgotten the reason for the plaintiff's lawsuit. The scientists brought the lawsuit with the Army Corps of Engineers because the ACOE failed to IMPLEMENT the requirements of NAGPRA: First to identify the prior group to which the remains belonged and second, a continuous and unique relationship to the claiming group. The definition of a NA in NAGPRA is far more limited than the cultural meanings we understand today. Two courts upheld the right to study because the Army Corps had not even tried and essentially had no way to determine if the Kennewick remains met the requirements of NAGPRA.
The Owsley Jantz book documents the results of more than 32 scientific studies conducted in 2005-6. These scientists were not allowed to do DNA. The book concludes with the expectation that the remains would likely show a COMMON ANCESTOR to modern NA, should DNA ever be allowed.
Dr. Willerslev, from the Danish lab was surprisingly allowed to do the DNA, and 'recommended' the remains be given to the Colville on the basis of N=2 Colville DNA with extremely limited matches. This recommendation was premature at best. Poor science in reality. With little comparative tribal DNA available, no one knows yet how many other tribes might also show that relationship.
NAGPRA requires a 'special and unique' relationship for a tribe's claim to be honored. DNA results have not shown either. Further, one cannot expect ancient DNA to ever satisfy NAGPRA's requirement for remains this ancient. DNA is a helpful piece of evidence to add to an ever broadening body of factual information about America's prehistory and the complex ways in which the Americas became home to a variety of travelers.
We offer an opinion in the Seattle Times concerning the U.S. Army Corps Engineers' handling of human skeletal remains recently found on the Columbia River [posted 9/15/09]
How to Help
News & Comment
Documents related to NAGPRA 2010 regulations for the disposition of culturally unidentified remains.
NEW: Letter from the American Association of Museums [posted 6/7/10]
Directors of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Indian and the National Musuem of Natural History, and 41 prominent scientists (all members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences) weigh in AGAINST the DOI's FInal Rule.
MORE: a growing list of related articles and testimony.