Friends of America's Past

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Status Report - August 1999

Friends of America's Past will be a year old in September, 1999. As we come to the end of our first year, we'd like to give you a brief update on the Kennewick Man lawsuit, report our progress, and summarize our goals for the coming year.

Update on the case

Three years have passed since the Kennewick Man was discovered scattered along the bank of the Columbia River. More than two years have passed since U.S. District Court Magistrate Jelderks directed the government to determine, among other things, if these remains are related to any living group and if the Bonnichsen plaintiffs will be allowed to study the skeleton. We seem to be no closer to a resolution.

The government defendants:

  • stated in February 1999 they would announce the results of their studies by May.
  • stated in April they would announce the results of their studies in June
  • stated in June that the scientific reports were under review by government officials, and that they would need more time for their review
  • stated on July 1, 1999, that additional tests are needed

However, the government defendants

  • have not sought independent scientific peer review of the February studies, a basic tenet of sound scientific practice
  • continue to ignore the court's direction to communicate with plaintiffs.
  • refuse to allow plaintiffs the right to study.
  • continue to run up a bill that was in excess of $1,000,000 at the close of 1998 ( taxpayers are paying this bill.

On August 3, 1999, plaintiffs' counsel filed a motion asking the Court to either (a) order the government to reach an immediate decision on whether plaintiffs will be allowed to study the skeleton, or (b) in the alternative, rule that the government's delays in addressing this question constitute a denial of plaintiffs' study request. If the Court decides that the government's delays do constitute such a denial, plaintiffs are requesting that the case stay be lifted so the denial can be reviewed. Judge Jelderks has scheduled oral arguments for September 14, 1999.

Our activities

To build an effective organization and to define the goals of Friends of America's Past, the four members of the Board meet regularly. After establishing Friends of America's Past as a nonprofit organization, we filed for and were granted tax-exempt status. We have established a brokerage account to accommodate gifts of stock and other securities.

Our primary focus to date has been to create an awareness of our efforts. To reach as many people as possible, while keeping expenses at a minimum, we developed a website. We have had more than 1,500 visits to the site, with more than 300 people taking the time to comment via email or request additional information about our organization. Messages have come from across the country and around the world, from England to Australia. We welcome all opinions, and we are encouraged so many people care about the prehistory of this continent. If you are aware of other websites that may be interested in linking with our site, please send us your suggestions.

We have developed two brochures and, with your help, have distributed more than 3,000 of these across the nation to various interested groups, museums, and at public presentations given by professionals in the field of anthropology. We have published articles in newsletters, newspapers, and magazines, which include ACPAC Newsletter, the Anthropology Newsletter, Ohio State Archeology Magazine, and the Oregonian newspaper. If you would be willing to help us distribute our brochures to local libraries, museums, or organizations, please let us know. We can supply as many as you can pass along.

Our various board members have attended (at their own expense) national meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Northwest Archeology Society, the Association of Oregon Archeologists, and the Oregon Archeology Society. In addition, we attended the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs hearing on NAGPRA in Washington DC (April, 1999) and the NAGPRA Review Committee public hearings in Portland, Oregon (December, 1998) and Silver Spring, Maryland (May, 1999).

This spring we gave a public presentation for the Mount Hood School District Adult Education lecture series. Our public school visits include a presentation to the 7th Grade at the Rocky Run Middle School in Chantilly, Virginia, and a special presentation to students at the Rock Creek Elementary School in Hillsboro, Oregon.

We have presentations scheduled in the fall for the City of Woodburn, Oregon and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry during Oregon Archeology week. We are facilitating the Peopling of the New World poster session for the Clovis and Beyond Symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico in October 1999, and will distribute Friends of America's Past literature at the conference. If you are aware of other venues who would be interested in our views, please contact us.

We have not made any attempt to calculate the number of hours the Board has spent on these activities, but would estimate that it exceeds 1000 hours since the organization was founded.


In the past ten months we have received 52 contributions ranging from $10 to $500 from supporters in 20 states and Canada. The average contribution is approximately $75. Our goals for the coming year focus on increasing the awareness of our efforts. We will appreciate your suggestions and assistance in helping us identify potential sponsors and to expand our network of contributors.


Our Board members volunteer their time, travel, and the day-to-day expenses to run Friends of America's Past, which have included the first year rental our mailbox, establishing the website, copying, printing, postage, and supplies. We have spent $460 for printing our most recent brochures.

Our plans for your contributions

We are saving the contributions we've received in anticipation of events to come. Based on the government's resistance and stonewalling during the past three years, we do not anticipate a speedy resolution of this case. We are preparing to assist in these ways:

  • To support future travel related to the case.

    To date, travel expenses have been paid for by the individual plaintiffs and other scientific experts. For example, in 1998 Dr. Douglas Owsley paid for three trips to Portland, Oregon, from Washington D.C. in less than six months, including airfare, hotel, and food. The purpose of these trips was to testify in the May, 1998 hearing; to participate in a June 1998 mediation session with the government; and to conduct the independent, court-ordered inventory of the skeleton while it was stored in Richland, Washington in October, 1998. Dr. Thomas Stafford, geochemist from Boulder, Colorado, also testified in May, 1998 and traveled at his own expense.

    The eight plaintiffs live in Arizona, Tennessee , Texas, Michigan, the Washington D.C. area, Wyoming, and Oregon. Other experts who may be called for testimony live in Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, and Washington. If multiple trips are required for these individuals over the course of the lawsuit, we hope to offer assistance in as many ways as we can.

  • To obtain documents and scientific publications needed to prepare for the case.

    Although the various agencies are required to disclose information related to the case under the discovery process and the Freedom of Information Act, they also pass along the cost of reproducing these documents. In addition, significant efforts will continue to gather a wide range of scientific information as the plaintiffs' attorneys prepare for the case. While we can freely donate our time to assist in the case, the out-of-pocket expenses continue.

  • To support expenses and tests related to the study of the skeleton, when permission is granted.

    We continue to be optimistic that permission to study will be granted. Our goal is to provide funds to assist scientists to thoroughly and efficiently conduct their studies and to make the information available to the public in a timely manner.

Our goals for the coming year include:

  • Keeping you and the public informed of our activities and events related to the Kennewick Man lawsuit via our website.
  • Expanding our network of contributors and supporters.
  • Identifying at least one sponsor.
  • Identifying writers with a science background to write articles for publication on our website and in other media
  • Creating an educational video
  • Increasing public awareness of the issues raised by the Kennewick Man lawsuit by writing articles, making public presentations, attending conferences and public hearings, and other similar efforts.

Thank you for your support in making our first year a success. We welcome your comments and suggestions.

Cleone Hawkinson, President
Beth Walton, Secretary
Alison Stenger, Treasurer
Alan Schneider, Director
Friends of America's Past August 1999

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