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Student Forum

Comments are grouped by article. All comments are from students in Dr. Ken Tankersley's Introduction to Archaeology class at Kent State Univesity. (posted as received)

Miscellaneous comments

Winter 2001

Name Withheld

First of all after reading this article [An Editorial worth reading], I must .say that I am very uneducated on the subject of ancient civilizations and American Indian culture, so please excuse any ignorant mistakes or incorrect assumptions I may make. The one major flaw I saw in the article (or the one major point I missed) was that it failed to explain what reason the government would have for covering up the true peopling of America. I guess what this article really comes down to is the question of what is an Indian. This question is not so easily answered though, as Indians themselves are not even really at all what they're name says. Actually, if a tribe of "non-Indian" peoples were to have traveled across the Bering Land Bridge, or lived in America before "real American Indians" arrived, why would they be considered non Indians? Indians are after all divided among many tribes, whose to say that an Asian tribe which had come to America and settled is not then American? After all, we consider a child born in America a U.S. citizen nowadays. It's just a matter of opinion. Maybe all of that's silly, but this article seems somewhat silly also. It seems both sides in the argument are being stubborn and inconsiderate of the others views. As for rights of the Indians versus Rights of the rest of us, I strongly disagree with the article. It says that the Indians beliefs that they were the first inhabitants of this land has religious ties, and that they believe they don't need science to tell them who the ancient remains are, but that the rest of the public does. I don't believe that is the case. We, the general public do not necessarily need to know this. Of course the article may mean the scientific community by "We" but that is exactly what this article comes down to: Science versus Religion. It's a topic too broad to really argue and far too broad to cover in one page. In closing I guess all I can say is that I think we could probably learn a great deal from the remains that are being buried but views of certain cultures must be respected, so I guess I have nothing different to offer on the subject.

Joe Clantz

In the response to the article on the Kennewick man, all I can say is silly. I understand that people feel the need to give their loved ones the proper burial. But the native Americans are acting like they knew this guy. They are not even sure if this man was part of their tribe, or even a native at all. In my opinion the skeletal remains should be further studied, and all the information that can be gained by them should be. If the archaeologists find that the remains are from a native then the remains should be given to the natives. The fact that the government is so quick to give up the skeleton is almost scary. It almost looks as if they are trying to cover something up. (It's Roswell all over again.) I think the government almost seems like it knows something they don't want anyone to find out. Being a government employee myself, I don't trust them.

If I were the ghost of the Kennewick man I would not mind being examined. If your going to possibly advance the way the world thinks you probably would not be against it. I know we have taken many things from the native Americans, but aren't they taking this a little too far. I'm not trying to be biased or anything, but it sounds like they are just being spiteful. The Europeans took their land, and that is their biggest gripe about them. We have been pretty awful to the native Americans, taking their land, killing off the majority of their people, naming sports teams after them. But I think on this issue they are just being childish.

Jarrod Grimm
Review of the Kennewick Man

The remains of the Kennewick Man seem to be in a constant debate. On one side there are the five tribes of Native Americans who want nothing to do with the scientific analysis, but only to put their Kennewik Man back to rest with their funeral rituals. Joining these beliefs is Secretary Bruce Babbit who has instructed the United States Corp of Engineers to return the remains to the tribes. This particular Corp currently has custody of the remains.

On the other hand there are the scientists who believe that the remains could open doors to this nations past that have never been able to explore. This is due to the absence of any remains dating back to then. With this idea I am in agreement with. This is our one chance to see truthfully who walked our land dating back this far. This find that dates back only four years is going through court again and again to decide where it will end up. It is irrelevant that sooner or later it will end up with Ancestors of Indian tribes whether or not the Kennewik mans genetics are those of Indian or not.

The plaintiffs are on the side of making sure that the Kennewik Man is not of a different descent. Which in my opinion is the reasonable way to go. The research that I read stated that it is not for sure that these remains come from Native American Ancestors. It seems to me that giving up something with this much importance without a good fight seems ridiculous. To just assume and hand this historical moment over to the Native Americans does not seem fair. There are those who have spent their entire lives figuring out what this one human remain could possibly start the tracks to a whole new way of going about our American history.

On the other side of the courtroom I can certainly understand that the Native Americans want the tampering to end. It would be important to my family and myself if it were in fact an ancestor of ours, to once again put the body to rest. But ultimately, I would, and I say it again, want to "IN FACT " make sure that it was an ancestor.

John Joyce
The Kennewick man is a very controversial issue that has a lot of people thinking deeply about what the final outcome should be over 9,000 year old body.

In the first article that I read, Bruce Babbit instructed the U.S. army which has legal custody over the remains to give it back to the Native Americans, so they can give it an appropriate burial. In the article they said that Babbit was influenced by the Native Americans stories and by geographic data. In my opinion the stories can only be taken for what they are, "stories, " I mean no disrespect but without written documents of the events that maintain constant until proven wrong, how could you be sure that the story has not been changed by word of mouth which happens pretty often in every day life.

The article went on to say that in the little time the scientists had to observe the body, they found significant evidence that the body may not be from the Native America origin. It is no wonder that the Native Americans fought and won over the scientists doing D.N.A. test on the bones. If what the scientists suspect is true, it would mean that the Native Americans were not the first to settle here, rather the Europeans, which the scientists suspect the Kennewick, mans ancestral origin is.

The Native Americans do have the right to the bones if they are in fact bones of their people, and I totally agree with that it is part of their religion and religion is very important part of people's life. I just don't think it is right for the army to disregard scientific study and go by what people have believed and talked about the past, after all that is their job and profession.

Kent State student

I think that any case like that of Kennewick man would be hard to decide. I think that archaeology is a noble profession, only trying to find out about a past that could tell us why we're here today. I don't believe that archaeologists are the grave robbers that many Native Americans characterize them as. Part of the main problem in the Kennewick man debate is religious beliefs versus scientific beliefs, and problems like that have been around forever and not been solved. I believe that clashes like this are just misunderstandings on both sides, and neither side is truly willing to indepthly look at the other side of the issue. Granted, archaeological research is by far one of the most important, and growing bodies of research in the world. We have learned more about our past from archaeologists in the past 100 years than many people ever thought possible. I think that the biggest problem that stems from this, however, is that these new findings can change the way the world sees our first settlers, and can change opinions about Native Americans. I think that change scares many of the Native American tribes because it challenges their history, as well as their religion. If Kennewick man is allowed to be studied, and it is discovered that he was a Caucasian, it could turn the Native American world upside down, and knock them out of their place in history. I can certainly see why they are afraid, but I think that what they are trying to do in this case is wrong, just as it was wrong of the Army Corps of Engineers to destroy the Kennewick site. I think that a lot of what has gone on in this case is simply a battle of emotions and a battle of wills. I have great respect for Native Americans; however, I think that we all have the right to learn about our country's heritage

Name Withheld

On one hand you have ancient skeletal remains that could be a decedent of Native Americans. Therefore, you must have respect towards the ancestral tribe it's affiliated with. However, on the other hand you got one of the most significant archaeological finds that could reveal many unanswered questions about Americas past. This ancient artifact requires scientific investigation and should not be prohibited form the public eye. Many people think it's the Indians that have the sole right to Kennewick Man. This is not true. The skeletal remains are human without a doubt. I believe that the remains are apart of the human historical race and should be studied and examined to get a better understanding of who we are. The skeletal remains could give insight into whether Kennewick Man is Native American or Asian. An in depth investigation should be conducted to trace the skeletal material to its cultural origins. Anything that is beneficial towards the betterment of understanding the origins of our human race I totally advocate completely. Scientists should be able to study skeletal remains that raises questions about our past. I believe in protecting the rights of an individual or of a group, but should we ignore and prohibit the study of ancient artifacts every time cultural material remains are uncovered? Should scientists have to go through unnecessary bureaucratic boundaries and processes before anything can be done? I feel that the Army Corps of Engineers were wrong for destroying the site and that archaeological investigations should have been done on the skeletal remains to provide information on the origins of Kennewick Man.

Name Withheld

Everyone wants to know his or her history. Something that sounds so simple should be that simple. I think that activists and American Indians are just afraid of knowing their history, because they are entitled to so much from the government based on what we already know of it. If a woman on her period could somehow hurt a bundle of bones or remains, I'd like to know how. We as Americans are told to end discrimination, and racism. Why is there an exception for American Indians? Why are they aloud to discriminate against women? Are the Indians not Americans too? Why do they get to discriminate without any consequences? If Other Americans were to do that we'd be in court, and possibly loose our jobs. They, the American Indians, are just afraid of finding out that they were not the first culture of people Native to America. They are entitled, as a minority to receive government assistance, reservations and by claiming the "past remains" of their culture, they think they get to claim the rights on how to excavate it too. I think that is unfair. I doubt that a hundred years ago or a hundred thousand years ago that Indians were buried in flannel without menstruating women around. The activists and the American Indians just want all the glory.

Half of my family is native to Italy, and the other half is Blackfoot Indian, French, and German. Does that mean that I can claim Blackfoot Indian remains because the tribe is in my blood? If not then why not? I would be entitled to it too, even if I didn't practice the same religion. American Indians religions are different than most. I think that they are imposing their religion and culture too much on other people. If Archaeologists are not aloud to practice what they wish by excavating to learn about history, then why are the Indians allowed to practice and preach their wishes? Isn't that considered harassment? If they are not working and digging along with everybody else, and they shouldn't be paid to sit and "over see" the project either. They are using the government by sitting and watching the archaeologists every move. The American Indians are abusing their right to religion and their beliefs.

It's unfair to me to deny me my history. I may have Indian blood in my veins, though very little, I believe that the remains belong in a museum. I'd be proud to know all that I could about my ancestors, and most of all I would be awe-struck to see someone who once had paved the very road of my existence. It is unfair for them to deny me my past. Things and times have changed, and I think that the American race is now the minority.

Scott Bauder

John Locke stated that every person has certain inalienable rights including: Life, Liberty, and Property. It is my firm belief that Knowledge should be included among these inalienable rights. Even though not all human beings practice it, rational thinking is the characteristic of every human being that separates us from the other creatures of the earth. Knowledge is a result of rational thinking. Since every person has the ability to think rationally every person should have a right to knowledge. Since the government has cut off the archaeologist's access to the Kennewick man they have cut off access to the knowledge about America's past that the skeleton would have provided. Since the right to knowledge can be considered among the inalienable rights that the United States of America was built upon it can also be considered that the government has alienated the rights that it was created to protect.

NAGPRA, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, is a fine law and I agree that the rightful descendants of the Kennewick man should have the remains the right to do with those remains what they see fit. According to the article NAGPRA is also supposed to allow the scientific community access to the remains so that it can be determined if the groups that are claiming "cultural affiliation" to the Kennewick man are truly descendants of him. The fact that the Army Corps of Engineers did not allow the archaeologists access to the remains of Kennewick man to perform even the necessary tests that are required by the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act to determine "cultural affiliation" further shows that the government is only concerned with looking good to the American Indian population. It also shows that the government has no care for the vital clues that the Kennewick man could provide about our country's past and that it has no respect for the inalienable right to knowledge that is shared by the rest of the American population. Additionally, the fact that the Army Corps of Engineers dumped tons of dirt and gravel upon the site of Kennewick man's discovery just further proves the government's lack of respect for rights of the American population.

The Army Corps of Engineers should be thoroughly investigated to determine why it didn't follow the rules set down by NAGPRA and why they decided to destroy the archaeological gold mine along the Columbia River. Furthermore, the remains should be turned over to the archaeologists that wish to study them so that the "cultural affiliation" of the Kennewick man can be discovered and further information about America's history can be obtained.

Sean Donohue writes

I chose to read the artical titled "From timothy in Rialto, CA" found in the main Forum. What I found most interesting was this young individual so interested in this topic he would go to the point of not only a generous donation but to write a sincere letter as well.

His letter covered a broad area of detail. Some of which included his personal opinion on how people are trying to stop the growth of our knowledge by preserving and putting regulations on scientist who are trying to find out knowledge about the past generations of humans as well as their culture and the way they lived. He obviously supports the scientist and their efforts to gather more information and knowledge.

I must say that I would have to agree with Timothy. I feel that is the only way to make conclusions and to discover the lost information. Now if I saw harm in what the scientist were doing then I would strongly oppose. However, so far I have found no harm in this issue.

The only issue that I have come across that may be problematic to me is the fact that these people that scientist continue to dig up (to put it bluntly) are somebody, and have or had loved ones at one point and was laid to rest after they past on. So, the question is, Is it ok to dig somebody up after a period of time to analyze them or study them or should they rest in peace for eternity?

Some may feel different, and I urge them to speak their opinion however, the issue will never die.

Lauren Krupar writes
The Kennewick Mess

The issue over the Kennewick man can be boiled down to mere curiosity. We, as human beings and as Americans, have an unfailing desire to want to know all we can about the past, even if it means ignoring another culture's interpretation of that past. We seem to consistently forget that we were not here first, and even if the American Indians were also not the first inhabitants, their stake is older then ours and should be respected. I believe that there would be no argument over the bones if the scientists involved had simply asked the tribes what would and would not be respectful, and if they had been mature enough to live with the response. I admit that the destruction of the site where Kennewick man was found is regrettable but there is nothing that can be done about that now; no lawsuit can replace the amount of data that was reburied. What can be done is to talk directly to the Umatilla, the Nez Perce, the Yakama, and the Colville Confederation about what the next step should be, should Kennewick man be buried or shold the scientists attempt to extract DNA from the bones? When an outsider, even a scientist, deals with another's ancestors, and ultimately, that culture's beliefs, the person should be respectful. The tradition of these tribes of leaving the dead buried and not dug up to be examined is no more ridiculous then the idea that it is wrong to walk over a grave or holding your breath when passing a cemetery. They are all part of a particular culture but just because one culture is different than our own and is somehow less 'scientific,' does not make it wrong. The Indians believe they know their history and have a firm idea of who they were; who are we to degrade that belief? Merely outsiders looking in.

Leah Tonon writes

While on the quest for knowledge, one should be prepared for the milestones that lie on the path ahead, no matter how unexpected they may be. These milestones test the ability of a person to rise above and continue their pursuit for whatever truth they may be seeking. However, one person's gain may also be another person's loss so to speak. In regards to Kennewick Man, this milestone undeniably tore moral issues apart in the name of knowledge.

On one part of the spectrum, knowledge of the past is diligently sought out and regarded a treasure in our culture. Attaining this knowledge comes at a fairly high price and often causes problems, even though people are very interested in the past. When Kennewick Man was stumbled upon by two college students, scientists everywhere were excited to gain knowledge of the stories that could be learned from studying him. This would have been perfectly accepted by society, except that it was now violating a group of people's rights as human beings to do so.

According to many American Indian religions, it is nothing short of robbery to deprive a person from the right to have a proper burial. When Kennewick Man was unearthed, this problem arose. According to the law passed in 1990, (N.A.G.P.R.A.) Kennewick Man should've been cataloged, then neatly placed back where he was found. No matter how strict the quest for truth may be, the law and the rights of other human beings must be obeyed. To put this issue into retrospect, it wouldn't be socially moral to dig up a grave at a local cemetery. In short, the rights of American Indians should be regarded as nothing but the same since they are also human beings.

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