Plaintiffs Memorandum in Opposition to Intervenors Request for Stay Pending Appeal
Affidavit of Robson Bonnichsen
Alan L. Schneider, OSB No. 68147
Paula A. Barran, OSB No. 80397
Attorneys for Plaintiff
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF OREGON ROBSON BONNICHSEN, C. LORING BRACE, GEORGE W. GILL, C. VANCE HAYNES, JR., RICHARD L. JANTZ DOUGLAS W. OWSLEY, DENNIS J. STANFORD and D. GENTRY STEELE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, FRANCIS P. McMANAMON, DAVID A. FASTABEND, EDWARD J. KERTIS, THOMAS E. WHITE, GALE A. NORTON, CRAIG MANSEN, ROBERT G. FLOWERS,
CV. 96-1481 JE
AFFIDAVIT OF ROBSON BONNICHSEN
I, Robson Bonnichsen, being first duly sworn, do depose and state as follows:
1. I am one of the plaintiffs in the above-entitled case. I am the Director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans, and since July 2002 have been employed as a member of the faculty of the Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas. My other professional qualifications are described in earlier affidavits filed with the Court. See e.g. attachment to Plaintiffs' Motion for Order Granting Access to Study (Docket No. 60).
2. I and the other plaintiffs will be directly and adversely impacted if we are not allowed to study the Kennewick skeleton while this case is on appeal. Many of the adverse impacts we are experiencing have already been described in the affidavits submitted in support of our August 1999 Motion for Immediate Response Re Study Request (Docket No. 208). The impacts described in those affidavits have not lessened over the last three plus years, but if anything have increased. A scientist's ability to teach effectively, to write publishable articles, to plan new research projects and to develop and test new theories is dependent upon access to the most up-to-date and accurate information possible. Unfortunately, First Americans researchers like myself are not blessed with an abundance of direct evidentiary data with which to work. Sites and artifacts from the earliest periods of American prehistory are not plentiful, and even less common are well-preserved skeletal remains and other human biological materials. Every new discovery of an early site or human skeleton is important, and each must be investigated as thoroughly and carefully as possible if we hope to ever unravel the mysteries of the peopling of the Americas.
3. The processes that led to human colonization of the Americas can never be understood without answers to two fundamental questions: who were the first Americans and where did they come from. Sites and artifacts can be informative, but they alone can never provide the definitive answers. People of different biological backgrounds can generate similar sites and artifacts, and people that are closely related biologically can produce very different material cultures. Only skeletal remains and other biological materials can answer questions about biological relationships.
4. Although the Kennewick skeleton does not date from the time of the first human colonists of the New World, it can provide important data that can be used to develop and test theories about the evolution and development of early New World human populations. The studies of the skeleton that were conducted for the Department of the Interior ("DOI") in 1999 indicate that it does not resemble any of the modern human populations compared in those studies. Measurements and observations reported for the skeleton also indicate that while it is similar in many respects to some of the other early human skeletal remains found in North America, it also differs substantially from some of the others. Such findings, if true, could have important implications for understanding how the Americas were colonized by humans. Among other things, they could indicate that colonization of the New World may have involved multiple colonizing groups and that those groups may have originated in different regions of Eurasia. Such possibilities cannot be tested until the measurements and observations reported by DOI's investigators have been verified (and if necessary corrected) by other investigators, and the resulting data has been analyzed as thoroughly as possible. The databases used in DOI's investigations of the skeleton do not contain as broad a range of modern and prehistoric human populations as do the databases available to plaintiffs and the other members of their study team.
5. For some of us the passage of any substantial period of additional time before we are allowed to study the skeleton could be equivalent to a denial of study. None of the plaintiffs is getting any younger, and most of us have reached the point where we can no longer take time for granted. I will turn 62 this coming December. The ages of the other plaintiffs are: C. Loring Brace (71); C. Vance Haynes (74); George Gill (61); Richard Jantz (62); Douglas Owsley (51); D. Gentry Steele (61); Dennis Stanford (59); Two of the plaintiffs (Drs. Haynes and Steele) have retired from teaching since this lawsuit was filed more than six years ago. They still write and conduct research, but no longer have the opportunity to train new scientists on an intensive basis. Moreover, none of us know how much longer we can count on continued good health. When one reaches 60, the risks of illness are substantially higher than they are for someone who is 30 or 40. With each passing year the risks increase.
6. Plaintiffs have already waited six years for a chance to study the Kennewick skeleton and learn what it has to tell us. The longer we are required to wait, the fewer the opportunities we will have to use whatever data might be obtained from study of the skeleton. Writing and research on First Americans issues can involve long lead times. For an article not involving any original research, the process of gathering the necessary data, writing the article, going through peer review and waiting for the article to appear in print can often take three years (or more). Even then, years of testing by the scientific community may be required before the data or conclusions offered in the article are deemed sufficiently established to justify their incorporation in teaching curricula and in prevailing explanatory models. If study of the Kennewick skeleton happens to suggest new avenues for original research, the necessary lead times will be even longer. Among other things, an appropriate research design must be created, funding must be obtained, the required research must be conducted, and the resulting data must be analyzed. Even for modest projects, these activities can take as much as three years. For more innovative or ambitious projects, they can often take five to ten years (or more).
7. Plaintiffs are not the only persons who will be impacted if there is further delay in obtaining as much information as possible about the Kennewick skeleton. Other First Americans researchers will be affected as well. Their ability to develop and test new theories about the peopling of the Americas will be restricted. In addition, they (and possibly plaintiffs as well) may suffer more immediate, concrete effects. I know of one researcher who was denied a grant because his research would not include data on the Kennewick skeleton. Other scientists have had papers rejected for publication because of similar objections. Students will also be impacted. If study of the Kennewick skeleton is delayed for another two or three years, an entire generation of students may go from high school to final graduate degree without ever learning the truth about this important new discovery. Without access to the latest data and the theories those data suggest, students cannot develop their thinking abilities as fully as possible and they cannot make intelligent career choices. Opinions will be formed on the basis of incomplete information, and opportunities for research will be narrowed.
8. Many unresolved questions exist concerning the conclusions and data reported by DOI's investigators. Some of these questions have been described in affidavits previously filed with the Court. See e.g. Bonnichsen (Docket No. 449); Chatters (Docket No. 231); Owsley (Docket Nos. 212, 415). For example, I am not convinced that the projectile point embedded in the skeleton's hip is a Cascade Point. If it is not, conclusions about the skeleton based upon the known geographic range and time span of that type of projectile point may be incorrect. Some of the other unresolved questions about the skeleton include: what was Kennewick Man's age at time of death; was he a resident of the Kennewick area; how many injuries did he suffer prior to death; how was his body deposited at the discovery site; why do different bones of the skeleton vary so much in their collagen preservation; was the skull correctly reconstructed when it was measured in 1999. Those questions cannot be resolved without further study of the skeleton. Until they have been answered, attempts to assess what Kennewick Man means for understanding American prehistory must be put on hold.
9. It is impossible to predict all of the consequences that can occur when access to knowledge is curtailed. No one will ever know what ideas will never be conceived, what choices will be altered and what paths will never be explored. It is safe to say, however, that the world will not be what it could have been.
10. Plaintiffs' studies will not jeopardize the safety of the skeleton. All of the members of our study team are experienced researchers or technicians, and they will handle the skeleton with care and respect. The microsamples of bone that we will take for chemical testing will be miniscule in comparison to the large quantities used by the government for its radiocarbon and DNA tests, and they will not affect the appearance or structural integrity of the skeleton. The data obtained by our study team will be shared with other researchers, with the government and with anyone else who is interested so that they can use it in their search for the truth about the American past.
DATED this ____ day of November, 2002.
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