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The Kennewick Man Case | News & Comment

Kennewick Man: The Three Million Dollar Skeleton

By Alan L. Schneider

The Kennewick Man skeleton is probably the most publicized human skeleton ever found in North America. It may also be the most expensive. Federal government spending on the skeleton and related matters totals approximately $1,100,000 and may be as much as $3,000,000 (or more). The ultimate total will increase even further, possibly by millions, as the lawsuit over the skeleton's fate continues to unfold.

The magnitude of these expenditures has been fueled in part by government extravagance and waste. Hundreds of thousand of dollars have been spent on matters that could have been obtained for free or for little cost, and thousands more have been spent on matters that serve little useful purpose. While these amounts may seem small in the context of trillion dollar budgets, they do bring to mind an observation made by one of Tony Hillerman's fictional characters:

"It's a political law. Like physics. When a federal agency gets into something, the number of tax-paid people at work multiplies itself by five, the number of hours taken to get it done multiples by ten, and the chances of a successful solution must be divided by three." Hillerman 2002 at page 118.

Summary of Costs

The Kennewick Man lawsuit (Bonnichsen v. U.S., Civil No. 96-1481 JE, District of Oregon) has resulted in the release of many documents concerning federal agency activities relating to the skeleton, its discovery site and the lawsuit. Among them are documents disclosing various amounts paid by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the "Army Corps") and the Department of the Interior ("DOI") for their Kennewick Man activities. Although these documents are far from complete, they do provide some sense of the magnitude of federal expenditures for this controversial affair. The following table summarizes those expenditures for which amounts can be calculated or otherwise estimated.
Minimum Known Costs
Survey of discovery site$163,000
Burial of discovery site$166,750
Staff support (National Park Service only)$260,000
Storage costs$263,291
Skeletal studies$50,318
Affiliation studies$64,106
Employee travel costs$105,700
Conservators' travel costs$16,620
Miscellaneous costs$10,607
Other Estimated Costs
Time devoted by professional and policy personnel$1,000,000
Staff support (other agencies)$520,000
Conservators' fees$49,500

Items referred to in the table as "minimum known costs" represent those expenditures for which there is sufficient documentation to verify or calculate totals likely to be reasonably accurate (at least as to minimum amounts). Items referred to as "estimated costs" represent those expenditures for which only generalized (or "ballpark") estimates are possible. For a detailed description of how these amounts have been calculated and the principal documents relied upon, see Appendixes A and B at the end of this article.

Because the available documentary record is not as detailed as one could wish, actual government expenditures for the Kennewick Man affair could vary significantly from the amounts calculated here. While it is possible that they could be lower, it is more likely that they are higher. Among other things, the amounts calculated here include only the costs incurred by the Army Corps, DOI, and to a lesser extent the Department of Justice. Other federal agencies (including the White House) are known to have participated in the affair, and they would have had related (but unknown) costs. In addition, the documents released by the Army Corps and DOI cover only the period from discovery of the skeleton to September 2000, and even then are likely to understate actual costs for that period of time. For these and other reasons, total federal expenditures for the Kennewick Man affair are likely to exceed the $2,669,892 total shown in the forgoing table. See further discussion in Appendix A.

Federal expenditures for the Kennewick Man affair did not end in September 2000. Costs are continuing to mount for storage of the skeleton at the Burke Museum, for conservators' fees and expenses, and for time and travel by government personnel. Both the Tribal Coalition and the government have appealed the District Court's decision. Substantial costs could be incurred for litigation of these appeals, and the government could be required to pay the fees and costs of the plaintiffs' attorneys. Such items could increase the final expense total for the Kennewick Man affair by another million or two.

Lack of Fiscal Responsibility

Even when measured by the lax standards expected of government projects, the amount of fiscal and human resources wasted in this affair is extraordinary. Large sums were paid for outside services that could have been obtained for free or for much smaller amounts. Time was spent on trivial tasks and on matters that produced few tangible benefits. Unnecessary projects were undertaken, and other projects were more massive and costly than circumstances warranted. Some examples of these fiscal abuses include the following.

Transport of Samples

On several occasions in 1999 and 2000, Army Corps, DOJ and NPS personnel were used to hand carry fragments of the skeleton between the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington and laboratories in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Connecticut. On one occasion, for example, a DOJ attorney was flown from Portland, Oregon to Davis, California to retrieve a small bone sample (less than two grams) from Dr. David Glenn Smith and take it to the Burke Museum. An FBI agent participated in the California leg of the trip to help clear the sample through airport security (Drown 1999). Fourteen months later, the sample was returned to Dr. Smith for resumption of his DNA tests (Army Corps 2000a). These trips were an unnecessary waste of time and money. Commercial delivery companies such as UPS and Fed X routinely transport archaeological samples of bone and other organic materials to testing laboratories every day without incident. No special precautions appear to have taken here for the return of sample remnants after the testing laboratories had completed their analyses (Beta Analytic 1999).

Burke Museum Costs

The Army Corps could have stored the skeleton for free at the Smithsonian Institution (Huerta 1996) instead of paying the Burke Museum more than $260,000 over the past four years. The Smithsonian's Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland is a state-of-the-art repository that is secure and fully equipped to care for skeletal collections of this kind. Temperatures within the Center do not fluctuate by more than two degrees (Fahrenheit), or relative humidity by more than two percent (Fri 1998). At the Burke Museum, on the other hand, relative humidity can fluctuate from 17% to over 54% (Federal Defendants 2001a, Attachment C at pages 56 and 112). Government decisionmakers conceded that the Smithsonian "outperforms" the Burke Museum on a technical level (Trimble 1998).


One of the costs of storing the skeleton at the Burke Museum is an annual premium of $9147 for a $3,000,000 insurance policy on the skeleton (Army Corps 2000b). Such an expenditure is difficult to justify. The risks of casualty loss or damage are remote in a secure facility. Furthermore, the skeleton cannot be replaced for any amount of money if it is destroyed, and in the event of damage by fire or other casualty the costs of repair are more likely to be in the thousands rather than millions.

Study Costs

NPS spent more than $50,000 for measurement and examination of the skeleton. If the Bonnichsen plaintiffs had been allowed, they and their team of 15 scientists would have examined the skeleton for free (Bonnichsen Pls 1997). Their studies would have been more informative than those conducted by NPS, and they would have shared their results and conclusions with the government. One of those scientists was Dr. Joseph Powell to whom NPS paid approximately $10,000 for services he otherwise would have provided for free.

Radiocarbon Dating and DNA Tests

NPS spent $6,143 for radiocarbon dating and biochemical analysis of the skeleton. An unknown amount of money was spent on DNA testing (one laboratory alone charged $3,648). The Bonnichsen plaintiffs' study proposal included both radiocarbon dating and DNA testing. Their tests would have cost the government nothing.

Investigation of Discovery Site

Before WES spent $163,000 to investigate the skeleton's discovery site, an independent team of five scientists (including two of the Bonnichsen plaintiffs) offered to study it at no cost to the government (Huckleberry 1997). Their investigations would have been more comprehensive. Among other things, they would have conducted controlled excavations to obtain detailed information about the site's geology and to determine if it contained any intact archaeological deposits. Their study request was never approved.

Site Burial

The Army Corps claimed that protective measures were needed to prevent further erosion at the discovery site (Hill 1998a). If erosion control was the Army Corps' objective, it could have been achieved at a fraction of the $166,750 (or more) spent on the site burial project. One alternative, for example, was to plant shallow rooted vegetation and place anchored hay bails along the shoreline. Costs for this form of protection would have totaled only approximately $5,000 to $10,000 (R. Thorne pers. comm.). It would have required some periodic upkeep, but would have been more environmentally friendly and would not have impacted future investigation of the site. Anchored hay bails have been used successfully by the Army Corps to protect other sites (R. Thorne pers. comm.). While it was burying the discovery site, the Army Corps' was dragging its feet on various Kennewick area land transfers ordered by Congress. Its excuse for doing so was a purported lack of funds (approximately $350,000 to $600,000) for needed environmental studies (Lee 1998).

Efforts to Influence Public Opinion

NPS personnel made at least two trips from Washington, D.C. to Seattle, Washington to give speeches about their views on the significance of Kennewick Man and the lawsuit. On at least one other occasion, government personnel made a tour of newspapers in the Pacific Northwest to brief editors and reporters (pers. comm. from reporters). Such efforts at spin control at taxpayer expense are not appropriate. If information needs to be disseminated, there are other avenues of communication (such as press releases and websites) that are less costly and more accessible to more of the American public.

What Did the Government Achieve?

Despite all the time and money invested by the federal government in the Kennewick Man affair, little has been accomplished other than to provide an expensive example of poor decisionmaking. The original decision of the Army Corps to give the skeleton to local tribes was vacated by a federal court in June 1997 (Bonnichsen et al. v. U.S. 1997). Forty-two months and millions of dollars later, the Army Corps and DOI decided once again to give the skeleton to the same group of tribes. That decision too has been overturned by the court (Bonnichsen et. al. v. U.S. 2002).

From a scientific perspective, some useful information has been gained. WES' investigation of the discovery site has established the general contours of the site's geology (Wakeley et. al. 1998). However, many questions concerning the site remain unanswered. Four of the six radiocarbon dates obtained for the site are suspect, and the remaining two should only be considered tentative age estimates (Stafford 1998 at pages 10 to 13). The horizontal dimensions and vertical thickness of the site's different sedimentary strata are unknown. It is not known whether Kennewick Man was buried at the site by other humans or as a result of natural causes such as a flood (Chatters 1999 at pages 2-4; Owsley 1999 at pages 2-4). Since no excavations were made, it is not known whether the site contains other human remains or intact archaeological deposits. These questions and others that might arise in the future may never be answered because of the havoc caused by the Army Corps' burial of the site.

The skeletal studies commissioned by NPS also produced some useful information. They have confirmed that the human bones collected at the discovery site represent only one individual (Powell and Rose 1999 at page 19) rather than two as some earlier reports had suggested (Hill 1998b). Dr. Powell's measurements of the skull indicate that Kennewick Man's cranial morphology is not typical of modern American Indian populations. Like other North American skeletal remains older than 8,000 years, his cranial morphology is so distinctive that it does not align closely to any modern human group whether in North America or elsewhere (Powell and Rose 1999 at page 20). Dr. Powell's measurements, however, have never been verified by remeasurement of the skull by other scientists. At least some of his measurements may be incorrect (Owsley 2001 at page 4).

Information was also obtained concerning Kennewick Man's age at time of death, his health, predeath injuries and some of his possible lifetime repetitive activities. Questions still remain, however, concerning many issues. For example, a dispute exists over whether the projectile point lodged in Kennewick Man's hip entered his body from the front or the back (Owsley 2001 at page 2). Questions also have been raised whether this projectile point has been correctly identified and consequently could be a type not considered during NPS' affiliation studies (Bonnichsen 2001 at page 2). Disputes also exist over Kennewick Mans age at time of death (Owsley 2001 at page 4) and the number and severity of the predeath injuries he suffered (Chatters 2001, note 139 at pages 277-78).

The skeletal studies commissioned by NPS were not as comprehensive as they could have been. Even though the skeleton is broken into more than 350 pieces (Owsley 1999 at page 4), it was not reassembled during the government's study sessions so it could be studied as a single integrated entity. Without such a reconstruction and careful, comparative analysis of the differences in conditions within and between all bones of the skeleton, it is impossible to know whether Kennewick Man was buried at the site as a result of natural or human causes, and how natural processes may have affected his bones over the 9400 years since his death (Owsley 1999 at page 4-6, 10-11). In addition, the accuracy of prior reconstructions of the skull needs to be verified to determine if all of the bone fragments were aligned correctly (Hunt 1999 at pages 4-6; Owsley 2001 at page 3).

The DNA tests ordered by NPS were negative. No DNA was recovered (Kaestle 2000; Smith et. al. 2000; Merriwether and Cabona 2000). However, the bone samples used for these tests may not have been the most suitable. It is possible that DNA might still be obtained from the skeleton if denser cortical bone or a tooth were tested (Merriwether and Cabana 2000 at page 19; Smith 2000 at page 5). Chemical testing of bone can help to determine whether it is suitable for DNA investigation. (Stafford 2000 at pages 2-3).

There are also lingering questions about the radiocarbon dating tests conducted for NPS. Three of the bone samples tested were so deficient in collagen that it was impossible to date them (Donahue 2000; Taylor 1999). A date was reportedly obtained from the fourth sample, but not enough details of the chemistry used to obtain this date have been released to permit comparison of its results with the results of the other dating attempts (T. Stafford pers. comm.).

The results of these radiocarbon dating and DNA tests are meager when measured in terms of the amount of damage inflicted on the skeleton. The bone samples extracted for these tests totaled approximately 50 grams (Army Corps 2000c; Hawkinson 1999 at pages 2-3). In the process, one metacarpal and one metatarsal were destroyed, and a three inch long segment was taken from the one remaining complete tibia. By way of contrast, earlier in the case the Bonnichsen plaintiffs asked for a total of four grams of bone to use for radiocarbon dating, DNA testing and stable isotope analysis (Bonnichsen Pls. 1997 at page 3). Government attorneys rejected this request as being "excessive" and "unnecessarily destructive" (Federal Defendants 1997 at pages 20-23). The segment cut from the tibia for NPS' studies destroyed an important landmark used for taking measurements (Owsley 2001 at pages 6-7).

The government has taken more than 1500 photographs of the skeleton (Bonnichsen et. al. v. U.S. 2000 at page 21). Most are worthless from a scientific perspective because of poor lighting, improper positioning and other defects (Owsley 2001 at pages 4-5). The x-rays taken for NPS also have little value (Owsley 2001 at pages 6). Unnecessary x-raying of archaeological bone should be avoided since it can damage any residual DNA in the bone (Merriwether and Cabana 2000 at page 19).


The total amount spent by the federal government on the Kennewick Man affair may never be known. Minimum known costs are approximately $1,100,000. Other costs are probably not less than $1,500,000 and may exceed $2,000,000. These amounts are only part of the overall costs for the Kennewick Man affair. Government expenditures on the skeleton and the lawsuit continue to mount, and there is no end in sight.

One perplexing question is why federal officials chose to make such a massive investment of time and money in this affair. Was it because of a perceived need to reunite Kennewick Man's remains with his present-day descendants? Such an explanation is difficult to reconcile with the known facts. The Army Corps made its decision to give the skeleton to the tribes without any credible evidence to establish that they had a valid claim under NAGPRA. The only things known about the skeleton at that time were its age, the location of its discovery, the existence of a stone projectile point in its hip, and that it did not resemble modern American Indians. Two weeks before the Army Corps publicly announced its plans for transfer of the skeleton, a memorandum prepared at its Portland, Oregon regional headquarters warned that tribes "can be expected to dutifully pursue" all human remains found in their ancestral territories "even if they cannot trace direct kinship to the find itself" (Army Corps 1996). The memorandum also warned that "from a strictly scientific standpoint, the fact is that we do not really know how very ancient human remains might be related to contemporary Indian peoples." These warnings were ignored even though tribal claimants conceded that affiliation with the skeleton was impossible to prove because of its age (CTUIR 1996). Kennewick Man's relationship, if any, to present-day American Indians was then (and still is) unknown.

Equally perplexing is the government's adamant opposition to any study of the skeleton by the Bonnichsen plaintiffs or other independent scientists. DOI representatives testified before Congress that NAGPRA does not prohibit study of ancient skeletal remains found on federal land (Stevenson 1998). Similarly, DOJ attorneys conceded in court that NAGPRA is silent on the question of study (Bonnichsen et al v. U.S. 1999 at page 41). After some initial stalling, NPS ultimately undertook many of the same studies of the skeleton proposed by the Bonnichsen plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were even asked for their advice (mostly disregarded) on how the studies should be conducted (Michael 1998; Bonnichsen Pls. 1998). Nonetheless, despite their admitted qualifications, they have yet to be given access to the skeleton.

In the final analysis, the government's handling of the Kennewick Man affair may have had as much to do with miscalculation and private agendas as with anything else. One Army Corps officer opined in September 1996, that "all risk to us seems to be associated with not repatriating the remains" to the tribal claimants (Bohn 1996). This assessment, as flawed as it was, seems to have been prevalent in government circles. At least some government personnel were partial to the tribes. As early as August 29, 1996, before the CTUIR submitted its claim, Army Corps officials were speaking of a partnership relationship with the tribes and the need "to make clear, unequivocal demonstration of its [the Army Corps'] commitment to the tribes" (Meier 1996). Another Army Corps employee stated that "Dr. Owsley and all other members of the scientific community have been denied direct access because of the district's commitment to the tribal coalition" (Rubenstein 1996). Even Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt reportedly told a meeting of the National Congress of American Indians that his "partnership" with the tribes was the "most transcendent" experience of his life (AP 2000). This comment came just a few months after his decision in the Kennewick Man case.

The federal agencies involved in the Kennewick Man affair were so committed to satisfying tribal expectations that they were prepared to defy Congress. When a Congressional aide asked the Army Corps not to bury the skeleton's discovery site without prior Congressional review, the Army Corps refused. It viewed the request as "a precedent we don't want to set" and "one of those don't blink' issues" (Army Corps 1998). It did not blink. As soon as Congress recessed for Easter, the discovery site was buried. The Army Corps took this action despite the fact that both houses of Congress had just approved legislation to prohibit implementation of the burial project (Hill 1998c).

After six years and costs of $3,000,000 (or more), the ultimate fate of Kennewick Man's skeleton has yet to be resolved. A final resolution may still be years and more millions of dollars away. It can only be hoped that something will be learned from the process so other controversies of this kind can be avoided.


My thanks go to Cleone and Stuart Hawkinson for their helpful comments on drafts of this article.

Appendix A

Described below are those federal expenditures for the Kennewick Man affair that can be reconstructed or otherwise estimated from the documents released by the Army Corps of Engineers (the "Army Corps") and the Department of the Interior ("DOI").

Minimum Known Costs

As discussed in more detail at the end of this section, the costs described below may represent only some of the amounts spent for these particular expense items. As a result, they are referred to here as "minimum known costs."
Survey of Discovery Site ($163,000)
In December 1997, personnel from the Army Corps' Waterways Experiment Station ("WES") conducted a short on-site survey of the skeleton's discovery site (Stafford 1998; Wakeley et. al. 1998). The survey consisted of a surface examination of the site, supplemented by Vibracore sampling (10 cores) and twelve soil profiles (each approximately 50 centimeters wide) spaced at irregular intervals over approximately 350 meters of river bank. Some sedimentary analyses were made of the core materials, and six radiocarbon dates were obtained. WES budgeted $163,000 for its costs of the survey.
Burial of the Discovery Site ($166,750)
In April 1998, the Army Corps buried the skeleton's discovery site under 500 tons of rock, dirt fill and other materials (Hill 1998c). The project contractor was paid $166,750 for services and materials. This amount does not include costs incurred by the Army Corps and other federal agencies for project planning, project monitoring and other internal expenses.
NPS Staff Support ($260,000)
DOI delegated to the National Parks Service ("NPS") the tasks of determining whether the skeleton is Native American for purposes of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act ("NAGPRA") and whether it is culturally affiliated to any modern tribe. NPS estimated in August 1998 that the costs of staff support needed to carry out these tasks would be $64,000 for fiscal year ("FY") 1999 and $66,000 for FY 2000. This estimate was said to exclude any costs attributable to professional and "policy" personnel. If the same amounts are extrapolated to fiscal years 1998 and 2001 (no comparable cost data were found for these years), NPS' minimum known costs for basic staff support would be $260,000 (i.e., $64,00 + $64,000 + $66,000 + $66,000). This total would not include any costs incurred prior to FY 1998 or after FY 2001.
Storage Costs ($263,291)
On October 20, 1998, the Army Corps entered in an agreement with the Burke Museum, Seattle, Washington, for storage of the skeleton. Under this agreement, the Burke Museum was scheduled to receive $106,729 for FY 1999, $69,430 for FY 2000 and $42,241 for FY 2001. The documents released by the Army Corps and DOI are silent as to the fees to be paid in subsequent periods. Assuming that the same amount was paid for FY 2002 as for FY 2001, the Burke museum will have received $260,641 through September 30, 2002. The Army Corps also paid the Burke Museum $2650 for widening a doorway into the room where the skeleton is stored.
Skeletal Studies ($50,318)
DOI hired five scientists to study the skeleton in February 1999. Their studies included measurements of the skull and teeth, recording of bone pathologies and other conditions, analysis of sediments from the skeleton, and investigation of the projectile point lodged in the skeleton's hip. $30,250 was budgeted for their fees and travel costs. Four scientists were hired to reexamine the skeleton in April 2000 and help select the bones to be used for DNA testing. They were paid a total of $17,328, not including travel and per diem expenses. Based upon the amounts incurred for other travel in the Kennewick Man affair, their travel and per diem expenses would have totaled approximately $2740.
Affiliation Studies ($64,106)
In an effort to affiliate the skeleton to the local tribes that claim it, NPS hired four anthropologists to survey and summarize the published literature on Columbia Plateau linguistics, folklore, mortuary practices and archaeology. They were paid a total of $62,726. Their reports demonstrated that the region experienced substantial cultural (and possibly demographic) change over the 9400 years since Kennewick Man's death.
Agency Travel Costs ($105,700)
At least 25 government employees (in addition to WES) made overnight trips for Kennewick Man related matters. On a combined basis, they made a minimum of 131 trips requiring approximately 455 overnight stays while away from their respective offices. Most of the trips (118) involved travel from Washington, D.C. or St. Louis, Missouri to locations on the West Coast. Although the exact cost of these trips has not been disclosed, NPS estimated in 1998 that travel related to the skeleton by NPS personnel would average $1,000 per trip. This estimate appears to have assumed an average trip duration of five days. If that is the case, and if the average cost of transportation (i.e., airfare, parking and related expenses) for travel from Washington, D.C. to the West Coast was approximately $400 per trip, the cost of per diem expenses (i.e., lodging, meals, etc.) would be approximately $120 per day. Based upon these assumptions, but reducing average transportation costs to $300 for trips under 1000 miles, the 125 known trips made by government personnel would have cost approximately $105,700.
Conservators' Travel Costs ($16,620)
The Army Corps hired three private conservators to assist with the skeleton's curation. These conservators and their assistants (combined) made 27 known trips to the skeleton's repository. Based upon the same assumptions used in the preceding subsection, the costs of these trips (all were under 1000 miles) for transportation and per diem expenses (71 overnight stays) would have been approximately $16,620.
Other Known Expenses ($10,607)
Other known expenses include $4,464 for storage equipment and supplies, $3,648 for DNA testing by the University of California at Davis, and $2,495 for radiocarbon dating tests by Beta Analytic Inc., NSF Arizona AMS Facility and the University of California at Riverside.
Understatement of Minimum Costs
Many of the foregoing amounts are likely to understate the government's actual costs for the items involved. There are several reasons for this. First, the documents released by the government do not always provide sufficient detail to reconstruct all of the costs incurred. For example, the number and identities of attendees at meetings are often omitted from the documents showing that a meeting was held. In such cases, it has been necessary to assume that only one person attended for each of the participating agencies, even though that was not the general norm at meetings for which actual attendance lists are available. Such an assumption (and others of this kind that were made) will cause costs to be understated. Second, with only a few exceptions, the government has not filed with the court (or otherwise released) any documents relating to its activities after September 21, 2001. As a result, most expenditures since that date remain unknown. Third, because of procedural limitations, the Bonnichsen plaintiffs were unable to conduct normal evidence discovery in their lawsuit after January 1997. Consequently, there can be no assurance the government has fully disclosed all of its activities (and their attendant costs) even for those that occurred prior to September 21, 2000. For these reasons, total government expenditures for the items discussed in this section are likely to have exceeded the sum ($1,100,392) calculated here.

Other Estimated Costs

Federal agencies incurred many other expenditures relating to the Kennewick Man affair for which there is little documentation in the available record. Until a detailed accounting is made by the involved agencies, if one ever is, the exact scope and magnitude of such expenditures cannot be determined. Nonetheless, approximate estimates are possible for some of these hidden costs. They include the following.
Professional and Policy Personnel
NPS' 1998 estimate of the staff support costs for its Kennewick Man related tasks specifically excluded any costs attributable to "archaeologists, cultural anthropologists, DOI attorneys, or other DOI policy staff" (McManamon 1998a). The costs (i.e., salaries, benefits and overhead) incurred by NPS and other involved federal agencies for time spent on the Kennewick Man affair by such professional and policy personnel are likely to have been enormous. More than 180 individuals representing approximately 25 different agencies, offices or other subdivisions of three departments are known to have participated in these matters. A single interagency meeting in Washington D.C. in October 1997 attracted 14 participants: one from the White House; two from DOI; three from the Department of the Army; six from the Department of Justice; and two from the Army Corps (Rubenstein 1997a). Another meeting held seven days later had 13 attendees (Rubenstein 1997b), and another had 12 attendees (McManamon 1998d). The following are some estimates of the amount of time devoted to the Kennewick Man affair by personnel from some of the agencies involved.
Personnel from the Army Corps' Center of Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections (St. Louis, Missouri) spent a combined total of at least 399 days away from their office working on the skeleton's curation. This total does not include time spent attending court hearings, writing reports, and for administrative matters.
Army Corps Generally.
The amount of time spent on Kennewick Man related matters by other Army Corps personnel is likely to exceed 300 days. Prior to March 24, 1998, when some of the decisionmaking authority was delegated to DOI, Army Corps personnel were responsible for all decisions relating to the skeleton and its discovery site. At least 97 Army Corps individuals participated in its decisionmaking process, including personnel from the district, regional and headquarters levels of command. Among other things, Army Corps personnel made the initial decisions to deny study of the skeleton and to affiliate it to local tribes. Army Corps personnel planned and supervised burial of the site. They attended all court hearings, numerous interagency meetings, and most (if not all) consultation meetings with the tribes.
NPS staff archaeologists planned all studies of the skeleton, hired the participating scientists, reviewed their results, and wrote reports of the studies. They authored hundreds of pages of other reports and memoranda. They testified before Congress, gave public speeches, and attended most of the court hearing, most of the consultation meetings with the tribes and numerous interagency meetings. Their total Kennewick related time is likely to exceed 300 days.
At least twelve attorneys from the Department of Justice ("DOJ") spent time on the Kennewick Man lawsuit or related matters. DOJ attorneys attended six court hearings. They prepared 17 briefs or memoranda and 27 quarterly or other reports that were filed with the court. They were present when the discovery site was examined and later when it was buried, and they were present at all major activities relating to the skeleton (i.e., initial inventory, move to the Burke Museum and study sessions). They attended many of the consultation meetings with the tribes and numerous interagency meetings. Their Kennewick Man related time is probably not less than 400 days.
Other Participants.
In addition to NPS, at least 21 other DOI personnel were involved in one aspect or another of the Kennewick Man affair. Such participants included the Secretary of the Interior, an Assistant Secretary, attorneys from the Office of the Solicitor and a public relations expert. Four individuals from the White House participated in the decisionmaking process (two from the Domestic Planning Council and two from the Office of Science and Technology Policy). Other participants included representatives from the Department of the Army, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. In addition to DOJ's 12 attorneys, at least 13 attorneys from the Army Corps, DOI and the Department of the Army also spent time on Kennewick Man matters.
Judging from the number of individuals involved and the volume of paper generated, the total amount of time spent on the Kennewick Man affair by federal professional and policy level personnel was probably not less than 1500 days and may have exceeded 2000 days. The costs of such time may have been more than $1,000,000.
Non-NPS Staff Support Costs
As previously discussed, NPS estimated that the staff support costs for its Kennewick Man activities would be $64,000 to $66,000 per fiscal year. Like NPS, the other agencies involved in this affair would have needed staff support to organize, file and distribute the massive quantities of correspondence, reports and other documents generated in the case. This was particularly true of the Army Corps which filed with the court three administrative records totaling more than 11,600 pages (compared to 10,513 pages for DOI's). Like NPS, the other participants in the Kennewick Man affair also would have required staff support to collect information and handle all of the details needed to "ensure effective communication" (McManamon 1998b). A case of this magnitude would have generated many other tasks for which staff support was needed. It is likely that the staff support costs of the other participating agencies were at least equal to twice NPS' staff support costs and may have been higher.
Conservators' Fees
The three conservators and their assistants hired by the Army Corps to assist with the skeleton's curation are known to have spent approximately 99 days on-site working with the skeleton or its archival records. If they were paid the same rate quoted by NPS to some of the experts it sought to hire (i.e., $500 per day; McManamon 1998a, 1998c), their combined fees for such work would have totaled $49,500. This total would not include any compensation paid for work performed at home or in their offices.
Other Unknown Costs
Other Kennewick Man related costs for which documentation has not been found include the following:
  • costs for DNA testing of the skeleton by researchers at the University of Michigan and Yale University
  • fees paid to Drs. Kathryn Taylor (bone sample extraction) and Donald Tyler (documentation evaluation)
  • imaging costs (i.e., photographs, CT scans, x-rays)
  • costs of photocopying documents
Some of these costs may have been substantial. At least, two sets of the Army Corp's image record of the skeleton are known to exist (Hawkinson 2001 at page 4). Government attorneys claimed that the costs of duplicating just the photographs alone was approximately $20,000 (Bonnichsen et. al. v. U.S., 2000 at page 16).
Undocumented Kennewick Man costs are likely to be at least $1,500,000. They may be, and probably are, higher than that amount. It is not inconceivable that they may exceed $2,000,000.

Continuing Costs

Government expenditures related to the Kennewick Man affair have not ended. Among other things, until other arrangements are made for curation of the skeleton, the Army Corps will continue to pay storage charges ($42,241 per year) to the Burke Museum. In addition, costs will continue to be incurred for the services and travel expenses of the two conservators who remain on contract with the Army Corps. Other costs (travel, per diem charges, salary, benefits, etc.) will be incurred for periodic monitoring of the skeleton by personnel from the Army Crops' MCX-CMAC office.

Costs also will be generated in connection with the Bonnichsen lawsuit. The trial court's decision could be appealed by the government. If pursued to the U.S. Supreme Court, such an appeal could take five or more years to resolve, and could require the expenditure of substantial time by DOI, DOJ and Army Corps attorneys and other personnel. Furthermore, if the trial court's decision is upheld (or is not appealed), the government could be required to pay the fees and costs of the plaintiffs' attorneys.

Such future costs could add another $1,000,000 (or more) to the final expense tally for the Kennewick Man affair.

Appendix B

Listed below are the documents not otherwise cited in the text that were used to calculate the costs discussed in this article. These documents were obtained from the following sources: (a) the four administrative records filed by the Army Corps and DOI in the Bonnichsen lawsuit; (b) documents produced by the Army Corps and DOJ in January 1997 in response to the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' discovery request. The letter prefix used in citing a document (such as "COE" or "DOI") identifies the collection containing the document in question, and the following number (such as "0656") indicates the location of the document within its larger source collection. The different prefixes refer to the following collections:
  • "COE" without other qualifiers refers to the Army Corps' initial administrative record.
  • "COE F-" refers to the Army Corps' supplementary administrative record relating to the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • "COE S-" refers to the Army Corps' supplementary administrative record relating to the skeleton's discovery site.
  • "97 COE" refers to documents produced by the federal defendants in response to the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' discovery motion.
  • "DOI" refers to the Department of the Interior's administrative record.

Copies of "COE", "COE F-", "COE S-" and "DOI" documents can be obtained from the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon or from Friends of America's Past (website address: Copies of "97 COE" documents and all other references are in the author's files.

Burial of discovery site: COE S-272

Survey of discovery site: COE S-654

Storage costs: COE 0002193, 0002770-73, 0004690, 0004720

Affiliation studies: DOI 05255-59, 05275-79, 05280, 05287-91, 05292, 05380-84, 05385

Skeletal studies: DOI 04044, 08432-37, 08440-45, 08448-53, 08456-62

Agency travel costs : COE 0000195, 0000200-01, 0000272-75, 0000398, 0000404, 0000419, 0000421, 0000423-24, 0000539-40, 0000633, 0000706-12, 0001043-44, 0001199-1200, 0001202-06, 0001312, 0001331-35, 0001340, 0001387, 0002160, 0002335, 0002337, 0002362-66, 0002373-75, 0002470, 0002474-83, 0003653-54, 0003653-55, 0003945-47, 0003955-57, 5128, 5602, 5745, 6201-02, 6733-35, 8597, 8687; DOI 02553, 02565-68, 02737, 02883, 03852-53, 03691, 03692-95, 0003945, 0003955, 04241-42, 04410-11, 04992, 5394, 5397, 5403, 05773, 06039, 08400-05, 08623, 09040; Bonnichsen v. U.S., Defs' 4th Quarterly Status Report (App. F-3 and Trimble Declaration), Defs' 7th Quarterly Status Report (Attachments D and E), Defs' Visit Notices (dated October 23, 2000, December 22, 2000, February 26, 2001, March 21, 2001, July 5, 2001, November 1, 2001, June 5, 2002), Pls.' Reply Memorandum on Motion to Vacate (Hawkinson Aff.); Tri City Herald news article (August 31, 1999); attendance log for November 18, 1999 meeting in Spokane, Washington.

Conservators' travel costs1: COE 0000200, 0000419, 0000706, 0001202, 0002476, 03653, 03692, 6735; Bonnichsen v. U.S., Defs' 7th Quarterly Status Report (Attachment H), Defs' 12th Quarterly Status Report (Attachment 5), Defs' Visit Notices (dated May 17, 2000, October 23, 2000, March 21, 2001, July 5, 2001, November 1, 2001, June 5, 2002)

Storage equipment and supplies: COE 0002405, 0002579, 0002580, 0002601

Radiocarbon dating: COE 0000730, 0000734, 0000742, 0000861, 0000867, 0000856

DNA testing: DOI 08400-05



2000 Babbitt and Richardson: We'll fight for the tribes,' The Ashland Daily Tidings, November 14, 2000.

Army Corps

1996 CENPD Comments regarding the Disposition of Culturally Unidentifiable Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects. 97 COE 0664.

1998 E-mail dated March 17, 1998 from Russell Fuhrman to Robert H. Griffin. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE S-381.

2000a Release of UC-Davis Sample. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0000331.

2000b Amendment No. 2 to the Memorandum of Agreement for Curatorial Services Between the Northwestern Division, United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Thomas Burke Memorial Washington State Museum, Attachment 1. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0002770.

2000c Authorization and Release of Portions of the Collection for DNA Analysis. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0000240.

Beta Analytic Inc.

1999 Letter dated October 17, 1999 to Dr. Francis P. McManamon. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0000564.

Bohn, Bart B. Col.

1996 E-mail dated September 18, 1996 to Brian Bryson and others. 97 COE 0650.

Bonnichsen Pls. (documents filed by the plaintiffs in Bonnichsen et. al. v. U.S.)

1997 Plaintiffs' Motion for Order Granting Access to Study. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 7980.

1998 Plaintiffs' Comments on DOI Draft Approach to Documentation. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 03205.

Bonnichsen, Robson

2001 Affidavit dated May 29, 2001. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' Reply Memorandum in support of their motion to vacate second administrative action.

Bonnichsen et. al. v. United States, Civil No. 96-1481-JE, U.S. District Court, District of Oregon

1997 Court opinion reported at 969 F. Supp. 628 (D. Or. 1997).

1999 Transcript of September 14, 1999 hearing.

2000 Transcript of October 25, 2000 hearing.

2002 Court opinion reported at 217 F. Supp. 2d 1116 (D. Or. 2002).

Chatters, James C.

1999 Affidavit dated September 14, 1999. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' October 1, 1999 Status Report. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 04925.

2001 Ancient Encounters. Simon & Schuster. New York, NY.


1996 Letter dated September 9, 1996, from Donald G. Sampson, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, to Colonel Bartholomew B. Bohn, II, EN, Acting Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 9316.

Donahue, Douglas

2000 Letter dated January 9, 2000 to Frank McManamon. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 06078.

Drown, Steven A.

1999 Letter dated January 29, 1999 to Allison B. Rumsey, Special Assistant to the Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0001311.

Federal Defendants (documents filed with the court in Bonnichsen et. al. v. U.S.)

1997 Federal Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Access to Study Remains. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 7692.

2001a Federal Defendants' February 2001 Curation Status Report.

Fri, Robert W.

1998 Letter dated July 27, 1998 to Alan Schneider and attachment entitled "The Storage of Kennewick Skeletal Remains at MSC." In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 5116.

Hawkinson, Cleone H.

1999 Affidavit dated September 29, 1999. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' October 1, 1999 Status Report. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 04935

2001 Affidavit dated May 23, 2001. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' Reply Memorandum in support of their motion to vacate the second administrative action.

Hill, Richard L.

1998a Scientists protest proposed project that would cover Kennewick site, The Oregonian, March 17, 1998.

1998b News on Kennewick Man becomes bone of contention, The Oregonian, March 18, 1998.

1998c Workers begin to cover site of Kennewick Man's discovery, The Oregonian, April 7, 1998.

Hillerman, Tony

2002 The Wailing Wind, Harper Collins, New York, New York.

Huckleberry, Gary A.

1997 Application for a Federal Permit under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. August 26, 1997. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE S-855.

Huerta, John E.

1996 Letter dated October 15, 1996 to Lester Edelman, Chief Counsel, United States Army Corps of Engineers. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 9116.

Hunt, David R.

1999 Affidavit dated July 20, 1999. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' Motion for Immediate Response Re Study Request. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 04275.

Kaestle, Frederika

2000 Report on DNA Analysis of the Remains of "Kennewick Man" from Columbia Park, Washington. In DOI's administrative record at 10526.

Lee, Mike

1998 Gordon says corps bumbling hinders Mid-Columbia projects, Tri-City Herald, February 26, 1998.

McManamon, F.P.

1998a E-mail dated March 11, 1998 ("Estimated Costs-Kennewick Work for COE") to Tim McKeown and Veletta Canouts. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 02616.

1998b E-mail dated August 4, 1998 to Veletta Canouts and Tim McKeown. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 03387.

1998c E-mail dated September 29, 1998 to Clark Larsen. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 03445.

1998d E-mail dated December 1, 1998 ("Friday Meeting to Discuss Experts for Kennewick Exam"). In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE F-040.

Meier, Duane ("Dutch")

1996 Memorandum dated August 29, 1996 for Deputy Commander, Walla Walla District. 97COE 0660.

Michael, Robin

1998 Letter dated June 4, 1998 to Paula Barran. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 02940.

Merriwether, Andrew D., and Cabana, Graciela S.

2000 Kennewick Man Ancient DNA Analysis: Final Report Submitted to the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 09714.

Owsley, Douglas W.

1999 Affidavit dated September 24, 1999. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' October 1, 1999 Status Report. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 04944.

2001 Affidavit dated May 15, 2001. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' Reply Memorandum in support of their motion to vacate the second administrative action.

Powell, Joseph F., and Rose, Jerome C.

1999 Report on the Osteological Assessment of the "Kennewick Man" Skeleton (CENWW. 97. Kennewick). In DOI's administrative record at DOI 10673.

Rubenstein, Paul

1996 Information Paper dated October 16, 1996 ("Recovery of 9000 Year Old Human Skeleton in Walla Walla District"). 97 COE 0760.

1997a Memorandum for the file dated October 30, 1997 ("Report on White House Meeting Regarding the Ancient Human Remains found near Kennewick, Washington"). In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0002504.

1997b Memorandum for the record dated November 6, 1997 ("Interagency Meeting on the Treatment of Ancient Human Remains and the Site of Discovery of Such Remains Near Kennewick, Washington"). In DOI's administrative record at DOI 02002.

Smith, David Glenn

2000 Affidavit dated February 1, 2000. Filed with the court with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' April 18, 2000 Notice of Filing.

Smith, David Glenn, Malhi, Ripan S., Eshleman, Jason A. and Kaestle, Frederika A.

2000 Report on DNA analysis of the Remains of "Kennewick Man" from Columbia Park, Washington. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 09994

Stafford, Thomas W., Jr.

1998 Analysis of Geoarchaeological Data and Research Objectives for the Kennewick Man Discovery Site, Columbia Park, Washington. Stafford Research Laboratories, Inc., Boulder, Colorado. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0004250.

2000 Affidavit dated February 4, 2000. Filed with the Bonnichsen plaintiffs' Response to Motion for Extension. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 06970.

Stevenson, Katherine H.

1998 Written statement presented as Associate Director, Cultural Resource Stewardship and Partnerships, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, at hearing conducted on HR 2893, June 19, 1998, before the House Committee on Resources. Copy published on Tri-City Herald website.

Taylor, R.E.

1999 Fax message dated December 20, 1999 to Frank McManamon. In DOI's administrative record at DOI 06069.

Trimble, Michael K.

1998 Memorandum of telephone conversation on July 31, 1998. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0002295.

Wakeley, Lillian D., Murphy, William L., Dunbar, Joseph B., Warne, Andrew G., Briuer Frederick L.

1998 Geologic, Geoarchaeologic and Historical Investigation of the Discovery Site of Ancient Remains in Columbia Park, Kennewick, Washington. Waterways Experiment Station, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Vicksburg, Mississippi. In the Army Corps' administrative record at COE 0004896.

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