The bones that launched a thousand articles in the press—and
a scientists' lawsuit.
Claims for the Remains
Note: Since this Web site launched in February 2000,
much has happened in the ongoing court battle over the
Kennewick Man. Most significantly, in August 2002 a U.S.
magistrate granted the scientist-plaintiffs below the right to
study the remains. In November, however, the Colville, Nez
Perce, Umatilla, and Yakama Indian tribes, which would like the
skeleton reburied without scientific study, filed for an appeal
of the ruling.
Within months after the well-preserved skeleton of Kennewick Man turned up
along the banks of the Columbia River in eastern Washington in 1996, the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, on whose land the bones were found, impounded the
remains. Since then, the Corps has kept Kennewick Man locked up under tight
security in a museum at the University of Washington, pending the outcome of
court battles over what should be done with the bones.
Several Indian tribes on the Columbia Plateau, led by the Umatilla, hope to win
the right to rebury the skeleton, which they consider an ancestor. When it
seemed likely that the Indians would achieve their goal under the Native
American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act—a law that enables tribes to
file claims to remains to which they can demonstrate a cultural affiliation—a group of eight leading American anthropologists, fearful that invaluable
information on the first peopling of the Americas could potentially be lost,
sued the federal government for the right to study the remains. The court case
is expected to be decided sometime in 2000.
NOVA Online asked each of the eight plaintiffs to explain his case as to why he
believes scientists should be able to examine Kennewick Man and what he hopes
to learn if given the chance. Please note that NOVA holds no position
regarding Kennewick Man.