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Mystery of the First Americans

Kennewick man 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.

Robson Bonnichsen

Loring Brace

George Gill

Vance Haynes

Richard Jantz

Douglas Owsley

Dennis Stanford

Gentry Steele

Does Race Exist? | Meet Kennewick Man
Claims for the Remains | The Dating Game | Resources
Transcript | Site Map | Mystery of the First Americans Home

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© | Updated December 2002