FW: [EthnoHist] Digest Number 163
- -----Original Message-----
From: Alfred M. Lee [mailto:leeam@...]
Sent: Monday, September 02, 2002 8:50 AM
To: mlewine@...; Lewine, Mark; Popplestone, Ann
Subject: Fw: [EthnoHist] Digest Number 163
Judge Rules Scientists May Study Kennewick Man Skeleton
September 1, 2002
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 30 (AP) - A federal magistrate judge
has ordered the government to let scientists study the
bones of Kennewick Man, an ancient skeleton discovered on
the banks of the Columbia River. Scientists say the bones
could offer clues about the earliest Americans.
The ruling by the judge, John Jelderks, on Friday rejected
a decision by Bruce Babbitt, the interior secretary then,
to give the remains to Indian tribes for reburial.
Magistrate Jelderks criticized the way the Interior
Department and the Army Corps of Engineers had handled the
The government had "failed to consider all the relevant
factors, had acted before it had all of the evidence, had
failed to fully consider legal questions, had assumed facts
that proved to be erroneous, had failed to articulate a
satisfactory explanation for its action, had followed a
`flawed' procedure, and had prematurely decided the issue,"
Magistrate Jelderks wrote.
After reviewing 20,000 pages of documents filed in the case
in six years, Magistrate Jelderks wrote, "nothing I have
found in a careful examination of the administrative
record" supported the government.
"Allowing study is fully consistent with applicable
statutes," he wrote.
Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said
government lawyers would review the ruling before
The scientists said they were happy with the ruling but
emphasized it was a legal battle against the government
interpretation of the law, not tribal tradition.
"I'm sure Native Americans see it differently, but this
suit was against the government, not the Indian tribes,"
said one, Richard L. Jantz, an anthropologist at the
University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Alan Schneider, a Portland lawyer who represented the
scientists, said Magistrate Jelderks sided with the
scientists "on nearly all major issues."
The ruling should set a national precedent for
archaeological discoveries, and the scientists will take
the case "all the way to the Supreme Court" if the
government appeals, Mr. Schneider said.
Allowing scientific study of the skeleton will benefit
everyone, including Indians, by offering clues to early
migration and culture, said Robson Bonnichsen, former
director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans
at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Shortly after the skeleton was found in July 1996 near
Kennewick, Wash., Dr. Bonnichsen, Dr. Jantz and six other
scientists went to federal court to prevent the Corps of
Engineers from giving the bones to the tribes. The
scientists said that a nearly intact ancient skeleton was
extremely rare and that initial analysis indicated the
bones differed from those of modern Indians.
But Mr. Babbitt backed the Corps of Engineers, which
manages Columbia River navigation, saying the remains were
"culturally affiliated" with Northwest tribes.
Mr. Babbitt acted under the Native American Graves
Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, a law intended to
prevent the theft and sale of Indian artifacts, to protect
tribal burial sites and to restore the remains of ancestors
to the tribes.
The law requires federal agencies or museums to return
remains and relics to tribes that can "show cultural
affiliation" based on "geographical, kinship, biological,
archaeological, anthropological, linguistic, folkloric,
oral traditional, historical, or other relevant information
or expert opinion."
The scientists, however, argued that no group can establish
a direct link that extends back 9,000 years.
"Babbitt said oral tradition trumped everything else," Dr.
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