Ethics reading Kennewick - Kennewick Man — A Kin Too...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–6. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
Image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 4
Image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 6
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: Kennewick Man — A Kin? Too Distant Douglas W. Owsley and Richard L. Jantz he discovery on 28 july 1996 of a wellrpreserved human skeleton exposed by erosion of the shoreline of the Columbia River led to a lawsuit filed in a United States federal court by eight scientists contesting a federal agency’s action. The case of the Kennewick Man is a complicated lawsuit that can be interpreted as a clash between two systems of conceptualizing and tracing human history.'1 The systems arise from differing cultural perspectives: the Culture of present-day Native Americans and the culture of science. In an attempt to explain the perspective and motivations of two of the scientists involved in this case, we want to provide here a foundation for con- templating and evaluating the various views of this dispute by presenting facts from their perspective and expressing our concerns. This legal challenge is not against Native Americans per se, although others frequently characterize it as such. The dispute is based on the action of a federal agency. In developing the scientists’ position, the approach must be clear: comprehensive understanding of ancient human history in the Americas requires the study of skeletal remains. It is in the interest of all people that a clear and accurate understanding of the past be available to everyone. Background The Kennewick Man was discovered in Kennewick, Washington, by two college students. Erosion had exposed the skeleton on land managed by and under the jurisdiction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The dis- covery was investigated locally as a forensic case by the Benton County coro— ner with assistance provided by James Chatters, an archaeologist who lives in nearby Richland, Washington. In Chatters’s initial opinion the nearly com- plete, exceptionally well—preserved skeleton seemed European-like and showed craniofacial features unlike those characteristic of Native Americans; there- fore, the skeleton was thought to he a nineteenthrcentury explorer or pioneer. This theory became questionable, however, when a broken projectile point that was embedded in the right pelvic bone was determined to be of an ancient style. Its presence made establishing the skeleton’s date essential. At the coroner’s request, a single accelerator test was run using a fragment of a metacarpal. The test indicated that the remains were approximately nine thousand years old,2 which classifies the skeleton as one of the oldest and best preserved of its kind found in the Americas. According to Charters,3 the 141 Owsley and Jantz cranial vault was narrow and relatively long with facial features that included small malars, a narrow facial width, a prominent nose, and a projecting chin. These features are not like those typically found in Native Americans, who commonly have wide faces, large flat malars, a rounded mental symphysis, and a more globular cranial vault. Two physical anthropologists, Catherine J. MacMillan, retired from Central Washington University, and Grover S. Krantz of Washington State University, conducted brief examinations of the skeleton. MacMillan and Krantz assessed that the cranial features could not be biologically linked to existing tribal groups. Krantz added: “The racial affiliation of the skeleton continues to be a problem that should be studied, not ignored, if we are to fully understand the early prehistory of America.”4 After being notified of the skeleton’s age, the Army Corps of Engineers took possession from the coroner, citing requirements of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which establishes a process for returning remains and associated cultural items found on federal land to Native Americans who can be tribally affiliated. As a starting point, NAGPRA requires federal agencies to contact tribes that are potentially affili- ated with found remains. Tribes may claim remains by presenting various kinds of evidence of affiliation such as geography, biology, archaeology, anthropology, language, kinship, folklore, oral tradition, history, or expert opinion. The rationale behind the concept of affiliation is to provide a means for returning remains to a definably linked descendant group. Five tribes responded to the corps: the Umatilla tribe of northeastern Oregon; the Yakamas, the \Wanapum Band of Yakamas, and the Colvilles of Washington; and the Nez Percé of Idaho. They collectively argued for return and reburial under the guidelines of NAGPRA. The coalition demanded imme— diate reburial of the skeleton in a secret location with no further examination. The corps ordered termination of the coroner’s investigation, including the partially completed DNA tests being run at the University of California, Davis. Then the corps placed the remains, still in their temporary packaging, in a cabinet at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash— ington. It did not create an inventory or conduct a condition assessment of the bones when it took custody. lt immediately began consultations with the local tribes to finalize disposition of the remains. The corps published its intent to transfer the remains within thirty days to the Umatilla, based on the location of the skeleton’s recovery. Under NAGPRA, human remains discovered on federal land judicially recognized as having been occupied by an aboriginal tribe can be claimed by that group unless another tribe can show that it is “culturally affiliated” with the remains.5 In the case of the Kennewick skeleton the Umatilla tribe claimed the skeleton on this basis, asserting that cultural affiliation between the skeleton and any modern tribe cannot be demonstrated because of its great age, and that the discovery occurred on land that was judicially determined to have been aboriginally occupied by the Umatilla tribefi This assertion was later shown to be in error, as there had been no such ruling. 142 KenneWick Man Throughout this process, interested scientists made numerous requests to the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to study the skeleton. Douglas Owsley also contacted the Umatilla tribe through intermediaries and directly in writing to request permission, on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, to examine the skeleton. He emphasized the importance of the discovery and what could be learned, and offered to release the findings jointly under the auspices of the tribal government and the Smithsonian. Owslcy received no response from the tribe. The corps also failed to respond to repeated requests to study the skeleton. As a result, eight scientists, including the authors of this essay, filed suit in October 1996' to halt the transfer and to enforce what they contend is a legal right to study the skeleton. Bonnicbsen er al. V. United States is the first major legal challenge to a federal agency’s implementation of NAGPRA. Tribal Views The Umatilla, a tribe with 2,087 members, refer to Kennewick Man as the “Ancient One.” According to Donald Sampson, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of. the Umatilla Reservation, religious and cultural beliefs mandate burial of the skeleton as soon as possible. The Umatilla have made it clear that scientific arguments for examining the remains are “shaky to nonexistent.”7 From their viewpoint, religious rights and beliefs should take precedence over study. A key legal issue of the dispute is whether the skeleton is Native American as defined by NAGPRA. The broken projectile point and the geographical location of the recovery were cited as evidence of Kennewick Man‘s Native American ancestry, thus implying affiliation as manifested by cultural descent. As the tribe’s religious leader, Armand Minthorn, stated: “If this individual is truly over 9,000 years old, that only substantiates our belief that he is Native American. From our oral histories, we know that our people have been part of this land since the beginning of time. We do not believe that our people migrated here from another continent, as the scientists do.” Hundreds of Native American creation and origin stories solidify group identity through symbolic meaning. Many Native Americans are candid regarding their nonbelief in the value of archaeological research as pertinent to questions of originf" This sentiment is intensified when dealing with human remains. Thus, the Umatilla believe they already know their history. Accord- ing to Minthorn, “It is passed on to us through our elders and through our religious practices.” 1” Accordingly, the Umatilla reject the notion that any- thing relevant can be learned from analysis of a skeleton. These assertions also dispose some Native Americans against appeals for scientific investigation of the kind now at issue. For example, the following comment was made by Sebastian Le Beau, repatriation officer for the Cheyenne River Sioux: “We never asked science to make a determination as to our origins. We know where we came from. We are the descendants of the Buffalo people. They came from inside the earth after supernatural spirits prepared 143 Owsley and Jantz the world for humankind to live here. If non-Indians choose to believe they evolved from an ape, so be it. Ihave yet to come across five Lakotas who believe in science and evolution.“1 These beliefs are not, however, universal among Native Americans. Some tribal gmups have permitted study because of local community interest and benefit to the larger majority. For example, scientists are currently investigat— ing human remains from a cave on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska dated to 9,800 B.P. with authorization of the local tribal councils.ll Scientific Concerns From the scientific perspective, repatriation is appropriate in those cases dating to the late prehistoric and early historic periods where affiliation is demonstrable. In response to NAGPRA, museums and scientists now comply positively and willingly with the intent of the legislation by returning museum collections. As of May 1999, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History has deaccessioned and transferred more than 3,225 sets of human remains and 87,000 archaeological and ethnographic objects to forty- five native groups.” An additional 3,000 skeletons from the northcentral United States have been repatriated from universities and museums.14 Nearly all skeletal collections have been returned in some states, as is the case in Iowa, North Dakota, and Minnesota. For example, the number of individual remains reburicd in Minnesota between 1978 and June 1998 is 1,608.15 According to the “NAGPRA Update” of April 1999, collection inventories have been received from 733 American institutions and agencies, as required by this legislation. Many of these inventories have been followed by Federal Register notices issued by the United States government, indicating intent to repatriate thousands of remains, funerary artifacts, sacred items, and objects of cultural patrimony to affiliated groups. In contrast, the Kennewick Man case is the first legal challenge to the repar triation of human remains. From the perspective of the scientist-plaintiffs, NAGPRA becomes problematic when it is applied to remains of greater antiqa uity where affiliation cannot be easily determined. In reality, declarations of relationship and continuity become debatable and arguably unrealistic with remains, like Kennewick Man, which are thour sands of years old. I-Iuman genealogical histories involve various complex combinations of branching and merging, migration and extinction. A genea- logical connection extending back nine thousand years, some four hundred and fifty generations, is hard to demonstrate, especially without comprehen- sive study. Furthermore, many individuals, and even groups, left no descen- dants. To assume that Kennewick Man is the direct ancestor of a tribe inhabiting the region today assumes no migration in or out of the area for more than nine thousand years. With human mobility as we know it, if there is a relationship at all, Kennewick Man is more likely at the base of a number of scattered populations, rather than the direct kin of a localized group such as the Umatilla. (For an historic example of dispersal, one need only review 144 Kennewick Man the geographical distribution of the descendants of those who arrived in America on the Mayflower.) Evidence supporting the position of affinity based on geographical location is difficult to establish. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that NAGPRA was not intended to stop scientific research. The Umatilla contend that this case is an effort by scientists “to lay claim to materials which Congress did not intend them to have." 16 In fact, from its inception, NAGPRA was a compromise that assumed that studies of the kind requested in the Kennevvick Man case would be allowed. For example, the report from the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs referenced this issue when it recommended the passage of NAGPRA: The Committee received testimony from professionals in the scientific community who say that there is an overriding interest in the acquisition and retention of human remains for the purpose of scientific inquiry. Scientists have indicated that recent technological advances allow them to analyze bones and learn new facts and pursue important research on diet, disease, genetics and related matters. Native American witnesses have indicated that they do not object to the study of human remains when there is a specific purpose to the study and a definitive time period for the study.” In a report to the 1994—95 Congress, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt restates the contention that science is integral to the process: Now more than ever, the protection, preservation, and interpretation of America’s archeological resources are important activities of federal agencies. Archeological remains, whether related to the ancient inhabitants of our country or from more recent historical times, should be reserved for public uses rather than private gain. We should strive to provide all Americans the opportunity to appreciate the past craftsmanship, understand past ways of life, and better comprehend people’s adape tations to changing natural, physical, and social environments during prehistoric and historic times. Information derived from archeological resources should be pro- vided through scientifically based, accessible public interpretation. Archeological collections and associated records should be cared for and used to further public education.18 To date, only seven well-preserved and securely dated Paleo-American skeletons have been discovered in the United States. Most are from the west- ern half of the continent, especially Nevada and Texas, where drier conditions facilitate preservation. About twenty more of these skeletons are known, but their condition is fragmentary as a result of poor preservation or, in some cases, because of the mortuary practice of cremation. The sample is so small that each new discovery has the potential of adding significant information to the existing corpus of knowledge. In recent years, however, research on ancient remains has been blocked or limited by unclear government regulations combined with tribal claims that 145 Owsley and Jantz are not always closely examined. As a result, prehistoric remains have been reburied without adequate study. Examples include the skeleton of a female found near Buhl, Idaho, that is approximately 10,675 years old, which had been claimed under state law for reburial by the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. Little is known about this skeleton because it was reburied without thorough study. In another case, an eightrthousand-yearrold skeleton found in Hour- glass Cave in the Colorado Rockies was reburied by the Southern Ute tribe. The United States Forest Service has declared the cave sacred and closed to the public.1-9 Under NAGPRA, disposition of remains depends on tracing cul— tural affiliation. These recent transfers are disputable, although no lawsuits were initiated. Based on archaeological evidence, Numicrspeaking popula- tions such as the Shoshone, Paiute, and Ute migrated into the Great Basin and Colorado during the late prehistoric period, thousands of years after these ancient individuals died?” Other ancient skeletons have or will be reburied soon, including welle preserved specimens from Minnesota, Nebraska, and Nevada. The Northern Paiute, for example, have claimed the Spirit Cave Mummy from Nevada, compelling the Bureau of Land Management to defer requests to conduct DNA research on this individual and other ancient remains under its control. The Biological Context ofKennewicla Man The Kennewick Man appears to date to a period similar to four other well- dated skeletons that have provided information about ancestry and biological relationships through morphometric study. As will be demonstrated, morpho- metric analysis shows how different these four specimens are from modern groups, indicating that it cannot be assumed a priori that the Kennewick fos— sil is related to modern Native American peoples. Study is absolutely neces- sary to determine whether Kennewick Man is similar to anyone living today. Study is also required to test new theories against traditional assumptions about the peopling of the Americas. The traditional model purports that the first Americans crossed the Bering Strait land bridge connecting Siberia to North America during the terminal Wisconsinian Ice Age some 11,500 years ago. Their technology has been referred to as Clovis culture, and their desig- nation as Paleorlndian was linked to the belief that biologically they were related to northeast Asians, with skeletal, dental, and soft tissue features charr acteristic of Mongoloid peoples. Scientists assumed that contemporary Native Americans were the descendants of these people. Bioanthropological studies initiated during the 1.9905 and accurate dating of early sites have challenged this model, suggesting that Paleo-American may be a better designation than Paleo-lndian for this population. Tantalizing evi- dence indicates that pre—Clovis arrival with multiple migrations involving diverse populations may be a more accurate assessment of the events involved in peopling the New World. Some of the oldest humans identified on the coa- tinent have skeletal features that are distinctly different from modern—day Native Americans. Whether the earliest groups were directly related to later 146 ...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern