Search Results for ‘"kennewick man"’

Kennewick Man: science 1, Army Corps and DoJ 0

The U.S. government was intent on “repatriating” the ancient remains of Kennewick Man for burial to Indian tribes in compliance with the perceived spirit of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), though any relation between those remains and current tribes is at best notional. The U.S. Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers had thrown their full weight on the side of immediate burial, even threatening criminal charges against individual scientists who insisted on litigating the case. “If it weren’t for a harrowing round of panicky last-minute maneuvering worthy of a legal thriller, the remains might have been buried and lost to science forever.” Fortunately, scientists won in the end, leaving the “most important human skeleton ever found in North America” finally free to disclose his secrets. [Smithsonian, earlier]

P.S. Welcome Popehat readers (“Science in the Hands of Angry Liberal Arts Majors”). And as several commenters point out, my summary above overstates the extent to which scientists actually prevailed, since the U.S. government continues to fight tenaciously to prevent further testing of the remains, and reportedly dumped a thousand tons of fill on the discovery site early on in case it hadn’t made its stance clear.

Indian-remains law: son of Kennewick Man?

Under California law, if you’re digging on your property and you find prehistoric remains, you must contact the state’s Native American Heritage Commission.

The commission then assigns a person known as the “most-likely descendant” to consult with the landowner. But there’s sometimes tenuous or no ancestral ties between the “descendant” and the uncovered bodies, scientists and American Indians said. … Praetzellis and other researchers said it is more important for American Indians to be involved in the moving of ancient remains than to force them to prove a genetic link after being left out entirely for decades.

“They just have to say, ‘Yeah, I feel culturally connected to those remains,'” said Jeff Fentress, a San Francisco State anthropologist. “It is really up to that person to determine how to handle that burial.”

Landowners often pay consulting fees to persons on the designated “descendant” lists, and some persons of American Indian descent say they would like to be on the lists but were left off because of politics. Some Indian activists are also upset that the state law does not give the “descendant” the right to block development. (Matt Krupnick, “Ancient remains causing problems”, Contra Costa Times, Oct. 18). Earlier: Jul. 16, 2005, etc.

Update: Further Kennewick Man litigation likely

The Los Angeles Times reports that the eight-year-old legal battle over scientists’ attempts to study the 9,300-year-old bones (Feb. 14) is probably not over, even though Indian tribes and the Department of Justice decided not to appeal the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court. Before, Clinton administration objections under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act prevented study. Now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has custody of the bones, is objecting under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 to anthropologists’ plans to study the skeleton. And the tribes have filed papers expressing their intent to continue litigating. In the words of the Houston Chronicle’s headline-writers in reprinting the LA Times article, “Curse of lawyers surrounds ancient skeleton.” (Tomas Alex Tizon, “Skeleton Case’s New Bone of Contention”, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 2 (via Bashman); Eli Sanders, “An 8-Year Fight Ends Over a 9,200-Year-Old Man”, New York Times, Jul. 20; Tim Sandefur, Panda’s Thumb blog, Mar. 25; Bonnischen v. United States; Friends of America’s Past website and Aug. 4 press release).

Update: “Scientists win Kennewick Man ruling”

“The scientific community should be allowed to study the 9,000-year-old human bones known as Kennewick Man, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled [last week], rejecting an appeal by several tribes claiming kinship and seeking to rebury the remains.” The court found little evidence of either a genetic or a cultural link between the prehistoric corpse and present-day Indian tribes. (Tom Paulson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Feb. 5) (see Sept. 27-28, 2000; Oct. 11, 1999). See “In our view: Kennewick Man” (editorial), The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.), Feb. 8; Moira Breen; Lex Communis; Brian Doherty, Reason “Hit and Run”, Feb. 12; Sarah Graham, “Scientists Win Latest Ruling in Kennewick Man Case”, Scientific American, Feb. 6. More: Aug. 2.

NAGPRA, counting by tribe, and the grave of Jim Thorpe

Bad enough for Congress to meddle in adoptions in hopes of helping out Indian tribes. But…burials? My new guest column at Jurist examines the first-of-its-kind lawsuit by which some descendants of Native American sports great Jim Thorpe are trying to use the law to require the borough of Jim Thorpe, Pa. to yield up his remains for re-interment in Oklahoma. It concludes:

In a nation where people regularly fall in love across ethnic lines, laws that assign rights differentially to some members of families based on descent or tribal affiliation are especially hard to justify under US Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. … Say what you will about the Third Circuit’s reasoning, it at least postpones the day when tribal enmities extend into our very cemeteries, and even the dead cannot escape counting based on race.

Earlier on the Mauch Chunk/Jim Thorpe controversy; on NAGPRA and science, and the Kennewick Man affair, etc.

Mauna Kea, NAGPRA, and science’s “turn back toward the dark ages”

Now this is welcome: the New York Times (via Ronald Bailey) has a column by George Johnson jumping off from the question of whether locating a giant telescope on Mauna Kea would unfairly desecrate the religious and ancestral heritage of (some) native Hawaiians. Johnson notes:

While biblical creationists opposing the teaching of evolution have been turned back in case after case, American Indian tribes have succeeded in using their own religious beliefs and a federal law called the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act to empty archaeological museums of ancestral bones — including ones so ancient that they have no demonstrable connection to the tribe demanding their reburial. The most radical among them refuse to bow to a science they don’t consider their own. A few even share a disbelief in evolution, professing to take literally old myths in which the first people crawled out of a hole in the ground.

In this turn back toward the dark ages, it is not just skeletal remains that are being surrendered. Under the federal law, many ceremonial artifacts are also up for grabs. While some archaeologists lament the loss of scientific information, Indian creationism is tolerated out of a sense of guilt over past wrongdoings.

Even some scientists bow and go along in the spirit of reparations, while admitting the loss to human inquiry and future knowledge. Earlier on NAGPRA and the Kennewick Man controversy here, here, etc.

Mauch Chunk once more?

The historic town of Mauch Chunk, Pa. changed its name to Jim Thorpe, Pa. as part of a deal to honor the Native American-descended athlete. Now a lawsuit is invoking the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) to demand removal of Thorpe’s remains to Oklahoma [Never Yet Melted]

Meanwhile, scientists, universities and museums are considering their legal options in the face of new Interior Department interpretations of NAGPRA mandating “that after appropriate tribal consultation, transfer of culturally unidentifiable remains is to be made to a tribe from whose tribal or aboriginal lands the remains were excavated or removed.” [Indian Country Today, April; earlier posts on Kennewick Man controversy]

December 5 roundup

  • Fear of “retribution” and “legal action” among reasons docs don’t report hazardous colleagues and conditions [WaPo on new Annals of Internal Medicine study]
  • Judge rips Milberg for high Chiron fee proposal, questions Skadden’s conflict [The Recorder]
  • Felony murder rule is an American exception with results that can be hard to defend [Liptak, NYT]
  • UK: “Man broke girlfriend’s leg in damages fraud” [Times Online]
  • Often driven by defensive medicine, CAT scans may pose their own risks to patients who undergo them [Newsday on NEJM study]
  • Commentator is glad post offices are lawyering up their Operation Santa gift programs [McDonough, CalLaw LegalPad; earlier; possibly related]
  • Quebec judge nixes suit by Concordia University mass murderer against former colleagues [Canadian Press]
  • Update on Kennewick man and Indian-remains legislation [WashTimes; earlier]
  • Magic of compound interest? Uncollected 1977 award for victim of Evel Knievel attack said to have mounted by now to $100 million [AP/Yahoo]
  • School discipline now a heavily lawyer-driven affair [Charleston Post & Courier courtesy Common Good]
  • Complaint: Cleveland housing authority should have done more renovations to accommodate extremely obese tenant [four years ago on Overlawyered]

Update: Stifling archaeology, the tribal way

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is now sponsoring that very troublesome bill, formerly championed by the departed Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, to amend the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act so as to expand Indian tribes’ power to assert control over prehistoric human remains not associated with any still-existing tribe (see Oct. 18, 2004). The bill would go far to reverse scientists’ victory in the nine-year court battle over tribes’ asserted right on cultural grounds to reclaim the remains of 9.300-year-old Kennewick Man (Aug. 9, 2004, etc.) Cleone Hawkinson, president of Friends of America’s Past, “says the change would make it impossible to study the earliest inhabitants of North America. ‘American archaeology would come to a standstill,’ she said.” A hearing before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is scheduled for Jul. 28. (Sandi Doughton, “Fate of Kennewick Man study unclear”, Seattle Times, Jul. 15).

More: reader Carey Gage writes in to advise, “check out Moira Breen’s site on this issue. She has been all over it for years.”