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UPDATE: Kennewick Man Was Native American; Gov. Inslee Asks For Return Of Remains To Native Tribes

Ken2_0.jpeg
Smithsonsian Institute
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This clay facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man, who died about 8,500 years ago in what's now southeast Washington, was based on forensic scientists' study of the morphological features of his skull.

UPDATE:  After DNA testing confirmed the 8,500-year-old Kennewick man was ancestor of modern Washington tribes, Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting that the remains be returned to Native American tribes.

A pair of college students discovered the skeleton near Columbia River and Kennewick in 1996. The U.S Army Corp of Engineers took control of the bones that are the oldest human remains discovered in North America. Recent DNA analysis proved that the Kennewick man is genetically linked to modern Native Americans.

“Now that DNA analysis has demonstrated a genetic link to modern Native Americans, including those in the State of Washington, I am requesting that the Ancient One be repatriated to the appropriate Tribes as expeditiously as possible,” Inslee wrote in a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Our Washington State tribes have waited nineteen years for the remains to be transferred for reburial.

Original Story, published June 18, 2015:

Scientists say they’ve pinned down the origins of a man who lived in the northwest about 9,000 years ago, and their conclusion is the same as what Washington tribes have been saying since the bones’ discovery: Kennewick Man was Native American.

Kennewick Man, known to the tribes as the Ancient One, has been fought over since his discovery in 1996. Researchers have suggested he came from Japanese, Polynesian or even European stock.

But EskeWillerslev of the University of Copenhagen says DNA pulled from a hand bone now makes it clear where Kennewick Man belongs in the world’s family tree.

“Kennewick Man, the Ancient One, is more closely related to contemporary Native Americans than to any other contemporary populations in the world,” said Eske, speaking at a press conference at the Burke Museum in Seattle.

The museum has housed the bones while five Washington tribes have been fighting the federal government over control of the remains. They believe the new finding bolsters their case that Kennewick Man should be given to them, under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

“We hope that this finding will further support the five tribes in our desires to return our elder, our ancient one, back to the mother Earth,” said Lela Buck, representing the Wanapum Band of Priest Rapids.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation were the only Washington tribe who agreed to provide the scientists DNA samples for comparison. The analysis shows the Colville Tribes are among Kennewick Man’s most direct descendants.

The Army Corps of Engineers still control the remains. The tribal representatives say they hope to press their claim again.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
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