9,300-Year-Old Bones Shouldn't Be Buried

Tribes' claims on skeleton inspire ire of National Review editors
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2007 6:40 PM CDT
9,300-Year-Old Bones Shouldn't Be Buried
WASHINGTON, DC -- John Barkley, General Council Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Pendleton, Oregon, listens as Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell,   (KRT Photos)

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee has made a two-word correction to federal law that jeopardizes the study of pre-Columbian history, National Review's editors argue. The 9,300-year-old bones known as Kennewick Man—featured on a Time cover after they were unearthed in 1996—are the subject of a dispute between scientists who want to study them and a coalition of Pacific Northwest tribes that wants to bury them. 

The bones are critical because they cast doubt on the traditional Bering Strait crossing theory. Two years ago, Congress voted down legislation that would have validated the tribes' claim to the bones. But the committee approved a word change to a law governing artifacts that would do just that, by adding to the definition of Native American—“is, or was, indigenous.” The NR editors hope that all those who trumpet their support for science will stop the bones from being reburied. (More NAGPRA stories.)

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