Native Remains Nationwide to be Returned from Museums to Tribes

Monday, March 29, 2010
Kennewick Man

The Department of the Interior has decided to turn over to Indian tribes and Native Hawaiians the human remains and artifacts currently in possession of museums and natural history collections. Taking effect May 14, the decision includes remains that cannot be traced to a particular tribe or organization. These remains will be given to tribes that had a proven presence on the land from which the remains were taken.

Interior Department officials also announced they are streamlining the process by which it returns remains and artifacts. Previously, the Secretary of the Interior relied on a special review committee to decide how to process requests from tribes. That committee has now been eliminated.
The changes are part of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, which requires all museums and federal agencies to identify Indian cultural items in their collections. As of last year, the remains of almost 40,000 people have been registered.
In response to the Interior Department rule changes, the University of Michigan said it will return the remains of nearly 1,400 Indians, some of them more than 3,000 years old, to various tribes.
It is still unclear what will become of Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old skeleton that was found on the Columbia River in Washington State in 1996. The remains were the subject of a lawsuit, settled in by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004, that denied local tribes ownership because it could not be proven that Kennewick Man belonged to a tribe.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Native Remains Will Be Repatriated (Courthouse News Service)
National NAGPRA (National Park Service)


Hakeem 11 years ago
With all due respect to the dead, the living are far more important. The past hold cues that can help us learn more. Why can't we just study the found remains, decide who they belong to, and then return them to be laid to rest. It does not make sense to just ignore the possible knowledge from the remains. Science should not be hampered. Human rights issue? the rights of the living humans should be regarded more than the rights of the dead, again with all due respect to the dead.
Nikishna Polequaptewa 11 years ago
Regardless of whether or not Kennewick Man is of Native American decent is irrelevant, the fact remains that ancestors of all backgrounds deserve the right to eternal peace with the dignity of not being probed and disturbed. I feel this to be a human rights issue that only seems to disproportionately affect Native American and African remains. I certainly understand that there is a lot to learn from the archeological remains, yet there is also much to learn about Native Americans still living. I make a humble request to leave the deceased to rest.
Friends of America's Past 11 years ago
In the Kennewick Man lawsuit the Ninth Circuit ruled that NAGPRA did not apply to these remains. The definition of NATIVE AMERICAN as defined in the NAGPRA statue is explicit and the courts ruled that these requirements were not met. To simply assume all ancient remains must be Native American so NAGPRA automatically applies and affiliation is the only question is a misuse of NAGPRA's intent. Prehistory if far more complex than this.

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