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Kennewick Man Reburied After Two Decades Of Legal Battle

21 February 2017, 11:00 am EST By Joshua King Tech Times
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The remains of the 9000-year-old Kennewick Man have finally been reburied after a 20-year-old legal battle between scientists and Native Americans. The Ancient One's remains were interred on Feb. 18 in a somber ceremony.  ( Brittney Tatchell | Smithsonian Institution )

In a private ceremony on Saturday lead by several Northwest tribes, the Kennewick Man was reburied, ending a 20-year-old legal battle between scientists and native tribes.

For the unfamiliar, scientists were of the opinion that the Kennewick Man's bones - touted to be the "most important human skeleton ever found in North America" - must be examined for research. However, the Native American tribes were against this notion and wanted to lay them to rest.

The two decade-long saga came to an end over the weekend following the remains of the 9000-year-old Paleoamerican being finally interred.

Nearly 30 Native Americans from five different tribes traveled to Burke Museum in Seattle on Feb. 17. This was the place where the skeleton had been preserved for the last two decades.

The tribe members retrieved dozens of boxes containing the remains of the Kennewick Man and on Feb. 18, more than 200 people of the tribes, such as the Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce, Colville and Wanapum, gathered at an undisclosed location on the Columbia Plateau to bury the Ancient One. The somber ceremony was completed with various traditional songs.

"The Ancient One ... may now finally find peace, and we, his relatives, will equally feel content knowing that this work has been completed on his behalf," shared JoDe Goudy, chairman of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council.

The Kennewick Man

The remains of Kennewick Man were spotted in 1996. It was a summer day when two college students discovered the human skull along the Columbia River in Kennewick. Being one of the most-studied sets of ancient remains in the world, the discovered skeleton's hip was entrenched with a stone point.  

The archaeologists unearthed around 300 pieces of bone in the coming months to complete the skeleton.

The scientists performed several tests on the discovered skeleton and at the time of discovery believed that the bones were unrelated to Native Americans. However, they were curious to learn about the origins of the remains. They even suggested that the Kennewick Man was the offspring of people who migrated from Asia to North America. The people migrated into the continent before individuals who were responsible for modern-day Native Americans.

Moreover, scientists compared the Kennewick Man's DNA with that of people originating from Europe, Asia and even America. The study's results were published in 2015, which revealed that most of the DNA matched with most Native Americans.

The findings affirmed the beliefs of the tribe members that the Kennewick Man was their relative.

The Custody Battle

Scientists and Native Americans fought over the custody of the bones of the Ancient One for over two decades. The tribal people opposed further research on the remains, suggesting that it would violate their religious and cultural rights. They were in the favor of reburial of the remains.

A prolonged legal battle followed, with the Native Americans losing the legal battle in 2004. The court ordered the researchers to continue their study of the remains in the museum. However, tribes were able to visit the remains at the time of some ceremonies.

In December 2016, President Obama signed a legislation as reported, allowing the native tribes of eastern Washington to take away the remains of Kennewick Man for reburial, putting an end to the battle.

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