DNA tests provide irrefutable proof of origin. This applies as well to the "Kennewick Man," who is now being tagged to be of Native-American descent, possibly heralding the end to a years-long debate between scientists and native tribes.

The Kennewick Man was discovered in 1996 along the Columbia River. As a nearly complete skeleton, the remains were remarkable, but it stirred up controversy when it was identified to be of non-Native American origin. This led to a lawsuit in 1996 to determine who will have custody of the Kennewick Man, with Native American tribes fighting to have the "Ancient One" reburied according to their traditions and scholars arguing for science.

In 2004, however, it was ruled by a federal appeals court that the extreme age attributed to the Kennewick Man makes it impossible to be linked to any existing North American tribe. Rights to study the remains were also awarded to a team headed by Douglas Owsley, a Smithsonian Institution physical anthropologist.

With preliminary DNA results identifying the Kennewick Man as having "normal, standard Native American genetics," the tribes now have a stronger case for claiming the "Ancient One." However, they may not be able to use the DNA test as evidence until results are officially released.

Another DNA test is being scheduled to determine the Kennewick Man's exact geographic origin. Geochemist Thomas Stafford Jr. is involved in analyzing the remains' DNA and has said that it is possible for early conclusions to change with more detailed analysis. Other experts, however, feel that deeper genetic sequencing will not affect the basic determination that the Kennewick Man is Native American.

Still, Owsley is not convinced, sticking to his own conclusion that the Kennewick Man is not Native American and most likely hailed from coastal Asia. He based this on a skull comparison showing incongruence with Native American bones, with narrow brain cases and prominent foreheads characteristic of inhabitants in Asia.

A bone analysis also revealed the Kennewick Man's diet involved a lot of marine mammals, which points to the possibility that despite being found in the Columbia Plateau, he actually spent most of his time in coasts along British Columbia or Alaska.

The Kennewick Man's remains are stored at the Washington State Museum's Burke Museum. It is not available for public viewing but it is visited by native tribes from time to time for certain tribal ceremonies.

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