Findings of a DNA analysis published in the journal Nature on June 18 have revealed that the Kennewick man was Native American with his genes found to be closely matched to modern members of the tribal groups claiming that the skeleton is an honored ancestor and call it the Ancient One.
Who should be the caretaker of the 9,000-year-old remains has been a subject of debate. The bones were discovered in a part of the Columbia considered as Corps property so control was retained by the federal agency.
The Corps initially decided to hand over the skeleton to the tribes but scientists argued for the right to study what is known as one of the most complete ancient remains that were discovered in the Americas.
The concern was once the skeleton is handed to the tribes, it will be buried and can no longer be studied. The scientists eventually won making it possible for them to conduct several studies of the bones.
Results of the new study, however, have prompted Washington Governor Jay Inslee to ask that the Kennewick Man be returned to the Native American Tribes.
In his letter to Brigadier General John Kem, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Inslee said that since the DNA analysis has shown a genetic link between the ancient remains and modern Native Americans, the skeleton should be returned to the tribes as soon as possible. He said that the Washington State tribes have waited a long time for the remains for be reburied.
"Our Washington State tribes have waited nineteen years for the remains to be transferred for reburial. During this time several studies have been completed, from the recent DNA analysis to numerous books," Inslee wrote. "Rarely have Native American human remains been subjected to such intensive investigations and examinations."
The governor acknowledged the importance of studying the remains but pointed out that the cultural needs of the tribes should also be met. He said that the findings of the new study have ended many questions that surround the identity of the remains and this means it is time to pay respect to the repeated requests for its repatriation.
Inslee requested the Corps to give a timeline for the repatriation process. Should the repatriation cannot be handled expeditiously, the governor asked the corps to transfer the skeleton to the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation.
Photo: The U.S. Army | Flickr