Kennewick Man

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Kennewick Man

Postby tess on September 12th, 2006, 5:26 pm 

For someone who has been dead for over 9000 years, Kennewick Man is certainly causing the US government a lot of trouble.

In September, the US Congress will again face the question of whether ancient skeletons such as this should be treated as anthropological gold mines or as ancestral Native Americans deserving of respectful burials.

Should we protect scientists' right to study remains?
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Postby Forest_Dump on September 12th, 2006, 5:50 pm 

Unfortunately, while I have no direct connection with this case (beyond knowing some of the archaeologists involved) having dealt with issues regarding human remains, First Nations groups can be highly variable themselves in these issues. Many do not care, of course. Others can be extremely explicit in that the value they see in these cases is more about contemporary land claims issues and economic results. Sometimes FN groups may be highly motivated to hide the past, particularly when groups have moved around at various times both before and after the arrival of Europeans. Some groups have even argued that research into the far past should be banned because it conflicts with their religious beliefs that First Nations were the product of a special creation and did not migrate from Asia. Aside from being simply another form of creationism, there is a raised problem of these kinds of things being highly racist. A key but unfortunate premise that is being raised repeatedly is that these kinds of problems do require differential treatment under law based on race and/or religion.

Kennewick, at least, is relatively straight forward in that this body is old enough that virtually no connection to a modern group can be established on the basis of skeletal morphology and what we do know about the culture, religion, etc., of peoples from that time.
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Postby John Galt on September 13th, 2006, 11:46 am 

I'm not acquainted with this Kennewick Man, but what I do know is that any remains found on any Native Land is required to be turned over to the FN authorities and is not given to scientists to examine. I don't really think that we should miss out on important scientific facts because it might interfere with the 'beliefs' of any particular group (christinanity included). Wouldn't knowing these facts help us to learn more about who we are and where we came from?
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Postby Forest_Dump on September 13th, 2006, 12:28 pm 

Well, having done archaeology on FN land, doing anything on their land without express written permission before hand is not only illegal but dangerous. You could easily become part of the archaeological record that way. In some cases, however, permission can be arranged but will usually require reaching agreements on disposal of any and all material recovered prior to commencement of work. If you don't like the conditions established ahead of time, you just don't work there.

As to human remains elsewhere, in both the US and Canada there are both ethical standards and laws against disturbing human remains no matter where they are found. Simply, digging up an unmarked prehistoric burial is no different from digging out burials from an active cemetary, no matter what your reasoning behind it. To me, there is no real difference between digging up burials to get the pots or arrow heads and digging up burials to get the silver fillings and wedding rings in them.

Still, burials do come up in development projects or erode out from natural processes. The former is sometimes dealt with in CRM (more in Canada than in the US - the latter usually only occurs on some federal projects while Canada seems to offer more protection on housing projects, etc. but not always and not often enforced or policed.

Kennewick, however, was a case of the latter. The remains were found eroding out on Federal land and reported to a local archaeologist. The controversy began after this point.
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