In a previous post, I wrote about the controversy over ancient skeletal remains of the Kennewick man, found in Kennewick. He is known to be the oldest Paleo-American in the country! Scientists studied his lifestyle and his demise but were countered by native American groups claiming his remains. A bitter court case was brought by a team of scientists to sue the government to get him back. They ultimately won and got to study him for a period of time. They determined that he was a traveler from up north and he survived being shot with an arrow and broken ribs among many other things. They even published a whole book on the Kennewick Man! Now, however, controversy is stirred up again. Initially, they said his DNA was too old to be traced to any living tribe, but now they say his DNA is linked to Native Americans. The strange part was that he had more Caucasoid features, like a pointier face and nose, not Native American features. This new revelation could enable Native Americans to reclaim him and bury him in their belief that he is their ancestor.
The interesting part is that the Native American groups have always been hostile to the idea of scientists studying the remains of ancient humans in their area. They believe that it desecrates the dead, and in the past, the US government wasn’t always so keen on treating Native American groups with respect. I can understand why they turn an eye of suspicion on the scientist’s intentions, but now things are different. The scientists do not have any ill-will towards the Native Americans, only wishing to study the people who came before in the distant past. Also, why is the concept of studying the lives of one’s ancestors unethical? I would think one would be pleased to know more about their ancestor’s lives and have a better picture of who they were. Also, from a scientific point of view, the person who is being studied certainly wouldn’t identify with any modern tribe! The person would probably see any modern tribe’s identity, customs and traditions as alien as the scientists studying him! I believe the main reason for re-burial is because they don’t want what they feel as “Western” and Government encroachment on their lives like in past history. I hope poor Kennewick Man can weather this “custody battle”!