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The Kennewick Man Essay

When we think of prehistoric bones and fossils we think of dinosaurs and creatures of huge amount of size, but the findings of Kennewick Man changed the very thought of prehistoric beings. So exactly who is the Kennewick Man and why is he so important? Why is he given such a name as to Kennewick Man? Why would anyone want to fight and file lawsuits on each other to for a pile of old dusty bones? Well that’s what is found here on the case of “Kennewick Man.” Scientist and Native Americans just can’t keep their hands off this precious specimen. Why does one deserve Kennewick Man over the other? What values does he hold for them? Can Kennewick Man do anything to help either the Native Americans of scientist?

Even though Native Americans deserve the rights to the Kennewick Man, scientist have just as much rights to study Kennewick Man because the science that they will perform could uncover much truth of the past and scientist discoveries from this specimen could even help us human beings in the future to come.

Who exactly is the Kennewick Man? Thousands of years ago Kennewick man lived and hunted in what is now Washington State. His tribe was among the first to cross the land bridge into North America. He had a hard life and lived with many serious injuries, including a spear point embedded in his pelvis. He later died in his forties and was buried by his kinsman.

Scientist has the rights to study Kennewick Man. In previous centuries archeologists were content simply to find objects. Today, armed with computer, laboratory analysis, theories about society and culture, and a wide range of questions about human development and migration, scientist now have the tools to shed light on the origins of the first Americans. In other words- we have the tools and the technology, so why not use them? Archeology is especially important and useful in helping us to understand people and events about which little or nothing has been written.

The past would be surely lost unless we defend out right to learn about the heritage of all Americans. This evidence must be preserved, and scientist must be allowed to study it, if we hope to indentify and understand the lives of the earliest Americans. Science offers the process to test hypotheses using factual evidence. We must keep our country free for exploring and expressing all views and explanations of our past. We must insist that good scientific methods be practiced, free of political motives.

Is the Kennewick Man really a part of the Native American tribe or is this just a story that’s known upon the Indians to tell? “If Kennewick Man were actually Caucasian, it would be a startling discovery. So far, all of the oldest North American skeletons have been of Asian descent, although features on a few skulls have been controversially interpreted as Caucasoid. Another possibility is that the first Americans — and their Asian ancestors — had features that were Caucasoid. The real test of these theories would be DNA, which can pinpoint which modern populations are most closely related to the skeleton and so help identify the ancestors of early Americans and perhaps give clues to their migration patterns.”

Kennewick Man resembled the South Asians and the Ainu people of northeast Asia. The Ainu migrated to North America over eight-thousand years ago and died out some eight-thousand years later. “The story that unfolded was unexpected; his bones seemed to say that he belonged to no Native American group…” stated by Glover. This revealed that Kennewick Man was of no descent of the Umatilla Indians and therefore NAGRA does not apply. What the scientists say about the importance of the Kennwick Man stated by a Dr. Bonnichsen, professor of anthropology as OSU

“Only through scientific study of important discoveries such as Kennewick Man can objective knowledge of America’s rich and diverse past be developed and fully appreciated by all communities who have stake in the past.”

“He [The Kennewick Man] is going to continue to reshape our thoughts about how the world was populated.” Doug Owsley is forensic anthropologist for the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. We all share the past and not one person owns it, thus, science should be conducted to uncover the truth for all people for all time.

The Native Americans believe that digging up their ancestor’s graves is the wrong way to go. With the act in effect, Native American Graves Protection
and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA. NAGPRA states that anything, especially religious burial items (this including peoples’ remains), that is affiliated with a modern tribe is referred to as their property. As the Nez Perce, Yakima, Wannapum and Colville Indian tribes had given up their claims to the skeleton, the Umatilla tribe continued their court proceedings. To determine if the skeleton showed any relation to a Umatilla Indian’s skeletal structure, further examination was done to compare the two. Science vs. Sacred Rights, which of the two outweighs the other? Now ask yourself this, from what has happened from the same case scenario of the Kennewick Man how would you carry it?

A recent flood washed your grandmother’s casket into a riverbed. Since her remains have been disturbed anyway, local scientist want to study them. Should they be allowed to? Why or why not? What about your great-grandmother? What about your great-great-grandmother? What about your great-great-great-grandmother? (etc.) What if studying her remains could benefit mankind? I believe that yes as disturbing as that may seem to have your grandmother’s remains to be studied upon by strangers (scientist), If it would be better for humanity to learn from her past and to even have discovered something that she had that could change life itself, then yes I would be okay for scientist to do their test on her.

Scientist discoveries could make a great outcome for our future. Now, let’s look at Sir Issac Newton who does just that. Even though he may not be a “scientist” but he does share the same motives and goals as one. Issac Newton’s discoveries had many effects on the world without them we wouldn’t have gotten far we would still be wondering what is motion, gravity and light is and what it’s there for. His discovery has opened doors for many people and also science. In the future we would have made much better things because of these amazing discoveries and know and understand more about it and why it’s there for us. If we let scientist to continue their studies on the Kennewick Man, who knows what lies under the soil remains on him.

There could be a cure or something that kept him immune from diseases thousands of years ago. Also used by scientists to determine the where, what, why, when, and how of ancient organisms. Answering these questions will help in determining the environment and climate in which the organisms existed, adaptations made by the organisms to the environment and climate, type and amount of energy requirements of organisms, feeding habits, reproduction techniques, nesting habits, digestion methods, type of respiration, method of locomotion, hunting techniques, timing and cause of extinction events, and the progression of evolution. Fossils are also key indicators of possible fossil fuel deposits which are of great interest to humanity.

The study of fossils also leads to discoveries and understanding of Earth’s processes which can benefit mankind. Study of the Cretaceous Tertiary extinction event eventually led to the hypothesis that a large asteroid impacted Earth. Some astronomers are currently seeking out and cataloging possible impact asteroids in an attempt to predict such a future cataclysm and help in preventing it.

Do you believe that the Native Americans rights to Kennewick Man are stronger than that of the scientist? The confederated tribes of “The Umatilla, made up of Yakima, Nez Perce, Colville, and Wanapum. All five of these tribes have potential ties to Kennewick Man. These tribes share very similar religion, oral histories and traditions going back over 10,000 years as such, and remain are ancestral. The Native Americans call this ancestor, “The Ancient One”. Their people have been a part of this land since the beginning of time, all though scientists tell otherwise that Native Americans have migrated to this continent. With the fight between Kennewick Man’s ownership, Native Americans have a strong argument for his reburial. The confederated tribes agree that the ancient one should be reburied as soon as possible.

Stated by the Native Americans, once a body is buried under ground, it is meant to stay and not to be tampered with until the world is no more. Having the Ancient One unburied and out of the area is a disturbance to their ancestors. But science may not get the opportunity to make the desired DNA tests. The local Umatilla Indians insist that the bones of Kennewick Man be surrendered to them for immediate reburial, as stipulated by the North American Graves Protection Act of 1990.

But if the bones are truly those of a Caucasian, does the Act apply? And when does the scientific value of a skeleton outweigh native tradition? Ironically, the Umatilla Indians scoff at the idea of Asian diffusion across the Bering Strait. They claim that they have always lived in the Pacific Northwest! “Scientists have dug up and studied Native Americans for decades. We view this practice as a desecration of the body and a violation of our most deeply-held religious beliefs.” -Armand Minthron

The Native Americans had a law passed in 1990, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). This act protects all Native American cultural and burial resources from tampering. This act has required the return of artifacts and human remains that scientists have been digging up for years. With the law suits that scientist have placed on the Native Americans of Kennewick Man, this act gives the Native Americans the right to file a claim to have the Ancient One’s remains reburied based of their beliefs that he is their ancestor. These tribes are expecting that the Federal Government will uphold to the NAGPRA and return the Ancient One. Scientist argues that there is a Wide range of interest in examining the Kennwick Man.

In conclusion, although Native Americans find this to be desecrating to their ancestors, scientist should study Kennewick Man for two main reasons. First, studies could have solutions for present illnesses. But most importantly, studies could reveal a better future for humanity.

Work Cited
-Gibbons, Ann. “DNA Enters Dust Up Over Bones”
JSTOR. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
-Dr. Robson Bonnichsen,” Mystery of the First Americans” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.
-Glover, William. “Kennewick Man and the Story of the Settlement of the New World.” Conversation for Exploration. January 1, 2000. May 14, 2009. -Armand Minthorn. “Ancient One / Kennewick Man.” Ancient One / Kennewick Man. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. -Lemonick, Michael D. “Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.

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