Opinion: No 'absolute' right to study ancestors
"ALAN Schneider and Cleone Hawkinson want us to believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erred in its handling of a recently discovered human jawbone.

Their misinformation and disinformation about this hardly aids public understanding, but does promote the views of the group they represent.

Their group would prefer, for their own ends, to ignore parts of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), one of our most important cultural property laws. Fortunately, Congress did not believe the intensive lobbying against the law and unanimously passed NAGPRA, which President George H. W. Bush signed in 1990.

Schneider and Hawkinson want these, and other human remains, held as property for future study — yet the law gives no absolute rights to scientists to study such remains or requires that agencies maintain them for future study. They may not like it, but Congress did not accept their opinions in this matter.

They would also like us to believe that tribes will always try to bias outcomes in order to rebury remains, and that the federal government will always cater to Native American tribal wishes, something tribal leaders would be surprised to learn. Do Schneider and Hawkinson really believe that tribes want to undertake the cost and trouble to rebury human remains that are not Native American? That's just silly.

Tribes are not opposed to science, and many, like the Umatilla, have their own professional archaeological staff. They are opposed to bad science and to scientists who would destroy Native American civil and other rights in the name of "science.""

Get the Story:
James Nason: Corps followed the law in handling of jawbone found on the Columbia River (The Seattle Times 9/23)

Earlier Opinion:
Alan Schneider and Cleone Hawkinson: Did U.S. Corps of Engineers learn nothing from the Kennewick Man case? (The Seattle Times 9/15)