Opinion

Chip Colwell: Scientists can help put an end to repatriation wars






A view of the Columbia River from Kennewick, Washington. Photo: Ken Lund

Anthropologist Chip Colwell calls on fellow scientists to work with tribes to prevent long battles over the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act like the one that consumed the Kennewick Man for 20 years before he was returned to his relatives in the Pacific Northwest:
Kennewick Man is back in the earth. On December 16, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which included a brief section that transferred control of the contested 9,000-year-old skeleton to five claimant tribes. Last week, the tribes reburied the Ancient One, as they call him, in a grave not far from where he was found along the Columbia River.

The 20-year battle over North America’s most famous ancient man has come to a close. But, at this rate, the repatriation wars will not end.

Although many museums and tribes amicably work together to follow the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), some continue to stoke controversy by pitting the interests of science against those of Native Americans. For instance, a letter last year in the journal Science likened the legal process of repatriation in the U.S. to terrorists’ destruction of heritage in the Middle East, a crime against humanity.

Read More on the Story:
Chip Colwell: Kennewick Man: Build bridges to prevent a repeat of ill will (The Seattle Times 3/3)

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