As of April 19, 2004 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request of four Northwest Indian tribes to claim the remains known as Kennewick Man as their ancestor. This ruling upheld the earlier decision by Judge Jelderks that the remains could not be defined as "Native American" under the NAGPRA law. Since the final ruling the plaintiffs have made three visits to the Burke Museum to carry out scientific research on the remains. Their research results have yet to be published and the case remains open until the research is completed. The Burke Museum continues to serve as the court appointed neutral repository for the remains. All decisions concerning access to the remains continue to be made by the Army Corps of Engineers as the landowners of the property where the remains were found.
Who is "Kennewick Man"?
The human remains popularly known as "Kennewick Man," found on federal lands in Eastern Washington in 1996, have become the subject of a lawsuit between the federal government and a group of scholars. Pending the outcome of this case, the Burke Museum has been chosen by the court, and with the concurrence of the litigants, as the most suitable repository for the safekeeping of these human remains. As one of the major museums in the United States, the Burke Museum welcomes this opportunity to provide for the security and other conditions necessary for storing these human remains. Policies for access to, exhibition of, and research on these remains will be determined by the court and appropriate representatives of the federal government.
An Accidental Discovery
On July 28, 1996, two men watching the annual hydro boat races at Columbia Park in Kennewick, Washington, accidentally found part of a human skull on the bottom of the Columbia River about ten feet from shore. Later, deliberate searches turned up a nearly complete male skeleton that is now known as Kennewick Man.
Chronology of Events
Who owns the remains?
The remains of "Kennewick Man" were recovered from land controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and are currently in the control of the United States government.
What will the Burke Museum do with the remains?
The Burke Museum serves as a court-ordered neutral repository for the Kennewick Man remains. While the remains are stored in our facility, Burke staff are not involved in their study. For further information, please visit the National Park Service Kennewick Man website or contact Gail Celmer, Regional Archeologist/Program Manager, at the Army Corps of Engineers via phone at (503) 808-3850 or by email at Gail.C.Celmer@usace.army.mil.
Public interest, debate, and controversy began when an independent archaeologist, working on contract to the Kennewick coroner, decided the bones were ancient but might not be Native American. He described them as "Caucasoid" and sent a piece of bone to a laboratory to be dated. The final date indicated an age of 9,000 years, making Kennewick Man one of the oldest and most complete skeletons found in the Americas. Subsequent tests of other bone samples showed the skeleton to be somewhere between 5650 and 9510 years old. But if it is true that these human remains are thousands of years old, and are not Native American, then who was Kennewick Man? This question raised a number of other questions that have put Kennewick Man "on trial" in the public eye.
How and when did people first come to the Americas?
The idea of race