American anthropologists have differing opinions about the study of Native American sites, Native American human remains, and how to deal with both NAGPRA and Native American communities. In Washington State, most anthropologists are working productively with tribes and have found that information from elders and oral histories enhances their work.
"This statute [NAGPRA] has single-handedly sparked more analysis of human remains and funerary objects in the last eight years than was done in the last 100."
- Timothy McKeown, Anthropologist, National Park Service, 1998
"The bottom line is that Native American beliefs and values have as much credence in determining the scope of archaeological work in a Native American site as do the values of the archaeologist and the Euro-American scientific community. If these beliefs and values are understood and accepted, compromises satisfactory to both sides can be worked out."
- E. Charles Adams, Archaeologist, Arizona State Museum, 1984
But some anthropologists argue that NAGPRA interferes with their freedom to pursue knowledge by giving too much weight to Native American interests and beliefs.
"Laws like NAGPRA strike at the heart of a scientific archaeology because they elevate the cultural traditions and religious beliefs of Indians to the level of science as a paradigm for describing or explaining reality." G. A. Clark, Archaeologist, Arizona State University, 1998
"The resource is part of the public trust. At issue is the freedom to pursue knowledge and scientific inquiry without political pressures or legal restraints."
- Ernestine L. Green, Archaeologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 1984
Many anthropologists see the Kennewick Man controversy as not only a test of their ability to persuade others of the importance of their work but also of the validity of NAGPRA itself.
"Anthropologists must stop taking NAGPRA personally! The law was not created to make their lives miserable, but to take another's belief system into consideration and to provide equal treatment for all human remains....Each American Indian tribe or nation can choose to apply the law as it sees fit....There are some American Indian groups who can be persuaded to allow studies when they see the utility for them. The utility must be real to them, not just to the researcher."
- Joe Watkins, Anthropologist, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1998
And as for Kennewick Man, the controversy has highlighted many concerns and focused new attention on our understanding of the peopling of the Americas.
"I don't think this will change our view of Native American ancestry. The fact that Kennewick Man doesn't look to some like a Native American [skeletal type] doesn't mean anything."
- David Meltzer, Archaeologist, Southern Methodist University, 1998
"The recent debate over the remains of Kennewick Man...has done little to foster a reconciliatory relationship, rather it has probably done more to polarize the issues."
- Society for American Archaeology, 1998
"By using scientific methods, techniques, and interpretations as part of its effort to resolve this difficult case, the Interior Department hopes to demonstrate that NAGPRA is flexible enough to allow good science to go forward at the same time respecting the dignity and recognizing the importance of traditional tribal beliefs."
- Francis P. McManamon, Chief Archaeologist, National Park Service, 1999