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Office of the Secretary, DOI
For Release: October 15, 1999
Contact: Stephanie Hanna
             (O) 202/501-4633

Evidence of Shared Group Identity with Modern Indian Tribe

The Department of the Interior today released the final report documenting the investigations and conclusions of an expert scientific team that performed a number of important examinations on the human skeletal remains known as Kennewick Man earlier this year. The final report covers anthropological information and extensive measurements and analysis of the skeletal bones and bone fragments, analysis of the sediment contained within the cranium and adhering to bone, and analysis of the lithic point imbedded in the pelvis of Kennewick Man. Beginning today, the report will be available on the Internet. It can be accessed using the address https://www.nps.gov/archeology/kennewick/

At the same time, the Department will proceed with a series of studies to investigate a cultural affiliation of the skeletal remains, found in the Columbia River in 1996, and modern Indian tribes that have historically inhabited the geographical area where the bones were found.

The decision to proceed with cultural affiliation studies prior to making a conclusive determination about the age and "Native American" status of the remains was made in a good faith effort to meet a court-ordered deadline of March 24, 2000, for the completion and analysis of cultural affiliation and "final Agency action" on the Kennewick remains.

Dr Francis P. McManamon, Chief Archaeologist for the National Park Service and Chief Consulting Archaeologist for the Department of the Interior, explained that a new protocol is being developed and new experts will be identified to examine the archaeology, geography, ethnography, biology, traditional and documented history of the region around the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers and modern day Indian tribes that have historically inhabited the area. Once the biological analysis is underway and accurate radiocarbon dating has been accomplished, it will be determined if DNA analysis would provide useful biological information.

"Our progress to this point has been steady and sequential," McManamon said. "We have completed several important scientific studies needed to resolve this matter, useful studies that we are making available on the Web. We are now in the position of having to meet a very difficult deadline. For this reason, we have decided to proceed as if the skeletal remains will ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) and identify the experts we will need for cultural affiliation studies."

Generally, for the purposes of NAGPRA, skeletal remains are considered Native American if they predate the documented arrival of Europeans in the Americas. However, there must be a "shared group identity" or a "cultural affiliation" with a modern day Indian tribe in order for a tribe to make a claim for the remains. If a cultural affiliation cannot be established, the remains are considered "unclaimed." Under NAGPRA, the Department of the Interior is to develop and implement regulations for the treatment of "unclaimed remains" but these have not yet been written.

Consultations with the five tribes that have claimed the Kennewick remains as their ancestor took place this week. During this meeting the Interior Department discussed with cultural resources specialists from the tribes the kind of data and analysis that would be useful for the investigation of cultural affiliation and any existing information that the tribes would be willing to share in this regard. Both the tribes and the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have been asked to suggest names of qualified experts to conduct and complete the studies within the necessary time deadlines.

The Department of the Interior expects to receive results from the radiocarbon analysis of samples taken from two small pieces of bone during November and will make the results public.

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