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Office of the Secretary, DOI
For Release: February 18, 2000
Contact: Stephanie Hanna
             (O) 202/501-4633


The Department of the Interior announced today that a decision has been made to conduct DNA analysis on the 9,000 year old human skeletal remains known as Kennewick Man. The decision was made by senior officials at the Interior Department following a number of internal meetings and two recent consultations with representatives from the five Indian tribes that claim Kennewick Man as their ancestor. Representatives from the Interior Department, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice met with tribal representatives in Walla Walla, Washington, on February 11 and senior Interior officials participated in a conference call with the tribes on February 16.

"DNA analysis will be useful to the Department in determining if a shared group identity or cultural affiliation can be made between these very ancient remains and Indian tribes that have historically inhabited the Upper Plateau region in Washington State," Dr. Francis P. McManamon, chief archaeologist of the National Park Service and chief consulting archaeologist of the Department of the Interior said. "Experts we have consulted on ancient DNA analysis have pointed out that the procedures will be complex and time-consuming and may not provide conclusive data. We feel, however, that it is worth the effort in this case because of its peculiar circumstances to try to obtain genetic information. The Kennewick Man case has been extraordinarily controversial since the beginning and these bones were found in a river without any normal archaeological context."

The Department has asked the U.S. District Court in Oregon to grant an adequate time extension from a previously set March 24 deadline to arrange for appropriate scientific bone sample extraction and laboratory analysis of DNA. The time extension would also allow further input from the tribes that could assist the Interior Department in determining cultural affiliation. In making this determination, the Interior Department will use archaeological, ethnographic, linguistic, biological and historical information and traditional stories of the five claimant tribes as well as genetic information if the DNA analysis is successful.

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