The Kennewick Man is skeleton remains that date back to over 9,200 years ago. The remains were found along the Columbia River in Washington State July of 1996 and since that time, eleven years ago, the remains have been in limbo. The debate rests on who are entitled to the remains and in what context the remains should be handled. There are three sides fighting for the remains the scientific community, the Mid-Columbian Tribal leaders and the Asatru Folk Assembly.
Each have arguments on why they should have control and make decisions on what should happen to the remains. When looking over the facts in this case one thing stands out that cannot be ignored. That one this is a very important archeological and historical find and two that this could answer long awaited questions of who we are and where we came from. Something fundamental to all human beings, but since the find moral and ethical questions have been raised that will define cultural beliefs and religious practices that will affect many in the United States.
Let’s begin by discussing the Native American fight. The Wanapum Band, The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, The Nez Perce Tribe, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation believe the remains are that of their ancient ancestors and want the remains to be reburied.
They believe that scientific study conducted or will be conducted makes little of the living tribal members. On October 4, 2007 the Senate Committee approved a bill for the Native Americans to claim the remains. At that time it was the third change proposed that would let recognized tribes claim remains even though no clear genetic connections were made. But on November 1, 2007 Federal legislation gave protection to the opportunity of scientific study of the ancient remains. (http://www.kennewich-man.com).
The scientific community of sociologist, anthropologist and archeologist believe this find is important to discovering how North America was populated 9,000 years ago. Their belief is that the Kennewick man is more than likely related to the ancient Jomon. They are ancestors of the Ainu people of Japan. This varies from most accepted ancient history books.
Doug Owsley, a forensic anthropologist for the Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. has possession of the remains now and is conducing research. James Chatters was the original scientist that worked on finding and cataloguing much of the remains. There were eight anthropologists that sued the federal government for the right to study the remains they include six from universities across America and two from the Smithsonian Institute their names are Douglas Owsley, Dennis Stanford, Robison Binnichsen Gentry Steele, C. Loring Brace, George Gill, C. Vance Hanes Jr. and Richard Lantz. Their argument is that no proof exists that the skeleton has any relationship to any present tribes in the Mid-Columbia and that the remains are of European descent.
Then there is the Asatru Folk Assembly this group is claiming kinship to the remains and believes that these are the remains showing that there was early migration of Europeans to North America thousands of years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and that the study of these remains will prove this. A vital key to proving their beliefs they have sided with the scientific community in the battle for scientific study and also assert the importance to everyone in finding out the truth. This group believes in practicing Germanic and Celtic religious practices that date back several thousand years beginning in Europe. They assert that their decedents are spread around the globe. The name of the group comes from the Old Norse language.
Even though there has been overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting the lack of traceable kinship to any of the American Indian tribes in modern times, “the Secretary of Interior determined that a shared group identity did indeed exist with a small number of native groups that currently live in the Kennewick area.” The Secretaries findings rest solely on the geographical context of the find and on oral traditions, while physical anthropological and archeological studies show that there is no biological connection and there are cultural differences between the Kennewick man and modern tribal groups. (http://physanth.org/positions/kennewick.html).
After reading all of the material and researching I found several facts that I thought helped me to come to certain conclusions on who is right in this fight and who might be wrong. At first when I saw the reconstruction of the skull done by forensic anthropologist, I saw a man that did not resemble native North American Indians. It definitely looked like a man of European decent. I found it problematic that DNA could not be obtained because of the Indians belief against such scientific study and that there were laws protecting this belief. I did learn though that there are some anthropologists that contradict the belief of the skull “not” being an ancestor of the Indians and found it to be very confusing.
I believe that something so important should be studied, but felt that since it was found on government land and there is an agreement that was made between the tribes and government that all remains should be returned to the tribes for burial in their religious beliefs. Since the beginning of this incident there has been study and research conducted on the remains, which to me should be sufficient data to be produced on what exactly this find means. So why not make a compromise and return the remains to their lawful owners (the Indians) and let the scientific community keep whatever data they have compiled on the remains?
Morally I feel that if after nine or ten years of study and research that no one has come up with any real clear data, then it just won’t happen. I myself find it offensive that the Smithsonian still has stuffed humans in the basement of their institution and that this clearly shows total lack of consideration for cultures and humans around the globe. Sometimes mysteries, even 9,000 year old mysteries, can never be solved and we all need to just accept this.
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