The Japan Times
September 27, 2000

U.S. to give Kennewick Man to tribes

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) In a setback to scientists, the U.S. Interior Department decided Monday that the Kennewick Man, one of the oldest skeletons ever found in North America, should be given to five American Indian tribes that have claimed him as an ancestor, despite scientists' findings that the remains have little physical resemblance to modern Native Americans.

The decision came after a four-year dispute between the tribes and researchers, who hoped to continue studying the 9,000-year-old bones, which have forced anthropologists to rethink theories about where the original Americans came from.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said the remains were "culturally affiliated" with the five tribes.

"Although ambiguities in the data made this a close call, I was persuaded by the geographic data and oral histories of the five tribes that collectively assert they are the descendants of people who have been in the region of the Upper Columbia Plateau for a very long time," Babbitt said.

The fate of the bones may yet be settled in court.

Eight anthropologists have filed a lawsuit for the right to study the bones. The tribes want the bones buried without further research.

Radiocarbon dating places the age of bones and fragments at 9,320 to 9,510 years.