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Old 07-30-2006, 03:16 PM   #1
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Arrow How to handle remains divides scientists, tribes

How to handle remains divides scientists, tribes
By Jodi Rave/Missoulian
The Billings Gazzette - 30 July 2006
http://www.billingsgazette.net/artic...65-remains.txt

The discovery 10 years ago of Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old skeleton, ignited a national debate among American Indians, archeologists and the federal government about how to handle human remains and burial objects.

The dissension remains fresh.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's Archeology Task Force announced plans last fall to change a 1988 policy regarding the treatment of burial sites, human remains and funerary objects.

Although the ACHP proposed draft includes all human remains and burial items, regardless of ethnicity, Indian people are most affected, given their millennia-old connection to North America.

Michael Jandreau, chairman of the Lower Brule Tribe in South Dakota, described the ACHP task force's proposed changes as likely to have "dangerous consequences" if adopted because they "could allow scientists to study ancestral Native remains encountered during inadvertent discoveries."

The Federal Register deadline for public comment on the draft policy passed last week on the 10-year anniversary of the discovery date of Kennewick Man - called the Ancient One by American Indians. The skeleton was found along the shores of Washington's Columbia River.

Hundreds of thousands of indigenous human remains rest on shelves in museums, universities and private collections. The 1990 Native American Graves and Repatriation Act provided some redress for Indian people who sought to protect their ancestral remains.

But it's not unusual for human remains and funeral objects to be unearthed daily.

Kennewick Man's skull and bones have sparked international discussions about worldwide human-migration theories. The remains also sparked intense arguments about the value of scientific human-remain study vs. tribal respect for the dead.

Scientists demanded an opportunity to study the rare skeletal bones against the wishes of indigenous peoples. In 2004, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected tribes' claim to rebury Kennewick Man.

The ACHP task force aims to revise its 18-year old human-remains policy as a way to revamp the National Historic Preservation Act's Section 106 process, which requires federal agencies to take into account how their work affects historic properties.

So far, 72 comments have been posted regarding the council's draft policy. About 15 have been posted by tribes or American Indian organizations.

"This policy issue is a particularly sensitive one for the tribe, as it pertains to an ongoing concern with ancestral remains displaced or scattered by the intentional flooding of an area in our aboriginal territory," wrote Lorie James, Tribal Chairperson of the Greenville Rancheria in California.

"Proposals are even now being considered by certain federal and state agencies which would have a negative impact on the important historical assets in this area."
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