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Ancient 'Kennewick Man' remains returned to Columbia River tribes

Native American tribes in Washington State are celebrating after the U.S. Congress passed legislation to turn over ancient Indigenous human remains.

Ancient 'Kennewick Man' remains returned to Columbia River tribes
Smithsonian physical anthropologist Karin Bruwelheide and Douglas Owsley discuss position of the Kennewick Man 
skeleton during the anatomical layout of the remains [Credit: Chip Clark/Smithsonian]
The remains, known as "Kennewick Man", were found along the banks of the Columbia River near the community 20 years ago. They turned out to be the oldest intact set of bones ever found in the Americas.

The legislation passed last week will return the 8,500-year-old remains home.

"It's just a great deal of relief. It has been a 20-year ordeal," said Michael Marchand, chair of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the man was of Native American descent earlier this year. It came after a long legal battle over whether the bones should be studied or given a Native American burial.

Under U.S. law, human remains that are Native American must be returned to the tribe that lived in the area, Marchand said. But with Kennewick Man, scientists initially had difficulty determining the origin of the bones.

Experts in the field of DNA approached the tribes and said they believed the ancestry of the remains could be verified, he said.

Members of the Colville tribes volunteered to give samples of their DNA to confirm there was a genetic link with Kennewick Man.

"We do believe that we are his descendents," Marchand told guest host David Lennam on CBC Radio's All Points West. "I believe he is literally one of my grandfathers."

It will likely take until next spring for the remains to be returned to the tribes, Marchand said.

The legislation must still be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the U.S. Senate, and it will require President Obama's signature.

In the meantime, planning will start on a ceremony to honour Kennewick Man, Marchand said.

Author: Megan Thomas | Source: CBC News [October 10, 2016]

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