I remember the weekend when the two guys at the hydro races in Columbia park “stumbled” over the skull of who we now refer to as Kennewick Man. In the newsroom, we initially speculated foul play, of course, and our suspicions supported when the Benton County coroner said it appeared the remains had been there a while. Conclusion-Murdered and the body buried in a shallow grave among the Russian olives along the river. Dental records or DNA will identify the victim and eventually the killer will be captured.
It turned out the remains had been there a lot longer than we thought-about 9,000 years. And as far determining who it was, well, that’s been the center of a legal battle between scientists and tribal that’s lasted 20 years.
It now appears the fight may soon be over with the Army Corps of Engineers confirming the remains aren’t those of a migrating viking who discovered the Tri-Cities, but rather a native American, someone who had been here all along.
NPR printed a real good story this week about the legal and spiritual battle of ownership that includes a lot of related links. It’s worth your time, and if you’re a local school teacher, definitely print it out for future lessons.
While Kennewick Man’s/Ancient One’s journey may finally be coming to an end, the debate will go on between science, ethics and history. As the Tasneem Raja wrote in the NPR piece, “The distinction between pioneering researcher and grave robber can depend entirely on whom you ask.”