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Kennewick Man News - references - 20 Nov 1999

September 20, 1999

Religious Group's Demands for Kennewick Man DNA Testing Await Judge's Decision

    Nevada City, California, USA....The Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), a
pre-Christian religious organization that honors its ancient European
ancestors, chose this week to have a separate hearing on its demands for
DNA tests on the 9,300-year-old skeleton found in 1996 in Kennewick,

    Federal Judge John Jelderks of Oregon's US District Court had asked
the European tribal group to join in a hearing held in Portland on Sept.
14, where attorneys for anthropologists argued for the right to study the

    Kennewick Man, initially identified by anthropologists as *Caucasoid*,
    is one of oldest, most complete skeletons ever found in North America.
Shortly after his discovery, carbon dating determined he had lived 9,300
years ago, calling into question current theories on prehistoric settlers
of North America.

    "While we share the belief that the government has no right to keep
anthropologists from studying the Kennewick Man, we continue to seek
mitochondrial DNA testing to determine his genetic links to our European
ancestors," says Stephen McNallen, who heads the California-based Asatru
Folk Assembly.

    "We believe we have the right to know if Kennewick Man is our
ancient relative and, if so, to see his remains are passed on to his
people for culturally sensitive and appropriate handling," he added.

    Judge Jelderks said he would delay setting a hearing date on the
AFA's motion, filed on September 7, until he issues a ruling on the
scientists' requests later this month.

    McNallen's group has hired Emory University's Dr. Michael D. Brown, a
specialist in the genetics of ancient human populations, as an expert
witness in their bid to force the government to allow mitochondrial DNA
testing, which should reveal Kennewick Man's link to modern peoples within
30 days.

    The government has claimed the 1990 Native American Graves
Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) automatically identifies as
"Native American" any inhabitants of America that pre-date Columbus'
arrival in 1492.

    Citing that law, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced in 1996 it
would turn Kennewick Man over to American Indian tribes for secret burial
without further study, prompting both the scientists and the Asatru Folk
Assembly to file suits for the right to study the remains. The Department
of the Interior now has the remains.

    For three years, the AFA's and scientist's lawsuits have languished
due to governmental delays.  At their September 14 hearing, scientists
called the delays "highly unreasonable," and asked the court to find they
constituted a de facto denial by the government of the scientists' request
to study the bones.  Such a finding would allow the scientists to pursue
other legal remedies, including a suit claiming NAGPRA is unconstitutional.

    Federal attorney Allison Rumsey, representing the government at
last week's hearing, argued that there is "no Constitutional right to
study the bones," insisting that Kennewick Man is "government property."
Portland attorney Paula A. Barran, who represents the scientists in the
suit, challenged the federal government's claim to the bones asking "Who
is the government?  The people. We are the government."

    During the hearing, Judge Jelderks questioned the government's
claim that NAGPRA covered "ancient remains," noting that his own review of
the Congressional Record revealed no such intent when the bill was
debated. He noted that if the government decides NAGPRA justifies American
Indian ownership of all human remains that are more than 507 years old,
refusing all requests to study such remains, the scientists in the
Kennewick Man suit could litigate the constitutionality of that law.

    Questioning the government's motives for repeating aging tests,
Judge Jelderks asked the department's chief archaeologist Frank McManamon
if the government would still identify  Kennewick Man as "Native American"
if the tests found Kennewick Man to be one million years old, and even if
he shared virtually no features consistent with modern-day Native
Americans. Judge Jelderks also asked if the government believed earlier
tests that found the remains to be 9,300 years old could have been off by
a factor of 20 times.  Rumsey replied that "Native American" means "an
indigenous person."

    AFA leader Stephen McNallen later noted that NAGPRA's impact upon
pre-Columbus inhabitants of North America
reflect a disturbing "Indians only" policy.

    Rumsey and McManamon confirmed the Department of the Interior's
plans to study Kennewick Man's "cultural affiliations" with American
Indian tribes, a process she said could take an additional two years.
NAGPRA allows individuals or tribes to claim remains if they can show
cultural affiliation.

    On September 8, the Department of the Interior took more bone
samples for carbon dating from Kennewick Man, whose remains are now at
Burke Museum in Seattle.  Barran told the court that scientists found the
sample size was 120 times greater than the amount necessary for carbon-14
tests, destroying forever key skeletal remains.   She noted that the
tibia, or shin bone, used for the government's sample, was the only
remaining bone appropriate for critical diagnostic tests.  The tibia could
also have revealed Kennewick Man had been purposefully buried, or suffered
accidental post mortum trauma.

    Barran stated that since the femur (leg) bones -- also used to
identify skeletal characteristics -- had disappeared while in the federal
government's possession, preservation of the tibia should have been a
priority.  Requests for high resolution photography of the tibia prior to
sampling, possibly of value for diagnostic study, were ignored by the government.

    Barran also noted that the government destroyed the site of
Kennewick Man's discovery by dropping 500 tons of dirt and rock on it,
calling the totality of the government's actions "beyond negligent."
    After hearing arguments from federal attorneys and lawyers
representing the scientists, Judge Jelderks said that within 10 days, he
would set a firm deadline ordering governmental agencies to answer the
scientists' request to examine Kennewick Man.  The Judge affirmed that the
plaintiffs "have the right to have their claims heard within five to 10
years," which he said could be the length of time cases related to
Kennewick Man's remains are in court.

    "Regardless of the Court's decision on the scientists' right to
study Kennewick Man's remains, the Asatru Folk Assembly will fight
vigorously to see that state-of-the-art genetic tests -- not an arbitrary
and possibly unconstitutional federal law -- define his relationship to
modern man," says McNallen. McNallen also announced plans to seek experts
who will study possible cultural affiliations of Kennewick Man to early
European peoples -- including the Solutrean culture of ancient Europe.

    In response to the Asatru Folk Assembly's motion demanding DNA
testing of the remains, Interior Department spokeswoman Stephanie Hanna
last week said there is no chance Kennewick Man is a 9,300-year-old
European.  Hanna insisted that any DNA testing would be intended to link
the skeleton to present-day Native tribes. ### >>


Don't Let Them Bury Our Heritage!

Three years ago, a set of human bones washed out of a river bank
near Kennewick, Washington.

 Testing showed that they were about 9,300 years old, and that they
did not appear to be Indian.  In fact, the first three specialists to
examine them declared them to be Caucasian.   The US government
nevertheless decided to give "Kennewick Man" to local Indian tribes  - 
who made it clear they intended to bury these bones immediately, 
with no further scientific study.

 Our organization filed suit in Federal court to keep this unique
link with our past from being hidden away forever.  However, since
political correctness does not acknowledge the early presence of anyone
other than American Indians on this continent, we knew the going would be rough.

 And rough it was!

 -  Although the skeleton was supposed to be strictly off limits,
government representatives gave the Indians access to it on several
occasions.  Worse yet, they  allowed the Indians to place cedar branches
and other items into the box containing the bones, 
threatening the remains with contamination.

 -  The Army Corps of Engineers covered the discovery site with tons
of rock and soil, supposedly to "prevent erosion."

 -  Both femurs mysteriously disappeared while in government
custody.  These two bones are the most important, next to the skull,
for determining relatedness to modern groups.

 -  At every stage of the case, the Indians have been consulted
regarding their desires, and usually they have been accommodated.  We, on
the other hand, have been ignored as much as possible.

 -  Recently, limited study of the skeleton was
scientists chosen by the government, and approved by the Indians.  The
results of the study are secret, though they were paid for by your tax dollars.
 The Indians, and only the Indians, were allowed to see the findings!

 The government has spent a million dollars to get these politically
incorrect bones back into the ground without determining just who
Kennewick Man was.  We on the other hand have spent a few thousand
dollars, and could not have even stayed in the case without the generous
donated expertise of a brave and idealistic lawyer, Mr. Michael Clinton.

 The coming weeks and months will determine what happens to
Kennewick Man.  We have a plan of action.  Two world-class scientists have
agreed to appear in court on our behalf.  As "expert witnesses,"
they could completely turn this case on its head.

 Unfortunately, we can't afford to hire them. 
Expert witnesses get paid very well indeed.

 We need your help.

 We need $5000 by mid-September.

 If you care about the search for scientific truth...If you hate
government arrogance and suppression...If you think that the culture and
beliefs of European-Americans are as valid as those of American
Indians...Express your conviction with a check to help us continue this
fight!  Your donations are tax deductible.

 Please send your most generous contribution to the
Asatru Folk Assembly,
PO Box 445,
Nevada City, CA 95959. 
Everything depends on your support!

Euro-Tribe Continues Fight for Ancient Bones

Nevada City, California, USA  -  Despite setbacks, a religious
organization with roots in the pre-Christian indigenous tribes of Europe
announced today it is still in the legal battle over the 9,000-year-old
Kennewick Man remains found in Washington State in 1996.

 "The Euro-tribes believe Kennewick Man is our early ancestor, 
and we will fight the Federal government to see that the truth comes out, 
and that he is granted the respect he deserves from his kinfolk," says Stephen
McNallen, leader of the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) of Nevada City, California.

 McNallen's group filed suit in 1996 to block the Federal government
from giving the ancient remains to American Indian tribes for secret
burial after Kennewick Man was initially identified as a Caucasian male.

 Preliminary examination reveals the nearly complete skeleton may
predate the arrival of American Indian peoples, causing scientists to question
current beliefs surrounding the populating of pre-historic North America. 
Possible impact on governmental policy toward Indian tribes has
made Kennewick Man controversial.

 In February, the US Department of Justice seized incomplete DNA
testing of the remains from the University of California, Davis
which might have revealed Kennewick Man's ethnic origins. 
Indian tribes have stated in interviews that, unlike the 
Asatru Folk Assembly,  they do not want DNA testing done.

 Prior to the seizure of the tests, a UC professor charged that most of the remains
had been contaminated while in the possession of the US Army Corps of Engineers. 
Further, important bones were stolen, and the Corps
covered the discovery site with tons of rock and soil.
Scientists and the AFA filed suits against the Federal government to permit further
study of the bones.  The suits are now being arbitrated in Portland, Oregon.

 Asatru Folk Assembly filed the suit because of the group's
reverence for, and unity with, its indigenous European ancestors.
# # #


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