The Kennewick Man
The Kennewick Man
Copyright 2009 VVeasey Publishing
Before we move on to the theme of this hub. Let's look at another case about who were the first people in the Americas i.e. the original Native Americans.
Native means belonging to a particular place by birth, as in native to Wisconsin, (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary), making anyone born in the United States a Native American.
In 1996 the remains of a 9000 year old fossil of a man, dubbed the Kennewick man, was found near the Columbia River in Kennewick Washington State, causing a brewing controversy to stew over who legally own it and whether it was of Indian (Native American) origin or not.
More fuel was thrown on the fire when Anthropologist Jim Chatters and sculptor Thomas McClelland created a sculptured image of the fossil’s face that looked like a white man, (resembling the actor Patrick Stewart of Star Track Fame) although it was pointed out the image also looks like the 1833 portrait of Chief Black Hawk.
Four Indian Tribes StakeTheir Claim
Four Indian tribes, The Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama and Colville immediately claimed the fossil as their ancestor, the ancient one, and filed a claim in July 31, 1996 for the right to possess and rebury the fossil according to their religious laws.
It seems as long as the fossil was thought to be “Native American” (which has come to mean virtually anyone of American Indian descent), the tribes didn’t have a problem with scientific analysis being done on the remains to determine their age. But war clouds started rising when the fossil’s age and its accompanying artifacts were found to be older and unlike any previous “Native American” fossils or finds, explicitly challenging the long held idea that Indians are the first Americans.
The scientists involved ostensibly sought the right to examine the fossil to further help extend the knowledge of when and whom the first humans were to arrive on the continent. But since the race of the fossil has became an underlying issue, some scientists may have a conscious or unconscious investment in “seeing” the fossil as white or non-Indian, (just as the tribes want to see it as Indian), although there is nothing apparent to suggest that’s the case. But the point has been made by Knute Berger (a white male writer) that that may be partly what’s going on here.
He paints the interesting scenario that whites, including some scientists, may have long been intentionally and unintentionally attempting to justify forcefully taking the land from the Indians with ideas like manifest destiny, being descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, and now, through the fossil, descendants of the first Americans, as a way of staking a deeper claim to the land other than through the history of brute force.
The ensuing court battle was essentially about whether Indians tribes, who saw the fossil as the remains of one of their ancestors, could legally lay claim to the fossil or any human fossils for that matter, discovered in the United States, predating 1492 when the first Europeans were thought to have arrived on the shores of the Americas.
The US Circuit Court subsequently ruled against the tribes citing, that there’s no evidence to support the fossil as being a direct ancestor of the Indians since, nothing is known about the race or culture of the Kennewick Man, which seems a reasonable conclusion to me,
But when peoples egos, sense of self, self-pride and sense of cultural identity are in question, it turns what should be a search for objective truth about the fossil, into a subjective search for ways to maintain one’s cultural self-image and to reject anything that will tarnish its illustrious glow.
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