KENNEWICK MAN AND THE FIGHT OVER WHO OWNS AMERICA’S PAST

 

Archaeology, museum collections, even the book or magazine on your shelf will be affected by the ultimate court decision on Kennewick Man.  If it is illegal for the Smithsonian to have artifacts, are we to be the next target?  Sounds impossible, but in a world of political correctness gone amuck, anything is possible.

 

It began with the Slack Farm.  A field with Mississippian houses, storage pits and an occasional burial.  The Archaeologist studied the site almost a hundred years ago and then abandoned  the site until some collectors who were tired of walking over broken pottery, arrowheads and the occasional human bone decided to rent the site from the owner.  The deal was that they would probe and dig and when done, would fill in all the holes and put the land back to it’s original state.

 

Cheryl Munson, archaeologist at the Glenn Black at the time and Indian militants stopped the digging with a police assault and created uproar in the press.  The holes were forced by the powers that be, to be left open.  The militants and press did the rest with pictures, articles and finally the National Geographic Article which pictured the open house floors and storage pits, Teepee’s, Indians in Headdresses doing prayers etc.  Within the next month or so, six different bills were sent through Congress and passed on the speed track as addendums to other legislation and were voice voted in.  Since National Geographic knows a year ahead of time what they are going to publish, I maintain that there was an orchestrated tidal wave of press to build popular support from the ignorant, liberals and politically correct to create support for injured Indians and pass the bills.  The fact that no Indians can make or prove a blood relationship to the Mississippian site has nothing to do with the emotion the liberals wanted to generate to pass their agenda.  In a world of super records, most individuals can not tell you where their kin of only three to six generations are buried. We were asked to accept that we could cure the Manifest Destiny mistreatment of the Indians 400 years ago by ignoring that 50 generations separated the site from today’s populations and that there are no related survivors.  Instead we had militants from tribes in Alaska, New Mexico and Florida all claiming relationship to the Kentucky site and were photographed in feathered costumes with tepees than none of the Mississippian groups had ever used.  Legislation passed, the collectors were found to be without sin and were released.

 

We are not bigots.  The archaeological community did not find fault with The American Indian Religious Freedom Act.  No one wanted to deny any Native American the opportunity to follow traditional beliefs and traditions.  However, in many instances the original cultures were all but lost and in the absence of elders who could remember the original dances, songs and traditions from 500 years ago.  Many individuals and groups created beliefs and a culture from a mix of traditions and the Pan American Indian Movement was born.  Based on a hodgepodge of cultural traditions, attire, ceremonies and beliefs, the move from the pow wow mentality to cultural acceptability is cultural genocide for pure Traditional Native American cultures, attire and art.  It is also scientific suicide for anthropological truth. 

The Archaeological Resources and Protection Act was accepted in archaeological circles. The act was to cover Federal and Indian Lands, was introduced as such and touted by Udall, the author on the Senate floor as “Not covering private lands”.  This was backed by the judicial departments review which said that any application to private land would be unconstitutional under the “Takings Clause”  This however, did not stop Munson and the militants from using Paragraph 6C from the 22 page act  (out of context) to be applied to the General Electric site.   Gerber’s conviction for collecting on the site and acquiring artifacts found by the construction crews in my opinion was a huge miscarriage of justice.   In the destruction of the Hopewell ceremonial mound, both archaeologist for the prosecution testified that the collectors did nothing to destroy the mound.  The construction equipment did the damage, and destroyed about 80% of the 400 by 80 by 26 foot structure.  The archaeologist doing the impact study could not even identify this mound in his report.  All the collectors did was to forage through the debris.   If anyone had bothered to read the Congressional hearings on ARPA, they would have realized that 6C was left open not to cover private property, but to cover County, City and State laws, rules, regulations and ordinances made to protect archaeological features within their jurisdictions.  It was a grandfather paragraph to encompass existing laws on public properties.  The perversion of this sentence to apply to private land was illegal and unconstitutional based on the congressional hearings and rulings by the Justice Department before the bill was passed into law.  The Liberal Appeal Judges in Chicago were ignorant of the mound situation and the history of the legislation.  Gerber’s attorneys were asked what the sentence was speaking of and although a note that answered the question was passed to one of the attorney team, he did not pass it on to the lead attorney who stood silent to the question.  This silence buried Gerber and without response, the Appeals Judges set a precedent to apply ARPA to private land.  The liberals have wisely decided to not pursue this judicial decision in recent years.

The problem with all of the laws passed is that they do not define who is “related”.  None of the laws use any kind of logical time line.  The laws do not allow for the migrations of prehistoric groups, define ancestral or religious in any kind of logical context.  Congress, well meaning, has not defined or given contextual guidelines to their legislation.  Without boundries, it leaves the laws open to interpretation. If any Native American or partial Native American (The U S Government now allows people of 128th Indian blood to define themselves as Native American and join Tribal Roles), thinks something is true or religious then it must be true. 

So the Native Americans have always been here and came from the creation story that is pertinent to their tribe.  If they no longer have tribal identification, then they can make up their beliefs and it is all accepted as true without contradiction.  If you question anything, you are defined as a racist or a bigot.  The government will accept any belief, even if scientific evidence or logic would make the assertion seem crazy to a rational person or contrary to fact.

I know this all seems negative and bias, but if you read the laws and how they are being enacted, you will soon realize that this is a brief overview, but accurate.  In 1990 the government went a step further down the line of undefined and unregulated political correctness.  The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was passed.  Cultural affiliation was defined that, “There is a relationship of shared group identity which can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group”.  A normal person would then conclude that there has to be a tribe that can trace itself directly to a burial or cultural remain.  That is not how it is defined by those running the program.  Group identity could mean a group of different tribal militants who have accepted a belief common to that group a few years ago or last week.  The next paragraphs talk about,  Associated funerary and unassociated funerary objects, death rites of a group and “Can be identified by a preponderance of the evidence as related to  specific individuals or families or to known human remains or, by a preponderance of the evidence, as having been removed from a specific burial site of an individual culturally affiliated with a particular Indian tribe”.  Sounds good until you get to the gray areas, like what defines a sacred object and is it really necessary for Indian religious practice if it has not been used for three to four hundred years and the religious practice continued without the artifact?  They then confuse things further by talking about Cultural Patrimony.  Cultural Patrimony is something that someone legally traded, sold or gave away and several hundred years later, some individual or tribe says that it should not have been separated from the tribe and they want it back.  They say it does not pertain to privately owned items, yet some militants are using the law to seize modern Kachina carvings made by Native American wood carvers for the art and tourist trades.  The law goes on to talk about lineal decent, (certainly sounds like there should be a relationship with the claiming tribe or individual and the human remains or artifacts).   Tribes making claims if there is a relationship is not a problem.  Such claims would go back three or four hundred years, perhaps a thousand years for some Pueblo tribes.  However, there would be a logical relationship based upon the tribe being in one place, using the burial site through time and where the artifacts or remains are in the burial site.  When artifacts were interred in an area where there was no documented tribes of residence and no living descendants of record or by evidence of the style of artifact; related to any tribe in existence today, then how can their be any claims?  Should not those remains, artifacts and cultural features be preserved for the American people?  After all it was taxpayer money that paid for the excavation, curation, storage and display of the items.  As time marches on, we have constantly found new science to apply to ancient remains and artifacts.  In the last two decades, microscopic studies of the work marks on flint, DNA studies of bone, trace mineral studies of bone, growth ring studies on bone, new dating techniques and other examples of scientific development have dramatically expanded our knowledge of ancient peoples.  As a result, we now know that the first Americans were Caucasian and arrived perhaps 40,000 years or more ago.  Clovis First has been shown to be faulty.  The Bering Straights path of exploration is now at risk as we find that the most closely related technologies to Clovis come from Spain not Siberia and the majority of Clovis complex artifacts are on the East coast of North America not Oregon to the Aleutian Islands. Yes there were later migrations along the Atlantic shelf and perhaps the Bering Sea from groups related to China and Siberia.  However, there is also evidence that the Irish, Norse and others were here also as early as 5000 to 7000 B.C.

  How does allowing the destruction of non-related, (to any current tribe), collections help the advancement of science, preserve the knowledge for future generations or help the Native American cause?

Even the repatriation of historic collections from tribes that no longer exist or who have lost their cultural identity do more harm than good.  Rather than preserving the identity of a people lost in time or so changed that they have lost their original styles, crafts and arts; repatriation would condemn these groups original identity to the ground.  Cultural genocide by destroying what little that still exist of their origins.   If such a group at a future date would wish to study their original clothing styles, motifs and lost skills, the museums would be bare and the items destroyed through militant political correctness and ignorance.

Since there are no relationships to many of these items, the committee is then forced to attempt to resolve disputes amongst multiple claims from different tribes.  These tribes base their claims on tribal stories passed down orally or beliefs that they once passed through an area.  How does this prove lineal decent?  A seven man committee was supposed to be appointed, where 3 would come from nominations from Indian Tribes, 3 from Museum and scientific organizations and one by the Secretary from a list developed by the other members.  The result was 6 militants and one scientist.  The committee immediately resolved that there were no human remains, associated or unassociated artifacts that were not claimable.  The government decided that all remains older than 1492 are Native American and claimable.  Since there records after 1492, that makes all of these remains claimable also unless provable to be European or other ethnic group.  Bluntly, everything is claimable by the militant Native Americans.  This departure from linked by blood relationship immediately put archaeologist and museums in opposition to the new law.  Without a blood link, the committee just needed time to find out which claimant had the best chance of seizing the materials from the museum or public collection.  This claim could be made by lineal decent or blood ties.  If actual evidence is missing, any individual or tribe can make a claim based on geographical origin, if a tribe is recognized as aboriginality occupying the area at some time where the objects were discovered.  The fact that 7000 years may have passed between the artifacts or remains and the tribe is inconsequential. Other claims can be based on religious beliefs, myths and stories.  Stories handed down by roving migrants is not necessarily accurate history or lineal decent.  In a world of written information and records, most of us still can not go back more than a two to six generations and identify where our ancestors are buried.  To then give carte blanche to Native Americans to claim burials and artifacts of more than 50 to 450 generations, based on personal or tribal belief  is a travesty.  A direct attack on science and Native Americans by liberal do gooder’s who would make up for the dispossession and decimation of Native Americans by disease and the migrations and settlement of Anglo settlers

The Humpty Dumpty to all this legislation is Kennewick Man.  Kennewick man will either put a halt to irrational claims or destroy forever the rights of any Archaeologist to excavate and record their findings without the Native Americans giving permission for the project, determining the fate of the artifacts and dictating the results of the information.  In a world where many militant Indians are on record that every broken pot shard, arrowhead and bone is sacred; it does not take a genus to realize that given the chance, they would shut down all archaeology and prehistoric anthropology and would entertain seizing every artifact from every public collection.

In 1996, two young men, Will Thomas and  Dave Deacy  intent on getting a better free view to watch some hydroplane races on the Columbia River’s Lake Wallula, waded the shore line.  About 10 feet from shore in a foot and a half of water, Will Thomas discovered a skull, brown in color, impacted with mud and with teeth showing in the maxilla.  Not wanting to miss the races they hid the skull in the bushes.  About 5 p.m. they returned with a bucket and collected the skull and turned it over to a Kennewick police officer.  The police and Benton county deputies took the pair back to the site by boat.  Within a few minutes they had other bones, a pelvis, leg bones and ribs.  They quit about 9 p.m.  The shoreline and river are federal property under the management of the Corps of Engineers.  The bones went to Jim Chatters, forensic anthropologist who believed the skull to be a male Caucasian based on the long face and teeth. Probably the remains of an early homesteader, trapper, trader or river man, that possibly eroded out of the bank or was in a cemetery close to the bank.   On July 30th of 1996 an ARPA permit was issued.   Jim Chatters went to the site and collected more bones.  Most of the bones of a male individual were obtained.  A few of the small foot and finger bones were missed.  Some cow bones and European trash was collected by the police and Chatter’s crew and this reinforced the belief that it was some kind of European burial.  Chatter’s at the time dismissed some of the newspaper articles that pronounced the bones to be hundreds of years old.  After all, the first Europeans did not reach the area until the early 1800’s.  Then the Carbon 14 test proved that the remains were 9000 years old.  Further analysis showed a broken projectile point buried in bone.  Immediately five different tribes claimed the remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.  None could prove any blood relationship or cultural connection, but all made the claim anyway.  The Corps of Engineers decided to destroy the site by covering it with tons of rock and planting trees every foot.  They sent a letter a day before Christmas and gave the archaeologist the Monday after Christmas to respond.  Fortunately the letter arrived on Saturday and the archaeologist drove all day Sunday to have a response in opposition in place on Monday, but the Corps, had already contracted for the site to be sealed and destroyed for further research.  That same week, the site was sealed by tons of rock and new tree plantings.

To make this short, five tribes sued with the Corps of Engineers to claim and rebury Kennewick Man.   On the other side was the Smithsonian, Chatters and the pro-science community.  Over $10,000,000 was spend by the government on both sides and after about six years of litigation, a judge ruled that Kennewick Man was not related to the tribes, and under NAGPRA could be studied.

If you lose a battle, change the battlefield. The Next step in the fight was for X-Senator Ben Lighthorse and later in 2005, Senator John McCain to introduce a modification to NAGPRA to add the words “or was related”, to make anything found in the United States of any age and without any evidence of a relationship, claimable by the militant Indians and their anti-science allies.  They would just have to maintain that the remain or artifact were found on American soil. As such, the remains or artifacts were connected to North America, the Indians are connected to North America and therefore, there may have been a relationship based on common geography.  On this geography, a NAGPRA claim to repatriate could be made.

Once the Judge ruled that Kennewick Man could be studied, it did not change the anti-science agenda, they are just shifting tactics.  The Department of the Interior based upon the court case, has now decreed that all unassociated remains may be studied.  This has infuriated the anti-study side and made their word change in NAGPRA even more important, as it changes the focus of the law from is related to a tribe, clan or family to a more general was connected to the common geography.  The history of this Nation is at stake and where it ends, is up to you. Get involved and write your Senator and Congressman.