NAGPRA vs. Archaeology Essay

NAGPRA vs. Archaeology

The Kennewick Man was discovered in Washington State in 1996 and through archaeological study dated to roughly 8400 years old.  The fact that the remains appeared to be Caucasian piqued the interest of researchers in the area who wanted to study the skeleton, 90% preserved, and hopefully piece together the events that lead to its existence in the area and the man’s death.  The problem such researchers met with the Kennewick man is that being clearly of ancient origin, the remains are subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).  This means that the body must be turned over to a local native group and reburied on their own terms.

Scientists argue that natives are depriving themselves of their own history because of their refusal to have the bones studied; the native response is that through oral documentation, ancient history is already known.  The second complaint from scientists is simply that the bones appear to have come from a Caucasian male and therefore NAGPRA has no precedent.  Several lawsuits were filed and it was said that this may be the first case to cause amendments to the NAGPRA doctrine.  Clearly both sides think they have a right to the find, and given the existence of NAGPRA it seems the only solution in this case is to determine the race of the body.  If he is indeed a Caucasian, studies can be resumed to the delight of researchers, and if he is actually a Native American then the remains must be given over to reburial.