THOUGHTS ON THE KENNEWICK MAN CONTROVERSY [HUNTER GRAY   JULY 16 2002  AND AUGUST 31 2002 UPDATE]

 Note by Hunterbear:

The fervor that has enveloped the archaic Kennewick "find" -- Native people who wish the remains interred in solemn and traditional fashion [my view], the
Anthros who want Him for scientific and endless examination, Anglo racists
who see an opportunity to try [however hopelessly] to undermine Native
"aboriginal title" in the context of the Western Hemisphere -- does say a
great deal about the enduring turbulence and cultural diversity within
what's now called the United States.

Kennewick Man's remains were found in the Kennewick Park region of the
Columbia River Basin in July, 1996.  Soon thereafter, following Federal law,
the US Army Corps of Engineers ruled that the remains should be returned to
the local Native nations for traditional burial.  This was immediately
challenged by some Anthros who, contending that Kennewick is Caucasian [or
at least non-Mongoloid or racially ambiguous], should be studied.  Things
have been in court, off and on, for a long time -- and a Federal magistrate
at Portland has promised a definitive ruling by Labor Day, 2002.  The Native
nations, in firm coalition around this issue, are the Nez Perce, Yakima,
Colville, Wanapum and Umatilla.  I would expect them to be the victors in
this -- with the ultimate victor being traditional propriety.

I take the creation explanations of the respective Native tribal nations
[including my own] in symbolic fashion.  And  it's really quite obvious that
the Western Hemisphere was originally populated by Mongoloid hunters and
their families who crossed over the then-existent Bering "land bridge" from
Siberia and environs.  It's also obvious that these migrations occurred over
eons -- extending much further back into time than most scientists, until
quite recently, were willing to concede.  Again, it's obvious that the
Western Hemisphere was also "visited" regularly by a few others over this
vast span of time -- and that these travelers were either absorbed into the
generally hospitable Native population [probably the most common situation],
killed [probably happened occasionally, too] or returned [as per the
Vikings] with some interesting tales. [The Old Norse Edda -- Great Saga with
substantial pre-Christian theological components --  and certain dimensions
of Wabanaki mythology in the far Northeast -- have some fascinating common
ingredients.]  More to the point, the essentially Mongoloid population of the
Siberian region and environs has always contained many variations in its own
right -- and some of those, in the more westerly regions, have always mixed with Caucasian elements.

Anyway, by far and away, the people who came to traditionally  populate the
Hemisphere were Mongoloid -- and that's the Native situation today. [Decades
ago, Soviet scientists established that some Native Americans crossed into
Siberia and eventually wound up in the region just east of the Ural
Mountains.]

One further note.  I would certainly not dispute the existence of
intelligent and friendly ET life across our Great Universe.  But the idea
floated by some -- e.g., Erik Von Daniken  -- that the great pyramids of
Teotihuacán and Tula and Tenotchitlan of Mexico and the Mayan works of
Central America and the impressive creations of the Inca of the Andes were
all laid out by ETs is total nonsense:  charlatanism, mixed liberally with
commercialism and crackpotism.  And, as some do, to attribute those to
shipwrecked Egyptian or Phoenician sailors [who were also apparently and
coincidentally,  gifted architects ] is likewise ridiculous.  For  better
[most of the time] but sometimes for worse, everything in Old America
was created by Native people.

Let's get Kennewick Man properly and traditionally buried -- and get on with
the urgent contemporary challenges of great import to Natives and friends.

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]


Great White Hope?

Kennewick Man, the Facts, the Fantasies and the Stakes
By Bruce E. Johansen
© 1999 Native Americas
http://nativeamericas.aip.cornell.edu/spr99features/johansenspr99.html

Was he European? Norse, perhaps? Was he Asiatic, perhaps Ainu, the
indigenous people of Japan? Was he Native American, from the earth of Turtle
Island (North America)? Is Kennewick Man, perhaps, a combination of the
worldly elements of his own time, a reminder that human origins in the
Americas are much more complex, much more multicultural, than has been
commonly supposed?

If "Kennewick Man," a 9,300-year old, nearly complete skeleton of roughly
350 pieces found in eastern Washington during 1996, could come to life, he
might be surprised to find that he has become the object of an exercise in
racial heritage fantasies and related political tensions in our time. The
debate over the origins of Kennewick Man says as much about the racial
politics of the very late twentieth century as it does about the skeleton's
actual origins.

Kennewick Man is one anecdote in a long story, one reminder of the
increasing complexity of our knowledge about human origins in the Americas.
A number of archaeological discoveries and speculations during the past
generation have effectively jettisoned the neat and tidy myth of the 1950s:
one group of Asiatic people traversed the Bering Strait more or less at one
time and populated the continents of the Western Hemisphere in one fell
swoop. The racial politics evoked by the discovery of Kennewick Man and
other, similarly ancient remains, has presented us with a number of very
diverse opinions. But one thing that nearly all serious observers of human
antiquity in the Americas now share is this: human origins in the Americas
are much more diverse, and cover a much greater time span than the
simplistic Bering Strait theory allows.

Following the find of 10,000-year old human remains as far south as Monte
Verde, Chile, many scholars maintain that the accepted date of human arrival
in the Americas needs to be pushed back by several thousand years. Some have
even put the date as far back as 200,000 years, although no remains have
been found which are nearly that old. On this time line, Kennewick Man was
not one of the first human beings to trod Turtle Island. An overview of the
evidence suggests the Americas were populated by many people, from many
places, both by land and sea, over a longer period of time than many
archaeological professionals suspected. In some cases, migration may have
reached Asia from the Americas, reiterating a position taken two hundred
years ago by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, a student of human languages,
suspected that Native cultures in America were of great antiquity based on
the number and complexity of their languages. Jefferson supposed that the
Old World might have been partially populated from the Americas.

Some present-day linguistic analysis supports Jefferson's supposition.
Johanna Nichols, a professor of Slavic languages at the University of
California (Berkeley) said that from Alaska to the southern tip of South
America, Native Americans speak or have spoken 143 language stocks that are
mutually unintelligible. Nichols said that it takes roughly 6,000 years for
a language to split into two mutually unintelligible tongues. Based on this
calculation, she estimated that human languages were being spoken in the
Americas at least 60,000 years ago.

It is amazing how quickly the discovery of one skeleton can be plugged into
contemporary racial agendas such as those who seem to need attachment, no
matter how tenuous, to the land they have come to call their America. This
has persisted despite acknowledgement by those who first called Kennewick
Man a European-type that he was, on closer examination, also much like the
ancient Ainu, Native peoples of Japan. If they came from Europe at all,
peoples such as Kennewick Man may have gone through a lot of changes before
arriving in America, making him a racial mosaic that stumps so-called racial
classifications.


=========================================

Hunter Gray  [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org (strawberry socialism)
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´

 

NOTE BY HUNTERBEAR [8/31/02]

"In a statement issued last night, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla
Indian Reservation anticipated an appeal: "We are confident that upon
appeal, the court will recognize that (the Repatriation Act) protects the
remains of Native American people from being treated solely as objects of
scientific curiosity.

"... This treatment of Native American remains as scientific specimens
deprives Native people of the basic right to properly bury or care for these
ancestors. By enacting (the Repatriation Act), Congress intended that Native
American ancestral human remains be treated the same as non-Indian remains,
with respect."

Thus, in yet another wild and woolly twist in the Winding River of the Kennewick
Odyssey, the Federal magistrate at Portland, who has perched silently on
this case for a vastly long time, has now issued a very unfortunate [in my
opinion and that of other Native people, and others] ruling reversing the
Department of Interior decision to turn Kennewick over to Native Americans
for proper burial as per Federal law -- and moral propriety.

The Federal government may well appeal  this decision. But the Confederated
Tribes of the Umatilla -- and associated Native allies, among them Nez
Perce, Yakima, Colville, Wanapum -- are obviously going to do so.  I would
certainly expect them to be the victors in the long run.

Hunter [Hunterbear]

 

 

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