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History and Culture

Bones Found Near Wanapum Dam Repatriated To Northwest Tribes

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network
File photo. Two skeletons were found several weeks ago along newly exposed Columbia River shore.

Two skeletons found upstream of the cracked Wanapum Dam have been handed over to Northwest tribes.

The remains were found near each other several weeks ago along the newly exposed Columbia River shore.

The state says it has the legislative authority to determine if remains are Native American and then repatriate them to tribes if they are.

But Richard Jantz, a well-known physical anthropologist who fought for a decade in federal court to study Kennewick Man, says it’s unfortunate that Washington state didn’t carbon-date these newfound remains before handing them over.

“We study the remains of Americans of all ethnicities," says Jantz. "I think everybody loses when we understand less about the past than we might have.”

State experts say their initial studies show that one skeleton is male, the second female. In addition, the female’s skull shows signs of being flattened by a cradleboard -- a traditional baby carrier used by indigenous North Americans.

Northwest tribal leaders in the area say they find it very disturbing for remains to be studied in any way.