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Kennewick Man Would Return To Tribes Under Law Pending In Congress

Brittney Tatchell
Smithsonian Institution -
File photo of clay facial reconstruction of the 9,000-year-old remains known as Kennewick Man.

Members of the U.S. House and Senate expect to pass a law in the next few days that would return a 9,000-year old set of human remains to Northwest tribes. “Kennewick Man” was found along the banks of the Columbia River in 1996 by two students.

The bill is called the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. If it passes and is signed into law by President Obama before he leaves office it would be a long awaited celebration for several Northwest tribes.

Kennewick Man -- or the Ancient One -- has been held at the Burke Museum in Seattle for nearly two decades. The tribes want to rebury the bones based on their religious beliefs and rights under the Native American Graves Protection And Repatriation Act.

The tribes fought for the remains for a decade with a group of scientists who wanted to study Kennewick Man. It now looks likely that Kennewick Man’s story will have its final chapter.

If the remains are returned to the tribes, leaders there plan to bury him very soon in an undisclosed location.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.