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Northwest Tribes Rebury Kennewick Man

Brittney Tatchell
Smithsonian Institution -
Kennewick Man, or the Ancient One, is a more-than 9,000-year-old skeleton found in the shallows of the Columbia River in 1996.

Kennewick Man was reinterred Saturday by several Northwest tribes in a private ceremony. It ended a 20-year battle between scientists who wanted to study the bones and tribes who wanted to lay them to rest.

In the early morning, more than 200 tribal people came together in a secret location on the Columbia Plateau. Religious leaders from the tribes, put the ancient Kennewick Man to rest with a ceremony and traditional songs.

Kennewick Man, or the Ancient One, is a more-than 9,000-year-old skeleton. It was found in 1996, in the shallows of the Columbia River by two students. The skeleton had a stone point embedded in his hip -- and is now one of the most-studied sets of ancient remains in the world.

Scientists and Northwest tribes spent nearly a decade in court fighting over custody of the bones. Scientists claimed that Kennewick Man was most-closely related to an ancient people of Japan. But tribes claimed K-Man as their own ancestor.

The tribes believe their ancestors’ remains need to be put to rest in the earth -- or upset spirits could make living people sick.

A couple years ago, a European DNA study linked Kennewick Man most closely to Northwest tribes. This winter, President Obama signed a bill into law that allowed for Kennewick Man’s return to the tribes. The tribes picked up the bones at Seattle’s Burke Museum on Friday.

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.