Return the bones

sentinelYou would probably get upset if someone wanted to remove your grandparents’ bones from their graves and put the skeletons on display in a museum.

That’s a no-brainer.

So it’s no surprise that Native American tribes have tried to protect ancestral bones.

But it took legislators years and years to honor Indian culture.

Finally in 1990 the United States passed a law that protected indigenous artifacts and ancestors—the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

The law was tested when non-Indians uncovered one of the oldest skeletons ever seen in North America: Kennewick Man.

But tribes lost the court battle and the bones of Kennewick Man remain locked in a museum after 18 years.

Recently, however, scientists and American Indian tribes met on common ground and found a way to honor tribes while allowing scientists to study human remains.

A skeleton of a boy was uncovered in Montana in 1968. Turns out the buried lad is about 12,000 year old.

Because the body was uncovered on private land, the role of NAGPRA remains unclear.

But, in a confluence of kismet and coincidence, the land where the boy was buried was owned by a family whose daughter now works on the Human Genome Project.

Sarah Anzick, a genetics researcher who studied the bones, told reporter Jeremy Hobson the remains will be turned over to the Crow tribe.

She said the discovery is more than a faceless skeleton.

As a mother myself, it’s the respectful thing to do. I mean, this is an individual. It’s not just a sample.

Anzick is working with Shane Doyle, a tribal member who helped bring scientists and Native people together.

The boy will be reburied.

Here is the story from National Public Radio

Photo of Crow Indian,1907, Richard Throssel Collection, from


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, Indian, Indian relocation, Kennewick Man, native american, native press, Native Science, race, repatriation, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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