Kennewick Man Clay Model
A clay facial reconstruction of the Ancient One shows what he many have looked like.

Legislation Proposed to Return the Ancient One to Tribes

Terri Hansen

Legislation proposed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) August 6 and supported by the State of Washington will (if passed) return the prehistoric skeleton of the Ancient One, known to non-Natives as Kennewick Man, to his Columbia Basin tribal descendants for reburial.

“After nearly two decades of legal wrangling and scientific studying, it’s well past time to return these prehistoric remains to their rightful place,” Murray said in a statement. “This is simply the right thing to do, and the sooner we begin the process of repatriation, the sooner we can ensure we are honoring the wishes of the Kennewick Man’s descendants.”

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, part of a coalition of tribal nations demanding his return thanked Murray for respectfully initiating legislation to return the Ancient One.

“The Ancient One is returning from 20 years of displacement, and in these 20 years he has become the most studied individual in the world,” Jode Goudy, chairman of the Yakama Nation told ICTMN. “The most recent DNA studies show that the Ancient One is not only Native American but of the Columbia Plateau region, where he was buried.”

Goudy said the scientific findings were of no surprise but merely confirm what the Yakama have been saying for two decades: the Ancient One is their relative and they have the responsibility to respectfully rebury him.

The Yakama Nation, along with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, and the Wanapum Band of Priest Rapids in Oregon, Washington and Idaho have always maintained that the nearly complete male skeleton found along the Columbia River near Kennewick, Washington in 1996 was their ancestor.

The tribes requested a return of the remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, but a 2004 federal court ruling allowed a group of scientists to continue their study of the skeleton, which is stored at the Burke Museum in Seattle.

When scientists at the University of Copenhagen released new genetic evidence that proved the remains were Native American with a direct link to Columbia Basin Native Americans June 16 the Yakama Nation issued a statement the same day demanding the Ancient One’s immediate return.

RELATED: DNA Proves Kennewick Man, the Ancient One, Is Native; Tribes Continue Fight for Reburial

“The Ancient One is our relative, and anything but the immediate return and reburial of our relative is a continued act of dishonor by all individuals and parties involved,” the Yakama Nation said in a statement. “We are asking for the scientific community to immediately stand down with the continued advocacy of study of our relative.”

Murray’s bill, S. 1979, the Bring the Ancient One Home Act of 2015, complies with the pleas made by the Yakama Nation: It would transfer the remains from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, which has regulations in place to carry out repatriation of the Kennewick Man to tribal nations.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, National Congress of American Indians, and Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation support returning the Kennewick Man to his Native American descendants.

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Danyelle Robinson
Danyelle Robinson
Submitted by Danyelle Robinson on
I wrote many of the stories that first appeared in ICT regarding the Ancient One, back in 1997. Even then scientist said he was definitely native and they were trying to figure out which tribe he belonged to. (Only one of the tribes would allow testing.) The reality was that no amount of DNA testing would give them that answer. Way too much time has passed. Let him REST IN PEACE.