Kennewick Man

Legislative Alert - Kennewick Man - 4/4/2005

ATADA Legislative Alert #2, Kennewick Man
4 April, 2005

Dear ATADA Member,

You are receiving this e-mail because of your membership in ATADA. The ATADA Board of Directors has asked me to send the following message to the membership.

ALERT: Senate to expand the definition of Native American

S.536 full text is at, see p. 15.

As early as this week (April 4-8, 2005) the US Senate will vote on S.536. In Section 108 of this bill, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee quietly and unanimously voted to amend NAGPRA’s definition of Native American. No public hearings were held on this sweeping change.

This expansive definition of Native American sets the stage to overturn the Kennewick Man decisions rendered by the Federal District Court of Oregon and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

More than the Kennewick Man case is at stake. In any future similar discovery, human remains might be reburied without scientific examination. This would, in effect, block the application of the scientific method to inquiry about our Nation’s pre-history.

FAX or E-mail your concerns to your state’s Senators and Senate Majority Leader Frist. Ask them to delete Section 108 from S.536. (US Mail will not reach these offices in time). Every FAX or e-mail counts.

To obtain contact information for your state’s Senators, go to the following URL:

Voice your concerns – NOW


Suggested language: (Personalize your own message but use this subject alert)

Subject: S.536 – DELETE Section 108

Suggestedletter – provided by W. Roger Fry (

Dear Senator ____________:

I am writing to you regarding Senate Bill S.536 titled ” Native American Omnibus Act of 2005″ , introduced by Senator John McCain on March 7, 2005.

Senator __________, this Bill contains a drastic change at Section 108. No hearings were held on this and it has been treated as non controversial. Section 108 is a seemingly insignificant change to NAGPRA, however this is not the case. It represents a major change and one that should be thoroughly studied, with public comment, before a decision is made regarding it.

Adding ” or was” after the word ” is” in the definition of ” Native American” in NAGPRA, results in the nonscientific assumption that all human remains found in the United States, that date prior to 1492, are human remains of ancestors of present day Native Americans. Under those circumstances the Native Americans would be able to prohibit scientific study of the human remains and cause same to be reburied without any study whatsoever. Had this change been in the law earlier, there would have been no study of Kennewick Man. Those remains would have been reburied at the direction of the American Indians without our learning that they are over 8,000 years old and non Indian.

The scientists who opposed the immediate reburying of Kennewick Man presented an extraordinarily compelling case, under the current law, and prevailed. Accordingly, Kennewick Man, which has been determined to be a non Indian, has been studied and will be studied further and may represent a new chapter in ” the peopling of America” . The change in Section 108, by adding the words ” or was” would have given the American Indians the exclusive decision making power to immediately rebury Kennewick Man. That same power would exist as to future discoveries if the change in Section 108 is made. This would impede appropriate scientific study of the prehistory of America.

Please ask that Section 108 be removed from Senate Bill S.536 until the ramifications of it are thoroughly understood. A public comment period would provide you with the benefit of the Native American position on this and that of the scientific community. It would enable all members of the Senate to cast an informed vote on this crucial issue.

Thank you, Senator ______________, for your consideration of this most important matter.

Sincerely yours,



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Arch Thiessen, ATADA Webmaster