Kennewick Man to Receive a Native American Burial

UNITED STATES

Five tribes claiming Kennewick Man as a relative will work to rebury him after the Army Corps of Engineers validated the 9,000-year-old skeleton is Native American. (Seattle Times)

Use our map to find the Yakima and Nez Perce cultural groups, who honor Kennewick Man as an ancestor.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

This clay facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man was carefully sculpted around the morphological features of his skull, and lends a deeper understanding of what he may have looked like nearly 9,000 years ago. Sculpted bust of Kennewick Man by StudioEIS based on forensic facial reconstruction by sculptor Amanda Danning. Photo by Brittney Tatchell, Smithsonian Institution

This clay facial reconstruction of Kennewick Man was carefully sculpted around the morphological features of his skull, and lends a deeper understanding of what he may have looked like nearly 9,000 years ago.
Sculpted bust of Kennewick Man by StudioEIS based on forensic facial reconstruction by sculptor Amanda Danning. Photo by Brittney Tatchell, Smithsonian Institution

Discussion Ideas

 

The exceptionally well-preserved skeleton of Kennewick Man is represented by nearly 300 bones and bone fragments. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

The exceptionally well-preserved skeleton of Kennewick Man is represented by nearly 300 bones and bone fragments.
Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

  • Why has it taken 20 years for Kennewick Man to receive a Native American burial?
    • Debate has continued since the 1996 discovery as to whether the remains should continue to be studied by scientists, or reburied, as tribes have long wished.” A short history:
      • The remains were discovered on Army Corps of Engineers property.
      • The Corps agreed to hand over the remains to the Umatilla people (the original inhabitants of the land) under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
      • A group of scientists sued to stop the repatriation, saying the tribes did not have jurisdiction until affiliation between them and Kennewick Man could be established. Early scientific evidence indicated the remains might not belong to a person indigenous to what is now eastern Washington, and possibly not even North America. These scientists based their analysis on evidence of Kennewick Man’s diet, which indicated a coastal residence, and his bone structure, which seemed to resemble Southeast Asian or Polynesian people.
      • The federal Court of Appeals ruled that a cultural link between any of the Native American tribes and Kennewick Man could not be proved because of the age of the remains. Its ruling allowed scientific study of the remains to continue.
      • Last year (2015), a comprehensive genetic study seemed to refute the earlier scientific evidence, concluding that Kennewick Man shared genetic continuity with Native North Americans over at least the last eight millennia.

 

  • What are the next steps in repatriating Kennewick Man?

 

  • Scientists were able to extract DNA from Kennewick Man’s skeleton and identify his haplogroups. What are haplogroups?
    • A haplogroup is a group that shares a set of similar DNA sequences (called haplotypes). Haplogroups are used to understand genetic lineages. Learn more about haplogroups here.
    • According to the Genographic Project, “Your haplogroup is your branch on the human family tree. All people alive today belong to distinct haplogroups based on the sequence of genetic markers carried in their cells. People belonging to the same haplogroup can trace their descent to a common ancestor and even a specific place where that ancestor may have lived.”

 

  • Scientists identified Kennewick Man’s Y-chromosome haplogroup and his mitrochondrial DNA haplogroup. What is the difference between Y-DNA and mitrochondrial DNA haplogroups?
    • Father: The DNA sequences (haplotypes) that link Y-DNA haplogroups are found on the Y chromosome. Only men have Y chromosomes.
    • Mother: The DNA sequences (haplotypes) that link mitrochondrial DNA haplogroups trace matrilineal, or female, inheritance.

 

  • Kennewick Man’s Y-DNA haplogroup is Q-M3 and his mitochondrial DNA is X2a. How does that information help link him to Native Americans? Take a look at the two maps above for some help. (Click to enlarge!)
    • The genetic markers in both haplogroups are found almost exclusively in western Native North Americans.

 

  • How was Kennewick Man linked specifically to northeastern Washington’s Native American tribes?
    • Scientists compared DNA extracted from Kennewick Man’s skeleton to DNA in saliva samples from members of eastern Washington’s Colville confederation of tribes. The results showed many genetic similarities.

 

Native American groups call Kennewick Man the “Ancient One,” and regularly visit the skeleton at the Burke Museum of History and Culture in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

Native American groups call Kennewick Man the “Ancient One,” and regularly visit the skeleton at the Burke Museum of History and Culture in Seattle, Washington.
Photo by Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Seattle Times: It’s official: Kennewick Man is Native American

Nat Geo: Native American Cultures map

(extra credit!) Nature: The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man

One response to “Kennewick Man to Receive a Native American Burial

  1. Peace retained to both scientists and tribes. Well a salute to the man behind that skeleton.

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