Complex Legal Legacies: The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Scientific Study, and Kennewick Man

Bibliographic Information

Article Title

Complex Legal Legacies: The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Scientific Study, and Kennewick Man

Journal Title

American Antiquity

Author(s)

Bruning, Susan B.

Month of Publication

July

Year of Publication

2006

Volume Number

71

Issue Number

3

Article Pages

501-521

Web Address (URL)

https://doi.org/10.1017/S0002731600039780

Additional Information

Available Through

CambridgeCore

Language

English

Notes

Abstract: Debates over disposition options for an inadvertently discovered set of early Holocene human remains known as Kennewick Man have fueled discussions about the scientific, cultural, and ethical implications of the anthropological study of human remains. A high-profile lawsuit over Kennewick Man has led to the most extensive judicial analysis to date of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the primary law affecting access to, and the ultimate disposition of, ancient human remains found in the United States. However, despite years of litigation, some key questions remain unanswered. The judicial decisions in Kennewick address important questions about determining Native American status and assessing cultural affiliation under the law. However, the court opinions fail to address the role of scientific study within NAGPRA's confines. This article examines NAGPRA and concludes that two provisions in the law expressly permit the scientific study of human remains if certain conditions are met. Significantly, Kennewick Man might have qualified for study under NAGPRA even if found to be Native American and culturally affiliated with the claimant tribes, which would have enabled study to proceed from the outset while the parties debated the issues of Native American status and potential cultural affiliation.

Abstract also available in French.

Additional tags: Kennewich Man; NAGPRA; scientific study; Indigenous rights; legal frameworks for repatriation

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