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In 2015, an international team used ancient DNA technology to determine that the 8,500-year-old “Kennewick Man” skeleton was Native American. Researchers at the University of Chicago then independently verified the finding. And now, the US government has made it official: the Army Corp of Engineers, after reviewing the data on Kennewick Man, has declared that the remains—which it currently owns—are in fact of Native American origin. “I find that there is substantial evidence to determine that Kennewick Man is related to modern Native Americans from the United States,” Army Brigadier General Scott Spellmon, commander of the Army Corps’ Northwestern Division, said in a report.
The official statement paves the way for Native American tribes to reclaim and bury the remains, which scientists discovered on Army Corp land along the Columbia River in Washington in 1996. Since their unearthing, the remains have served as the focal point for a litany of legal filings—suits filed against the Army Corp by researchers seeking to study the bones and similar legal claims made by Native American tribes trying to obtain Kennewick Man. And previous anthropolocial research suggested that Kennewick Man may have been of Asian or Caucasian extraction. “Obviously we are hearing an acknowledgment from the Corps of what we have been saying for 20 years,” JoDe Goudy, chairman of the Yakama Nation, told The Seattle Times. “Now we want to collectively do what is right, and bring our relative back for reburial.”
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