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The Kennewick Man Case | News & Comment

Smithsonian Letter to Judge Jelderks

Smithsonian Institution
J. Dennis O'Connor
Under Secretary for Science

September 24, 2001

The Honorable John Jelderks
United States Magistrate Judge
United States District Court for the District of Oregon
740 United States Courthouse/1000 S.W. 3rd Avenue
Portland Oregon, 97204

Re: Bonnichsen v USA (CV 96-1481 JE)

Dear Judge Jelderks:

From its inception, the Smithsonian has carefully followed the proceeding before you in the above-referenced matter. As the repository for materials found on federal lands, and as one of the pre-eminent natural history museums in the world, the Smithsonian and its National Museum of Natural History are keenly interested in the "Kennewick Man" remains. Furthermore, our scientists are among the most qualified experts in the country in matters of assessing and determining the identity of human remains and possible cultural affiliation.

As soon as the remains were discovered, the Smithsonian sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers requesting their transfer to the Smithsonian (see attached letter dated October 15, 1996, from Smithsonian to the Army Corps of Engineers). The Smithsonian's request was rejected by the Army Corps of Engineers for several reasons (see attached latter (sic) dated August 7, 1997, from Army Corps of Engineers to Smithsonian). Mr. Curtis expressed concern about possible conflicts of interest because two of the plaintiffs, Doug Owsley and Dennis Stanford, are employees of the Smithsonian, notwithstanding that they have filed this lawsuit in the capacities as private individuals rather than in an official capacity.

We understand that you will soon be rendering a decision in this matter about the fate of the Kennewick Man remains. To that end, the Smithsonian would like to reiterate its position of October 15, 1996, and request that, in the event you determine that the remains should be examined in greater detail and/or that they are not eligible for repatriation, that you consider transferring them to the Smithsonian for further study and, possibly, permanent retention.

Thank you for your consideration of this request, and please contact me if you have any questions.

J. Dennis O'Connor

The Castle Room 230
1000 Jefferson Drive SW
Washington, DC 20560-0009
202.357.2903 Telephone
202.633.8942 Fax

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