Friends of America's Past

The Kennewick Man Case | Press Releases & Public Statements

Government's Study Announcement and Plaintiff's Response

The text of the government filing in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on February 10, 1999 is as follows:

On February 2, 1999, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Simmons traveled to Davis California to retrieve the finger bone fragments from Dr. Smith, U.C. Davis. Immediately after Dr. Smith packaged the bone fragments, Mr. Simmons flew with the package to the Burke Museum and placed them in the Delta Design Cabinet. The United States had planned to have Mr. Simmons give the fragments to Dr. Trimble, who was rehousing the other remains that week, and have Dr. Trimble place them in the cabinet. However, once Mr. Simmons was at the Burke, it was decided that he should enter the room and observe the package being placed in the cabinet, in order to have a single chain of custody.

In addition, pursuant to the Revised Joint Memorandum of Agreement Regarding Transfer of the Remains To the Burke Museum, September 30, 1998, the United States gives notice from that approximately February 24, 1999 through March 5, 1999, Dr. Francis McManaman and the scientific team that he is in the process of selecting, will perform the investigations to be performed in the first stage ( the nondestructive stage ) of testing.

Press Release

Counsel's Statement on behalf of Bonnichsen Plaintiffs

February 11, 1999

Plaintiffs have received a copy of a notice filed by the government in the Kennewick Man case (Bonnichsen v. U.S., Civil No. 96-1481) stating that defendants will begin their proposed studies of the skeleton on approximately February 24, 1999. The notice does not specify the number or names of the persons who will conduct these studies which are said to constitute a "first stage" of testing.

Plaintiffs are relieved that study of the skeleton may, at last, be on the verge of starting. It has been a long struggle to bring the government to this point. Plaintiffs hope that this first round of limited studies will eventually lead to full-scale comprehensive investigation of the skeleton and Kennewick Man's importance in the early peopling of the Americas.

Plaintiffs look forward to seeing the results of this first stage of testing, and they hope that the reports of defendants' study team will be released promptly and without prior editing by government non-scientists. Unfortunately, this was not the case for earlier reports by government scientists relating to the skeleton's storage or study of its discovery site.

The government's proposed program for studying the skeleton raises other concerns. If federal officials are truly interested in obtaining the best possible data for resolving this case, then why are plaintiffs being excluded from study of the skeleton? Common sense and simple fairness would dictate that they be given a chance to participate. Had it not been for plaintiffs, the skeleton would have been reburied more than two and a half years ago just as its discovery site has since been buried.

Plaintiffs have much to contribute to any scientific study of this enormously important discovery from America's past. They and the members of their study team have spent their professional careers investigating questions relating to human evolution and the peopling of the Americas. Together, they have written or co-authored over 750 scientific articles and a dozen books. Many of them are, or have been, editors of some of the most authoritative scientific publications in their fields. Without the participation of these scholars, any attempt to determine who Kennewick Man was and how he relates to modern peoples will be incomplete.

Plaintiffs have offered to study the skeleton without charge to the government. Their sole interest is in determining the scientific facts relating to Kennewick Man. Plaintiffs have offered to share with the government (and the public) the complete results of everything they learn.

Plaintiffs hope that the government will have more success in meeting its announced study date of February 24th than it has had with past schedules. It has been over two and a half years now since the skeleton was first discovered. Over that period of time, the government has announced numerous plans for resolving this case, but unfortunately none of its past timelines have been met. It can only be hoped that this latest announcement will not be another cause for further delays and excuses.

Return to Press Releases & Public Statements