Saturday, October 20, 2007

Alaskan tribe receives ancestor's remains

Over ten years ago, human remains estimated at 10,000 years old were found in a cave in the Tongass National Forest. Studies indicated they belonged to the ancestors of the Tlingit nation of Alaska Natives. What's notable about this find is that everything was done right in accordance with the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Tlingit leaders agreed the bones could be studied before their return to the tribe for appropriate reburial. Now the U.S. Forest Service has handed them back, and Tlingit will proceed with permanent re-interment. Anthropologist Rosita Worl, a Tlingit, said, "I think ours is a really good example of what can be accomplished when scientists and federal agencies recognize the legal rights of Native people. They're professional with them, they're sensitive with them. They're equal with them."
COMMENT: This was a simpler case than that of Kennewick Man, whose remains have been claimed by several tribes and remain the subject of contention. Still, it's a good example of how both science and cultural sensibilities can be accommodated when everyone starts with the right mindset.

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