Rep. Newhouse, Sen. Murray, Rep. Heck Announce a Major Step Forward in Effort to Return Ancient Remains To Columbia Basin Tribes
Several Columbia Basin tribes have called for the Ancient One to be returned to his descendants
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and Rep. Denny Heck (WA-10) announced that a provision in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act would start the process to return the Ancient One to his rightful resting place. Newhouse, Murray, and Heck have fought to return the remains of the Ancient One, also known as Kennewick Man, to Columbia Basin tribes since Senator Murray introduced the bill in 2015. Companion legislation was introduced by Reps. Newhouse and Heck in the House of Representatives in 2015. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider the legislation first.
Experts believe the remains, discovered in 1996 on federal land near the Columbia River, are at least 8,400 years old, making the Ancient One among the oldest and most complete skeletons found in North America. In June 2015, new genetic evidence determined the remains were closer to modern Native Americans than any other population worldwide.
“Two decades after his discovery, it is finally time to return the human remains to the Columbia Basin tribes where he belongs,” said Rep. Newhouse. “I was pleased to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate on this bipartisan effort to repatriate the Ancient One.”
“This is about doing right by the descendants of the Ancient One,” Senator Murray said. “After more than twenty years of debate, I’m proud to see this legislation so close to finally bringing the Ancient One home, and I will do everything I can to see it over the finish line.”
“For two decades, the Native peoples of the Columbia River Basin have strived to rebury their ancestor,” Rep. Heck said. “The inclusion of this important provision in the final water infrastructure agreement honors the rights and traditions of these Tribes. We are close to finally returning the Ancient One home.”
The provision championed by Senator Murray in the Senate and by Representatives Heck and Newhouse in the House transfers the Ancient One from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, which has existing, effective, and efficient regulations in place to carry out repatriation of remains such as these, to tribes. Several area tribes have joined together in calling for the Ancient One’s return to his descendants, to be laid to rest in an undisclosed location.