In 1996, 9,000 year old remains were found along the shore of the Columbia River in Kennewich, Washington. The remains were located on land belonging to the Army Corps. of Engineers who transferred the remains to scientists for investigation. Once anthropologists recognized the remains’ age, they aimed to determine its origins. Local tribes, the Yakama, Umatilla, Cayuse, Colville, Nez Perce and Wanapum worked for two decades to reclaim the remains of Kennewick Man, or as they referred to him, The Ancient One. They knew the remains belonged to one of their own, but anthropologists could not accept that answer until after a thorough DNA study. The study showed that the local tribes were correct. The Ancient One had genetic markings that proved his relationship to the Plateau tribes. Since that time, the tribes have worked with local legislators to bring The Ancient One’s remains home.

On December 10, 2016 Congress approved legislation that would return the remains from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to the Plateau tribes. The tribes have given the male ancestor the name Uytpama Natitayt, which translates to The Ancient One. They will lay their ancestor to rest at an undisclosed location.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) was created to enforce the return of indigenous remains to families and tribes but the process can take a years. The legislation introduced in this case sped up the process. The Ancient One is expected to return home in a few weeks.

Categories: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, Native American Tribes, Plateau tribes

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