This case disucsses issues of research on human subjects, consent and value of scientific research, specifically the case of the Kennewick Man; the debate over the ethical and social-political issues surrounding the relation of archeology and archaeologist to indigenous peoples and the appropriateness of laws such as the NAGPRA to resolve these issues.
From: Graduate Research Ethics: Cases and Commentaries - Volume 2, 1998
edited by Brian Schrag
Although the dead can't speak, they do tell tales. But who should be allowed to determine what stories the dead are telling? The question of rights over disposition of human remains raises issues of research ethics when archaeologists and physical anthropologists attempt to study the ancient remains of indigenous peoples in North America. The case of the Kennewick Man, a recently discovered Paleo-Indian man, illustrates the difficulties of such research. The problem confronting archaeologists, physical anthropologists and Native Americans has broader implications for the practice of science. In this case study, the ethical practice of science and the relation of science to the values of indigenous people is considered.
Until recently, archaeologists encountered few obstacles in excavating and studying the remains of the dead; Native Americans had little or no voice in the planning or execution of archaeological research. Recent activism and lobbying by Native Americans resulted in the passage of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). NAGPRA was enacted to address complaints that archaeologists and museums had appropriated human remains and sacred objects that were not rightfully theirs to control. As the act is currently written, Native America tribes can reclaim human remains and grave goods to which they can establish a cultural affiliation. Affiliation can be demonstrated through a variety of criteria, which include geographical, biological, archaeological, and anthropological information; historical data; oral history; expert opinions; or other relevant information.
In some cases, determination of affiliation is a difficult and complex process. For example, cultural affiliations to artifacts and sites that are more than 1,000 years old usually cannot be scientifically (i.e., archaeologically) established. However, some Native American tribes use their oral histories, which state that tribal ancestors have been in North America since the beginning of time, as evidence for affiliation in such cases. Although NAGPRA was created to relieve tensions created by research on Native American societies and to ensure equitable treatment of the Native Americans, it has generated fierce debate over who has legitimate claims to the use, ownership and/or control of remains of indigenous peoples.
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The United States Army Corps of Engineers recently faced a difficult repatriation case. In the fall of 1996, a Paleo-Indian skeleton was discovered eroding from a shallow river bed in Washington. The river is overseen by the Corps of Engineers, but it runs through the current property of the Umatilla Tribe. Initial study of the skeleton revealed a number of Caucasoid features, suggesting that it belonged to a white settler from last century. However, further analysis revealed a Paleoindian point imbedded in the skeleton's pelvis. Radiocarbon dating of the bone also indicated a Paleoindian age. With no known white settlers from Paleoindian times, the skeleton had to be ancestral to Native American populations. The age and completeness of the skeleton make it a rare find.
Using NAGPRA as its basis to reclaim the body, the Umatilla Tribe filed a request for repatriation with the Corps of Engineers. Initially, the Corps agreed to repatriate the skeleton to the tribe, who planned to rebury it immediately. However, a group of archaeologists and physical anthropologists filed an injunction in federal court to prevent repatriation and to secure the skeleton for future study. Before the court ruled on the injunction, however, other tribes who also have links to the area filed repatriation requests with the Corps of Engineers. The Corps decided that it needed more time to review the case and the competing claims.
Native American groups present a variety of arguments for repatriation. Some groups argue that archaeological and biological study is unnecessary because tribal history is already well known within each tribe through myths, oral history, written documents, etc. Archaeological study of human remains is viewed as a form of grave robbing and desecration. To help nonnative people realize that concern for proper treatment of the dead is not unique to Native Americans, they often pose the provocative question, "What if these were your grandparents that were being dug up and studied?" Repatriation is seen as the key to ensuring that ancestors are treated with respect. In some instances, it is believed that maltreatment of ancestors does more than show disrespect; it has negative effects on the ancestors and even on existing peoples. Some Native Americans completely reject the contributions of scientific archaeological research and consider the theories of migration across the Bering Strait and evolution as myths of Science. To these individuals, the archaeologists' claim that study is necessary is simply another example of Euro-Americans' attempts to control native peoples by controlling their sense of history and values. Finally, Native Americans have argued that the age of Kennewick man's skeleton does not shed doubt on its Native American ancestry; the skeleton's age only proves that Native Americans have been in North America as far back as their history recalls.
Archaeologists oppose NAGPRA for a number of reasons. First, they do not consider their research inherently disrespectful or equate it with grave robbing. Archaeological research is often (although not always) fueled by an intellectual curiosity that is based on admiration of and respect for the culture being studied. In their view, the scientific rigor by which much (although certainly not all) research is conducted is a form of respect. Archaeologists feel that they have been trained in the techniques with which cultural resources can be protected for perpetuity, not harmed. They also argue that their research provides insights about Native Americans for Native Americans. Archaeologists present the scientific value of their research as another argument against repatriation. Physical remains help archaeologists to understand ancient migration patterns, the peopling of the New World, prehistoric health, the size of prehistoric populations, etc. Grave goods provide insight into rituals and belief practices that have often been lost. Some archaeologists fear that returning Native American skeletons and grave goods will fling open the doors to their database, opening the way to the removal of all artifacts removed, and that their profession will be left with nothing to study and, therefore, no reason to exist. Their fear is especially acute in the case of the Kennewick Man, where affiliation is uncertain on the basis of scientific evidence. Archaeologists also find it disconcerting that different Native American groups have different opinions on and power over archaeology. In some instances, potential descendants who are not a part of a federally recognized tribe do not have a voice equal to that of a more distantly related but federally recognized tribe.
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From: Graduate Research Ethics: Cases and Commentaries - Volume 2, 1998 edited by Brian Schrag
The case of the Kennewick Man, and NAGPRA in general, raise many difficult questions. The specific questions listed in the case are discussed below. Additional relevant issues are then raised. Finally, precedents and analogous situations are considered.
Clearly, some values are more important than scientific research. For example, it is generally accepted that research on human subjects cannot be conducted without consent of the patient or study subject. The Nuremberg Code, established in 1947, specifies that consent in research experiments must be voluntary. It also requires that experiments be conducted in such a manner as to avoid unnecessary harm, both physical and mental (Nuremberg Military Tribunals 1947). The American Anthropological Society's guidelines state that research should be conducted in a manner that does not harm the subject. (American Anthropological Association 1995) These examples suggest that the well-being of the subject is a more important value than scientific research in and of itself. Thus, we already recognize instances when other values are considered more important than scientific research.
In the United States, arguments for cultural autonomy in the practice of science could be based on arguments for religious freedom. The free exercise of religion occasionally conflicts with the practice of science. For example, a patient has the right to refuse medical treatment on religious grounds. Religious autonomy may be considered a form of cultural autonomy, implying that it is acceptable and legal for different groups to practice science in different ways or not at all.
Globally, recognition of the value of cultural autonomy has increased with a greater sensitivity toward colonial attitudes and with growing political movements to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the globe. Colonial practices extended beyond politics; they included economic, social and even scientific systems. Scientific colonialism has been defined as "that process whereby the centre of gravity for the acquisition of knowledge about the nation is located outside the nation itself." (Galtung 1967:13) Using this definition, archaeological and physical anthropological research into past Native American societies can be considered a form of scientific colonialism. Research is conducted outside the Native American nations, by outside scientists. The physical remains are curated on the outside, and the knowledge gained through the study of these remains is generally disseminated outside Native American nations. After realizing the potential for research on Native Americans to be conducted in a colonial manner, archaeologists and physical anthropologists have the challenging tasks of forming more balanced relationships with the descendants of the Native American nations they are studying.
Does the political independence of groups necessarily entail independence from other cultural, social, intellectual and scientific practices? At the very least, political independence implies that autonomous groups have the right to regulate the practices of science within their community. However, in keeping with accepted conventions of scientific research, autonomous regulation should not permit the practice of science so that it harms persons outside the community.
Could it be argued that the scientific study of the remains of indigenous peoples should not be permitted because it is not an accepted practice within most indigenous communities? Alternately, could it be argued that the archaeologists, physical anthropologists and the public body of knowledge are harmed by repatriation practices? If the harm is not physical or financial, how can it be measured? If both sides are harmed, should the deciding criteria be which side suffers the most harm? This reasoning would imply that the decision rests on benefit to the greater good. Accordingly, it could be argued that the study of remains benefits the larger society while cessation of study would benefit only a minority of the population. Such an argument would likely result in a ruling favorable to study rather than repatriation. This type of ruling would also imply that the rights of minority groups do not receive special protection, an idea that is still being debated in our society. Recent political action in California and in the U.S. Congress demonstrates that the American public is divided in its opinion of special programs and protection for minority groups.
NAGPRA was designed to prevent continued ethical abuses in the study of human remains.
One objection to NAGPRA is that it attempts to legislate ethics and morals, which may not be the appropriate domain for federal law. However, federal legislation can be considered appropriate in this case for the following reasons
When considered in the context of these precedents, a federal law to protect Native American graves and grave goods seems appropriate. However, NAGPRA is vague enough to permit differing opinions of what constitutes a legitimate claim. Furthermore, the legislation does not reconcile the differing interests of the parties involved in repatriation. It also leaves open the means for handling claims, so that some institutions may recognize an affiliation that other institutions do not.
For institutions or researchers who disagree with NAGPRA and feel protective or proprietary about their collections, mild forms of noncompliance (such as foot-dragging or shoddy cataloging) may be a temptation. However, this response can only create further hostility. It reinforces the impression that archaeologists and museums hoard their collections and are unwilling to share them with other interested parties. Focusing on the problems with NAGPRA and its implementation only diverts attention from the central issue -- the appropriate way to study human remains. Instead of disputing the validity of the law, archaeologist and institutions should focus their energies on developing revisions that are generally acceptable to all parties. For example, some sources used to support repatriation claims are now known to contain erroneous information that leads to claims on unaffiliated materials. Standards of proof, implementation procedures and accepted affiliations could be developed as addenda to the law in order to make it more explicit and fair.
Problems with the law do not necessarily imply that the law is unjust but rather that the law isn't perfect and that revisions are necessary. Those who are concerned about potential pitfalls might choose to compile lists of suggested revisions through a committee of archaeologists, physical anthropologists, Native Americans and members of Congress. They may press for legislative revisions, for clarifications from the court systems and for the adoption of the revisions through other means than legislation.
If so, what implications does that have for limitations to scientific research, not just in archaeology, but in all disciplines? NAGPRA was written to address ethical obligations. Like many laws, it can be interpreted narrowly or broadly. A narrow reading of the law, which gave more weight to the biological and historical data, would result in a decision that the skeleton does not meet the requirements for reclamation. With a narrow reading, scientific research would be permitted to continue. However, a broad interpretation of the law, which gives equal weight to oral history, would find that the skeleton does meet the requirements for repatriation. Since NAGPRA can be interpreted in different ways, should sympathy for the concerns of the Native Americans or for the concerns of the archaeologists weigh more heavily? Should a moral obligation to respect the dead influence the reading of the law? What about a perceived ethical obligation to compensate for the wrongdoing of the past? Is the integrity of the scientific research process less important than humanistic concerns? As Galtung (1967:13) argues, "knowledge is known as a good thing, but in human affairs it is not immaterial how that knowledge was acquired." That implies that archaeologists, physical anthropologists and all other researchers whose subjects are human beings must be certain that their research methods are justifiable in humanistic and scientific terms.
In this case study, this question is the primary issue directly confronting scientific research. The case challenges both the autonomy of the scientific research process and the scientific method itself. First, the right to autonomy in scientific research is challenged by the right to cultural autonomy. Should scientific research (provided it is not violating human rights or other laws) be restricted by political concerns? If the archaeologists and physical anthropologists are not harming their subjects, what would be the implications for the practice of science if their research were forbidden? Is there a potential to set dangerous precedents here? Does it matter that the subject of the study is a rare find? Does it matter that the information that could be gained from the study would be extremely valuable, since very little data on the subject exists to date? (NAGPRA legislation does provide exemptions for cases where the study of the remains results in a major benefit to the United States.) Or is this case a clear-cut example of scientific colonialism, where the study would not produce information of major benefit?
Is it responsible conduct to stop a research project that has already begun? If the study were stopped, it would be impossible to attain complete, valid or reliable results. Should the limited data that were already collected be used? Without enough time to complete the study, it would be difficult to attain any results beyond basic measurements. Without assurance that the study results are valid, should the partial results be used? If the study subject is deemed "off limits" for further study, how can reliable results be assured? Should data from a study that has been stopped mid-stream be published, published with caveats, or remain unpublished?
In addition to the problem of assuring the integrity of the scientific research process, this case also raises the issue of what knowledge should be included in the public domain. Does the tribe's interest in reburying the skeleton outweigh the interest of contributing to scientific knowledge about migration to the New World and the history of the United States? Should we accept the oral history of the tribe as the source of information rather than scientific data? By extension, should we then adopt indigenous theories on any topic rather than exploring them through science? If that were the case, it is possible that the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus would not have been stopped, or stopped as quickly, because indigenous theories of the disease were not preventing its spread. Clearly, in this case, Western scientific research that investigated how Ebola was spread did benefit indigenous peoples.
NAGPRA legislation does provide exceptions to repatriation when the remains are a necessary part of a scientific study that would contribute significantly to the United States. If the material is repatriated, it is returned only after study is complete. Thus, the legislation itself seems to recognize exceptions to repatriation procedures. Is this a recognition of the value of information and/or the interests of the larger public? The law is vague in this regard.
It appears that some research is threatened. However, much research (i.e., research on nonfederal or nontribal property) is unaffected by NAGPRA legislation as it currently stands. With federal laws that also require the constant assessment of cultural resources in developing areas, it is unlikely that archaeology as a profession will disappear entirely. However, NAGPRA legislation may mean that archaeologists must find a new modus operandi -- one that involves consultation with native peoples in order to develop mutually satisfying research projects. To this end, some archaeologists have already developed research programs founded on collaboration with Native Americans.
As discussed above, archaeologists and physical anthropologists are faced with the prospect of doing their work in a new way. Some lines of research may not be permitted, and research must be designed so that legally and ethically compromising situations are avoided. Preventive measures that ensure compliance may become necessary. Although they may eliminate some potentially exciting research projects, compliance and respect will be necessary to forge stronger relations with Native Americans. The end result may be that, after archaeologists and physical anthropologists demonstrate respect for and develop research programs in collaboration with Native Americans, feelings of distrust, alienation and powerlessness may be relieved, and currently forbidden areas of research may be reopened.
In situations such as the Kennewick case, research is begun for salvage purposes and/or the discovery of remains is unintentional. What starts as an accepted line of research may become ethically compromised. Again, it seems that the best way to avoid such a situation is to plan ahead. If human remains, either prehistoric or historic, are encountered, how should one proceed? On federal property or tribal lands, NAGPRA is explicit in the proper procedures. However, it does not outline proper procedure on nonfederal or nontribal property, although there may be state guidelines. If full excavation is not possible, are there acceptable means of documenting the remains without removing them from the ground? If a sacred object is encountered, what should happen?
These kinds of situations often arise unexpectedly. When faced with an unexpected situation, the archaeologist will usually choose to proceed according to his or her training (which encourages study through careful documentation and removal to the lab). Most archaeologists are required to call the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for an official opinion how to proceed. Emergency phone calls to the SHPO may remain necessary because of unexpected finds, but an archaeologist should not begin field work until he or she is sure of SHPO policy and Native American concerns. In addition, frequent contact with a representative of local or interested Native American groups would also be advisable. Although this approach may initially lead to headaches and unwanted research restrictions, inclusion is an important means of demonstrating the desire to work with Native Americans. It also prevents the spread of rumors and the suspicions that are generated by "closed" research.
Several ulterior motives can lie behind repatriation claims and arguments against repatriation. Below, three examples of these motives are raised and then discussed.
In some cases, ulterior motives may play a role in repatriation claims or dispute. NAGPRA may be open for abuse just as other laws are. However, NAGPRA does not contain provisions that allow for exceptions when ulterior motives are suspected (or even proven). In cases where ulterior motives are suspected but repatriation is permitted anyway, follow-up may be necessary to make sure that the proper reburial procedures are being followed and the intent of the law is thereby upheld. Revisions to the law, including provisions for follow-up and assessment of penalties for noncompliance with reburial guidelines, may prevent ulterior motives from overriding the intent of the law.
Desire for fame and funding may play a role in the tenacity with which an archaeologist or physical anthropologist disputes a repatriation claim. Again, NAGPRA does not contain clauses that permit consideration of these matters in repatriation rulings. The primary means of preventing economic factors and/or vanity from entering the arbitration process is the necessity to prove that a study will result in major benefits to the United States. However, proving that the study is important is a different matter than completing, publishing and widely disseminating the results of the study. These requirements and penalties for noncompliance might be added to the law to prevent archaeologists and physical anthropologists from using important remains primarily for personal gain.
The biggest problem that archaeology faces is not repatriation, but the looting of sites and the buying and selling of artifacts, which creates the market for looted or forged materials. The relation of looting and forged artifacts to NAGPRA are considered below.
In the above scenarios, it would be of interest to all parties that the artifacts and remains be thoroughly investigated and that the reports of the investigation be reviewed by an outside evaluator before any rulings are made. Native Americans probably don't care to claim forged materials, and archaeologists and physical anthropologists wouldn't want to invest their energies and resources in a dispute over repatriation when the materials are not authentic. NAGPRA was not written for remains that aren't culturally affiliated or to artifacts that are not part of a tribe's cultural heritage, past or present. However, the law does not currently require authentication. Authenticity should be included in the definition of indigenous human remains, funerary objects (both associated and unassociated), sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony.
Two possible sources may be used on a comparative basis in reviewing this case. The first source involves informed consent; the second involves research on subjects who have traditionally been subject to prejudicial treatment.
Because the subject of the study cannot provide consent, and because there is no recognized legal guardian, policies regarding informed consent can only be loosely applied to this case. However, there are provisions for cases where the generalizable knowledge that is vital to the understanding of a condition can provide the basis for conducting research that may pose more than minimal risk to a subject. This exception may be used to argue that, at least in this case, study of the remains should go forward.
Even science has not lacked examples of prejudicial treatment. (Jones 1993) Prejudice should be considered in this case, too. Would archaeologists be so interested in the remains if they belonged to a white settler from the nineteenth century? If not, is it because the research potential is less, or is it because there is a reluctance to do similar research on subjects who share the same ancestry? A positive answer to the latter question would indicate the prejudices are playing a role in the research process.
The case of the Kennewick Man appears to fall under NAGPRA provisions that permit study followed by repatriation in situations where the results would be of major benefit. With multiple claimants, however, the situation also requires decision by mutual agreement or arbitration. The case is now in court; no ruling had been issued as of November 1, 1997.
Although this case deals with an archaeological problem, it involves issues of concern to scientific research. NAGPRA and repatriation claims challenge the integrity of the research process and the scientific method. In cases where scientific research conflicts with cultural values, which should take priority? This question can be argued from a philosophical, legal and ethical point of view. The answer is not clear, and any attempt at a solution is likely to be hotly contested. Situations such as this repatriation claim probably will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Consequently, a case such as this one may not be used to generalize a solution for instances when scientific research conflicts with other cultural systems. However, the case does point out some of the ethical issues that will require sensitivity as researchers conduct research or review research proposals outside a traditional Western setting.
Brian Schrag Association for Practical and Professional Ethics
The case of "Kennewick Man" raises a complex set of ethical and legal issues. It also illustrates the broader debate over the ethical and social-political issues surrounding the relation of archeology and archaeologist to indigenous peoples and the appropriateness of laws such as the NAGPRA to resolve these issues.
This case features arguments over who has "legitimate" claims to the remains. It is important to clarify the use of the expression "legitimate claims." "Legitimate claims" can refer either to "legally" legitimate (Who should have the legal right to determine the disposition of these remains?) or "morally" legitimate (Independently of the legal question, who, if anyone, is morally justified in determining the disposition of these remains?). Deciding the legal question does not necessarily decide the moral issue. Establishing a legally legitimate claim to something does not settle the issue of the moral legitimacy of that claim. Some laws are unwise, and others are unjust. Thus, standing behind the legal debate and the NAGPRA legislation are moral arguments over who has a morally legitimate claim to deciding the disposition of the remains. I will confine my remarks to an assessment of one moral argument regarding the disposition of the remains in this case.1
One moral claim asserted in this case is that those who are "related" to the Kennewick remains have the strongest moral claim on determining the disposition of the remains. The notion of "related" is crucial here. One sense of "related" is that of being a direct close descendent who actually knew the person whose remains were under discussion. Hence the rhetorical question, "What if these were your grandparents that were being dug up and studied?" There are, of course, very strong moral arguments for respecting the wishes of those who are "related" in that sense.2 (Recognizing the power of such moral argument does not preclude the possibility that the relatives might permit study of the remains or that they might not object to such study.3) However, the remains in this case are not closely related to any living group. The rhetorical question is inappropriate here.
Various remote senses of "related" are captured in the NAGPRA requirement: "In the case of human remains inadvertently discovered on federal land, NAGPRA regulations require the government to notify Indian Tribes 'likely to be culturally affiliated with' the remains, tribes 'which aboriginally occupied the area,' and 'any other Indian tribe. . . reasonably known to have a cultural relationship to' the remains."4
One moral argument supporting the concern for cultural affiliation is that disposition of the remains by someone other than the culturally affiliated may violate the religious beliefs of the culturally affiliated people. Two anthropologists articulate the argument:
People cannot own people, even the remains of dead people, according to virtually all Native American traditions. Thus it is inappropriate for anyone, Indian or otherwise to possess such remains for whatever purpose. . . . [T]he rights of those being studied take precedence over the rights of anthropologists who study them. . . when that act interferes with or is contrary to the religious and cultural beliefs of those being studied or their descendants.5
Presumably, the argument applies only to remains of Native Americans. Since the "religious and cultural beliefs of those being studied" are invoked to justify such a ban on the study of remains, if other, non-Native American groups have different beliefs, then by the argument, it would be inappropriate to impose the beliefs of Native Americans upon them. That is, Native Americans could not argue that they should direct the disposition of the remains of peoples who do not share their religious beliefs.
The argument is invoked in this case. The Umatilla are one group who have asserted a legal claim for Kennewick Man. Armand Minthorn, a Umatilla trustee and religious leader, has written: "Our religious beliefs, culture, and our adopted procedures tell us this individual must be reburied as soon as possible."6
The argument seems to be as follows
With respect to Premise 1, one might wonder whether the religious and cultural beliefs of contemporary Native Americans are so univocal. The Colville tribe also has asserted a claim to Kennewick Man. However, Adeline Fredlin of the Colville tribe's archaeology and history department reportedly said, "[The] Colville are interested in further study of ancient skeletons found in the region by non destructive analysis."7
Premise 1 must include the proviso that all Native Americans who ever lived in the past also held this view regarding remains. Otherwise one has a situation in which contemporary Native Americans are imposing their religious beliefs on those who lived in the past and had different religious beliefs, or at minimum that contemporary Native Americans are failing to respect the different religious beliefs of earlier inhabitants of North America. One wonders whether there is really sufficient evidence to assert such a sweeping claim regarding the religious beliefs of peoples who lived 9,000 years ago. It may be true, but how do we know?
To the degree to which the argument rests on the religious beliefs of the culturally affiliated, Premise 2 is the crucial question. Is it really true that all human remains on this continent are the ancestors of the current Native Americans and can therefore be assumed to have shared the religious beliefs of contemporary Native Americans?
The first anthropologist to examine the Kennewick Man found "a long, narrow skull, a projecting nose, a high chin, and a square Mandible. The lower bones of the arm and legs were relatively long compared to the upper bones. . . traits. . . not characteristic of modern American Indians in the area though many of them are common among Caucasoid peoples."8 A second anthropologist viewed the skull and "concurred the skeleton was Caucasian."9A third anthropologist examined the bones and concluded the skeleton "cannot be anatomically assigned to any existing tribe in the area or even to the western Native American type in general. . . . It shows some traits that are more commonly encountered in material from the eastern United States or even of European origin, while certain diagnostic traits cannot presently be determined."10The director of the Center for the Study of First Americans at Oregon State University has suggested "'Kennewick Man could have been part of a different migration' -that is, his forebears may have come not from North Asia like those of other Native Americans, but from other parts of Asia or even Greenland."11
Minthorn gives one response to the scientists' claims: "If this individual is truly over 9,000 years old, that only substantiates our belief that he is Native American. From our oral histories, we know that our people have been part of this land since the beginning of time."12
The moral claim to the right to determine the disposition of his remains is based on the assertion of a relation of Kennewick Man to a group. It appears that the assertion of a connection comes down to an assertion of empirical fact (that only ancestors of Native Americans lived on this continent and that Kennewick Man must be related to contemporary Native Americans). However, no empirical evidence is allowed to count against the asserted empirical fact. In such circumstances, it is fair to ask whether this is an empirical claim at all.
One might argue that the assertion of a connection is an article of religious faith and that disregarding it would violate and fail to respect religious beliefs. If such is the case, then this situation may be closer to the classic issues involving the medical treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses. It is beyond the scope of this commentary to comment in detail about the epistemological status of such claims or the degree to which principles of religious toleration ought to be invoked. Suffice it to say that such considerations would change the parameters of the debate. The argument then is no longer one over the scientific issues but an argument in political philosophy.