Scuplted bust of Kennewick Man using forensic facial reconstruction, by sculptor Amanda Danning.
Native American tribes and Western scientists often have had a contentious relationship, but a new article in the journal Nature has brought tribal members and science in line on the ancestry of Kennewick Man, an 8,500-year-old fossil that five Northwest tribes have claimed as their own.
A new study of DNA extracted from one of K-Man’s hand bones appears to resolve questions about the ancestry. At a June 18 press conference at Seattle’s Burke Museum, the scientist in charge of the investigation – Dr. Eske Willerslev, director of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen – confirmed that that the bones are that of a Native American, and that his genetic signature has a close match to the Colville tribe in northeastern Washington State.
The Colville are one of the five Northwest tribes that have claimed K-Man—or the Ancient One as they call him—as one of their own.
Ruth Jim, a member of the Yakama tribal council, said of the report, “They have proven what we as people have always known.” Jim Boyd, chair of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation council, added that his people are “happy with the outcome, but we knew what the result would be.”