Kennewick Man has Native American DNA
June 18, 2015 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Kennewick Man - or the Ancient One - has a contentious history (previously and previouslier) that inspired a long legal and moral battle between scientists who said he probably wasn't Native American and wanted to study him, and local tribes who insisted that he was an ancestor and wanted to re-bury him. The scientists won in court in 2005, and a study has now determined from DNA evidence that Kennewick Man "was most closely related to DNA from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, one of the five tribes who originally claimed Kennewick Man as an ancestor."
posted by clawsoon (19 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
[Obligatory Patrick Stewart joke]
posted by dgaicun at 9:11 PM on June 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Okay, apart from my astonishment that apparently Patrick Stewart has a Native American ancestry, this:

"... any access to Kennewick Man is regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers."

*Tim Taylor-style bewildered simian grunt*
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:12 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


damn you dgaicun
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:12 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Paging Eyebrows McGee's husband to the thread
posted by Jacqueline at 9:18 PM on June 18, 2015


Here's the letter to Nature. Yep, he was definitely a Native American, and may actually have belonged to a population ancestral to the Colville tribe. A good demonstration of anthropometry being highly unreliable when applied to individuals.
posted by topynate at 9:52 PM on June 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


My wife works in a genetic lab, and the biggest thing I've learned from hearing her and her colleagues is that one should put very little stock in morphology when there's DNA to be explored. That seems to be the case here.
posted by The Potate at 10:04 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


one should put very little stock in morphology when there's DNA to be explored

Yeah, when DNA sequencing became available, they had to throw away an awful lot of bird species taxonomy and start over because it turned out that, oops, the little red bird with the white spot on its head and the near-identical little red bird with the blue spot on its head were both more closely related to the penguin than each other. (Uh, to be clear, that specific example is totally hypothetical hyperbole.)
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:26 PM on June 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


any access to Kennewick Man is regulated by the US Army Corps of Engineers

It's mentioned in the "legal battle" link, but this is because his remains were found on federal land controlled by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Disclosure: I work (but do not speak) for the Burke Museum, the court-appointed neutral repository of the remains. Our Kennewick Man page has some good links, including to this coverage in Nature, although apparently not to the paper itself. I'll have to ask our communications folks about that tomorrow. There was a press conference with a number of the authors of the paper this morning; the audio's not great and the angle is weird, but there's a recording of it here. Notably, it includes statements from representatives of the five tribes seeking repatriation and reburial.

You can find out more about NAGPRA here.
posted by hades at 10:46 PM on June 18, 2015 [20 favorites]


That's interesting. Prior to this the most compelling explanation for his "Caucasian" features was that he was Polynesian who had somehow arrived in the area from the Pacific.
posted by Nevin at 10:51 PM on June 18, 2015


Fascinating! That's big news in the cultural resources world, and really tends to validate the Corps' position.

(This makes me feel good since I used to work with a bunch of Corps archaeologists and they are smart, well-meaning people. My experience with Jim Chatters is that he's kind of a jerk and a glory-hound.)
posted by suelac at 10:55 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


> the court-appointed neutral repository of the remains.
> posted by hades

Legit.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:57 AM on June 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


What will all the Solutrean hypothesis-type people say about this?
posted by ChuckRamone at 8:44 AM on June 19, 2015


A good demonstration of anthropometry being highly unreliable when applied to individuals

Forensic anthropologists generally loathe having to making determinations of ancestry outside of a conditional, academic setting. In part because the indicators are equal parts malleable and murky. Or as Folkens and White put it in The Human Bone Manual:
...racial estimations are usually more difficult, less precise, and less reliable than estimation of age, sex, or stature... the human species lacks well-defined subspecies but has clear local tendencies in variation. It is simply not possible to attribute every human cranium to one or another geographically defined group on the basis of it's morphology or measurements -- populations of the human species are morphologically too continuous for this
What will all the Solutrean hypothesis-type people say about this?

Probably something racist, unless you mean the actual scientists who came up with the notion, and not the hordes of white supremacists who have co-opted idea. If so, then they'll probably do the same awkward shuffling of feet and repositioning of goal posts they've done every other time their hypothesis has been shown to be bunk.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:53 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was struck by the weird shruggo from one of the third-party scientists who was like, "Well, we know this because of the science, but it turns out that the Colville Tribes were right so the science should never have been done."
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


If so, then they'll probably do the same awkward shuffling of feet and repositioning of goal posts they've done every other time their hypothesis has been shown to be bunk.

The thing I don't get about the agenda of those who have co-opted this theory is what would it prove if say some small transient bands of settlers from Europe had been here before the Native Americans? It wouldn't change the fact that when European colonists arrived in the Americas, there was a large, established population of Natives who had been the sole or main inhabitants of this continent for thousands of years.
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:38 AM on June 19, 2015


I was going to do an FPP on this when I found that clawsoon beat me to it. I posted something about this on another forum, and it got replaced. :-( Anyway, I am going to post a link and hold my breathe and hope it is actually something NEW (and interesting) in spite of my relationship to this story seeming to be under a cloud:

New DNA Results Show Kennewick Man Was Native American

I was in the Tri-cities when Kennewick Man was found. Although we were in a rental in Richland, because it had better schools, my husband's official duty station at the time was Kennewick. So I was excited to see this and wanted to share. (kicks the floor)
posted by Michele in California at 12:27 PM on June 19, 2015


the agenda of those who have co-opted this theory

It allows those white nationalists with that agenda to conveniently ignore those thousands of years of large established populations under the law of "we were here first." Often with a heavy helping of innuendo that if white people hadn't been subsumed under brown people in the Americas, then Columbus would have been met by white people on hover jet-skis instead of canoes or some nonsense.

One of those white nationalists actually wrote a novel, charmingly called White Apocalypse, based on the theory. The Amazon summary says the plot is
a rogue anthropologist teams up with a proponent of the Solutrean Hypothesis and a fiery lawyer in order to reveal to the world the shocking truth that carries immense cultural, political, and racial significance: 17,000 years ago, white people immigrated to North and South America from Europe, and when the Amerindians arrived by crossing the Bering Strait roughly 12,000 years ago, the latter subsequently and systematically murdered the former. The powers that be will do everything that they can to prevent this controversial theory from being espoused by the trio
One of the 5-star user reviews specifically says:
It will shake long held beliefs about who is really the native American and white guilt. If indeed Europeans were here first, then in fact we were the victims of genocide not the native American Indian... Any white person who is feeling even the inkling of white guilt should read this book. It will completely change your attitude about who and what is guilty of white genocide.
Co-opting the Solutrean Hypothesis basically acts as "Get Out of Genocide Free" card for idiots of a certain bent. Notwithstanding that calling the actual Solutreans "white" would be dubious on a number of levels.

So yeah, I applaud the genetic findings in this study of Kennewick Man. It is of scientific value. The implications that he actually is closely related to the tribe that claimed him is sure to be a point in the continuing debate over NAPGRA. That it kicks the the shaky legs out from underneath racist mewling is a bonus.
posted by Panjandrum at 3:13 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Other recent studies of ancient DNA are revealing that Europeans have a somewhat complicated genetic legacy and they didn't really come into existence in their modern form until fairly recently in human evolutionary history. So the Solutreans, if they migrated to the Americas, would not have been the Europeans of today.
posted by ChuckRamone at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here are some examples of what Colville people and people of related tribes look like.

Go on and tell me again how Kennewick man's reconstructed face would somehow look out of place among these people?

The argument that it was somehow scientifically impossible for this man to be an ancestor to people from this area based on nose shape or eyebrow angle or something has really been a farce from the start.

(And no, I can't explain why Patrick Stewart looks like he's descended from Colville people, either.)
posted by BlueJae at 11:14 AM on June 22, 2015


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