The Kennewick Man – The Common American
Columbia Park on the banks of the Columbia River holds boat and hydroplane races yearly. But the hydroplane race held in 1996 produced more than winners and losers.
The banks of the Columbia River along Kennewick, Washington have been keeping a secret for some thousands of years, until two spectators who were intently following the race, stumbled upon a skull that finally unearthed the prehistoric remains of who we now call the Kennewick Man; so, called to pay tribute to the place where it was discovered.
Issues of Origin
The discovery of the Kennewick Man along the banks of the Columbia River has spawned a lot of controversies, as Native American tribes fought over ownership of the discovered remains. However, ownership is not the issue because the Kennewick Man has the potential to become one of the more important archaeological discoveries of our time.
The ownership issue came about because the land in which he was buried along the Tri-city area of Kennewick Real Estate, is federal land owned by the USA Army Corps of Engineers. According to the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act or NAGPRA, any ancient remains found on federal land can be claimed by any Native American tribe as long as a connection to that particular Indian tribe can be proven.
The clash over the Kennewick Man came from Indian tribes claiming rights over the remains, and the scientific community who wanted to study the remains. However, because the link to any specific Indian tribe cannot be unequivocally established, it was ruled that further scientific study is needed to find its origins.
Setting aside the issues of ownership, the Kennewick Man may hold clues to the ancient American – how he lived and how he interacted with his surroundings to be able to survive. For ten days in 2005, we were able to set aside our bickerings and differences to work together to study the Kennewick Man in the hopes of finding in his ancient remains some clue as to the earliest settlers of our land.
The Endless Pursuit for Answers
As the results of the study are made public, it appears that the Kennewick Man has created more questions as it provided us with baffling information. As it is with most major archaeological finds, while they provide some answers, they seem to beg more questions.
However, this much we can infer about the Kennewick Man: he was in his thirties or forties, who suffered from fractures and illnesses and survived them just like us. He was probably a father who was out hunting for food to feed his family. He felt fears and uncertainties just like us, and harbored secret, fervent dreams as we all do.
What is it about discoveries that seem endless and unrelenting? When we arrive at some truth, they end up pointing us to some other search. Just as what the Kennewick Man has shown us, the search for answers leads to even more questions. Why? That perhaps is life’s ultimate question that we will spend all our lives answering.