Reaction Paper for Skull Wars

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The historical perspective that is the core of David's book makes the positions of the adversaries in the Kennewick Man dispute more understandable. I expected a telling of the controversy surrounding Kennewick Man, and perhaps some suggestions about what the remains mean to theories concerning the peopling of the New World. What I got was a lucid history of the stormy relationship between Native Americans and archaeologists that forms a good part of the background for the Kennewick Man controversy. David goes some distance (maybe too far)to be charitable to all the players in this scientific soap opera. He makes it clear, however, that Native American remains are part of Native American history and identity, not specimens to be mined for cranial measurements and loopy inferences about intellectual capability. I am left with a nagging question that David doesn't address, but is at the center of this controversy: how do we KNOW the affiliation of human remains? Surely NAGPRA can't ascertain affiliation, although it can apparently assign it. In the absence of some rigorous examination of remains by qualified individuals we are left with the prospect of conflicting claims that characterizes "Kennnewick Man: The Soap". If affiliation is determined by legislative fiat or dueling attorneys, we all lose. Classifying remains as Native American because they are found in North America does some violence to common sense - are Toyotas indigenous because we find them here? Vine DeLoria's views notwithstanding, the peopling of the New World remains a story to be told. It is possible that the Americas were peopled more than once by groups from parts of the world that conventional wisdom has long dismissed. David closes his book with the account of a collaborative project in Alaska that offers a real alternative to the disputes surrounding Kennewick Man. Hopefully such cooperation will be a model for archaeological research, and the picture of Native American prehistory that it...
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