Native American tribes vie for control of ancient remains found in Idaho's high desert plains


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/07/native-american-tribes-vie-for.html


#2

I think I’d be fine with it, honestly. Especially when it’s not even a definite direct relation but just someone who was in my general ethnic group who lived in the general region that I live now but which may not have been the region where my ancestors lived 600 years ago anyway.

But I’m not very sentimental about such things.


#3

I’d be fine with it too, and research into native remains can actually bring important information that can benefit native people as far as creating a narrative of their history and lineage. That being said this is a really charged topic, and i can see why they would be against these kinds of things. It’s not like the government and white people have been respectful to them.


#4

It happens. Some graveyards are pretty creative about making new space after a century or two. Anyone who thought it was a final resting place should have read the fine print.


#5

The anthropologists are probably very well meaning. But they’re also part of a civilization that perpetrated a centuries long genocide against the descendants of the people whose remains they want to study. Members of the victim groups might not be super worried with the nitty gritty DNA details of descent. Let them bury their dead.


#6

Standard procedure when the lease for the plot runs out.


#7

500 years? At anywhere between 20 and 30 years a generation, say 25, that’s 20 generations.

great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent

If all were distinct (but they’re not) that’s 1,048,576 people. At that sort of range, the bones are probably related to all the tribes with a claim.


#8

I would let the science folks have at any of my ancestors remains. Given that I am about 1/8th Ogalala Souix these could very well be my ancestors as well as the more local tribes.

My suggestion is that any anthropologists interested who are not already associated with a native american institution of higher learning find one to partner with, help them fund the research, share skills and teach a new generation of native american anthropologists so they can lead this kind of important research on the next find themselves.

To any future generations: Please let science have at my remains if they are found 600+ years from now. Mine are the ones with the really bad posture, weak chin and healed fracture in the right fibula.


#9

It seems like maybe you’re betting on a racial stereotype here… there are Native American anthropologists. George Horse Capture and Sophie Aberle come to mind.

Not meaning any disagreement with your major point, merely adding a minor cautionary note!


#10

You’re absolutely right. Thanks for calling it out. Don’t mean to imply that anthropologists can’t be Native American and vice versa, only that this sort of research hasn’t always been kind to the subject peoples (whoever the researchers might be). Mark Plew and Pei-Lin Yu seem to be the anthropologists in question. They appear to be very sensitive to those issues:

“Time doesn’t actually figure into their feelings of association and responsibility as stewards of their ancestors,” Yu said.


#11

Yeah, I was also assuming real scientific anthropology and not a Geronimo’s skull situation.


#12

If only there were some sort of experts available who could analyze the remains and settle the fraught custody question…


#13

People really REALLY need to get over this “OMG bones of ancestors totally sacred forever” bullshit. What, are we still in 3000 BCE when we don’t have any idea what happens after death? For that matter, if the bodies matter(ed) that much to someone, why weren’t the entire carcasses embalmed and encased to last for all eternity? Why is it ok for the flesh to leave but the bones still matter?

Or maybe I shouldn’t even mention that or some cult will want all the topsoil back that might contain atoms that were once part of an ancestor’s body.


#14

Actually, if they’re a couple, we might expect 1 mill descendants or so. (Or none…) I wouldn’t even expect all descendants to be on the American continents.


#15

The Four Corners/Mesa Verde area went through this already. The big tribes in the immediate area all scrambled to contribute DNA to a study looking for Anasazi* gene markers collected from skeletal remains in the big cliff dwellings. The tribe with the most markers ‘wins’ the right to claim Anasazi locations and artifacts. $$$$$! Ooops…it turns out the genetic markers had been scattered from Kansas to California all the way down to the Yucatan through both pre-Columbian migrations and Spanish Occupation slavery.
Ancestral Puebloan mtDNA in the Greater Southwest

No one modern tribe had a better claim than any of the others. Out of spite over losing, the Ute Mountain Utes dammed a river just to flood some archaeological sites. They now allow tourists to water-ski on the new reservoir, over the destroyed ancestral remains.
U. S. Bureau of Reclamation - skip to pg. 32

What do the Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce, and Shoshone Paiute tribes have to lose? Maybe their legal claim to the lands in a court. If it turns out the skeletal remains died of violence, and they are unrelated to the now-local tribes, could a court infer that the modern tribes may have killed the rightful owners of the land and usurped it? How is that different than settlers from the Old World doing the same? You can see where this gets really nasty, really quickly.

…just like someone’s going to try and pull the race card on me on this thread…

*Gasp! I used the term ‘Anasazi’! How un-PC! Well, not in my opinion. Anasazi is the term The Dineh/Navajo used for their neighbors (and apparently, ANCESTORS), which is as close as we’re probably ever going to get to learning their own name for themselves. The new, ‘correct’ term for the Anasazi is now ‘Ancestral Puebloan’ - a hybrid of English and Spanish - two invaders that enslaved their kin.


#16

For genealogical research, that sounds like a good idea. It sounds like the determination of the most closely related tribe can be difficult. If the members of the identified tribe decide to reinter the remains, hopefully their wishes would be respected.


#17

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