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Earlier this year, Here & Now told the story of the so-called “Clovis boy,” a young boy buried in what is now Montana, more than 12,000 years ago. His remains were discovered there in 1968 and eventually his DNA was analyzed, showing the boy was part of the Clovis culture, which existed in North America about 13,000 years ago.
The analysis also showed that his people were the direct ancestors of many of today’s natives peoples in the Americas. The discovery of the boys remains and and the fact that they were analyzed raised ethical questions among scientists and Native Americas.
Those questions have been answered to some extent because the remains have now been reburied where they were unearthed. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson returns to speak to two of the people who have been involved in the whole process: Sarah Anzick and Shane Doyle.
The remains were found on a ranch owned by Anzick’s parents. She grew up to work on the Human Genome Project and did some of the analysis of the Clovis Boy’s DNA. Doyle is a member of the Crow tribe and teaches at Montana State University. He worked with Anzick and the other researchers on the sensitive nature of handling tribal remains.
Doyle on controversy surrounding the research on the skeleton
“There’s such a history of abuse, I think, historically speaking in the 19th and 20th century of American Indian skeletons just being kept as research items rather than being respected as individual people with families and people in those families who wished that they could be respected and buried in a proper way. So this research did kind of, you know, cross lines in terms of what some people thought was appropriate. Overall, I think the people who have been involved with this now here in Montana — the American Indians who have been involved with repatriation and reburial — they see the value, I think, of the science. They have mixed feelings about all of it, but overall I think they believe its a positive step.”
Anzick on the reburial ceremony
“For me, it was probably one of the most amazing days I’ve ever experienced. It was a moment of closure, it was peaceful, it was unity. Even thought it rained throughout most of the ceremony, it didn’t matter. It meant that much more. It was quite a spectacular day.”
Doyle on what the reburial signified to many American Indians
“It was very significant to members of several different tribes. Especially members of the Kennewick tribes who attended the ceremony. As you recall, the Kennewick Man was a controversial point of study back in the late 1990s and continues to be so. But there is currently a study undergoing right now on the Kennewick Man and the intention is to have him reburied as well, in the same way this little boy was. So this reburial, having it happen, seeing it come to fruition full circle, really gave people a lot of hope that the Kennewick Man would also be treated with the same respect.”
Doyle on DNA sequencing for contemporary tribal people
“In North America, there has been basically none. Tribes have not really been involved with it, they’ve kind of mostly have rejected that kind of research. This is an opportunity now to maybe rethink that whole thing.”