News FocusScience and Native Rights

A Tale of Two Skeletons

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Science  08 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6001, pp. 171-172
DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6001.171

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Summary

New rules by the U.S. Department of the Interior are putting the spotlight on the rare North American skeletons that date back to 8000 to 12,000 years ago, which researchers call Paleoindians. Because the bones are so old, many scientists argue that they can't be related to contemporary tribes, whereas Native Americans cite oral traditions claiming long ties to their land. The new regulations give tribes the right to any remains from traditional tribal lands (see lead story). Whether that will spark renewed attempts by Native Americans to rebury these ancient dead remains to be seen, but scientists are worried. At stake are answers to what is arguably the greatest question of American prehistory: Who settled the Americas, when, and how?