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When Native Americans and scientists clashed over ownership of the ancient remains of Kennewick Man it was, in part, a dispute between the needs of the traditional culture and those of the modern research establishment. But more was at stake. The Native Americans wanted to rebury the remains because their emotional relationship with Kennewick Man is tied to their view of their origins. But the scientists also had an emotional attachment to the scientific position. The question of who were the First Americans satisfies a yearning for scientific origin stories. The dispute here parallels the controversy over evolution. Creationists care more deeply about the Biblical account of origins than they do about other parts of the Bible. Scientists care more about the evolutionary account of human origins than they do about other aspects of modern science. Physics is more fundamental than biology, yet most American high school students take no physics course at all, a reality that most scientists simply ignore because it lacks the emotional pull of origin accounts.

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2006 U. Chi. Legal F. 275-288