Bones of contention

 
Published: Tuesday 31 May 1994

-- A FIERCE battle, albeit verbal, has broken out in the US between scientists and native Indians. The bone of contention is the remains of ancient Indians dating back to 800 BC, that lie in the Hall of Records, Annapolis, Maryland.

The Indians want the bones of their ancestors back, so that they can be buried once again. The scientists, however, are determined to hold on to this collection of skeletons, which they claim is a "treasure trove of clues" for the study of cultural affiliation of individuals. "If the study is going to benefit anyone, it's native Americans, because it's their past," adds David Owsley, forensic anthropologist with the Smithsonian Museum.

But the Indians are not interested in science. "It is our religious belief," asserts Chief Billy Redwing Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation, "Our ancestors are being held hostage."

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