PZ Myers brings to my attention the good news: Kennewick Man is back to the scientists:
Pharyngula - Kennewick Man free at last: Nature reports that after 9 years of court battles, the 9,000 year old bones are finally finding their way to where they belong: the lab. While I think it's not only fair but required that Native Americans be treated with respect, I have no such compunctions about Native American superstitions, and it's about time these interesting remains were analyzed.
A 9,000 year old corpse is not reliably anyone's direct ancestor insofar as it is likely everyone's direct ancestor. And I have little sympathy for the argument that we should take the oral histories of native people's over evidence we can discover through the remains: while there are good arguments to show that oral histories can be very well-preserved over time, these stories are not intended to be an accurate account of what precisely happened, but instead to serve a particular social purpose. It doesn't make it any less important, but it doesn't supercede science.
In the comments to that blog entry, it was repeatedly noticed that many native American groups insist strongly on these stories or on the "we were always there" story even in the face of the evidence---and in fact some of their leaders demand that no investigation that contradicts this be undertaken. If so, this insistence is interesting and important: having had everything else taken away from them, the knowledge that the land was always theirs and that they are firmly and totally connected to it must then be an important source of identity. But should identity block the pursuit of knowledge? I'm not so sure about that. Well, honestly, my answer is simply "no."