Smithsonian Magazine has a triumphalist story about the Institution’s investigations into the bones of "The Kennewick Man,” skeletal remains found in central Oregon and dated to some 8900 years BP.
Since 1996 these bones have made almost everyone look bad. Evidence about North America 9000 years ago is precious. But local First Nations, sick of endless pillaging of their ancestors’ graves, insisted on immediate reburial of these bones. The American Corps of Engineers, wanting to avoid the whole thing, poured a million tons of rockfill over the discovery site. Archaeologists sued, judges got involved.
To overcome NAGPRA, the American law that empowers First Nations to protect ancestral remains, the archaeologists had to convince the courts, not that research on this skeleton was valuable, but that the Kennewick bones were not ancestral to the aboriginal people of the Pacific Northwest today, and therefore were exempt from NAGPRA.