Thomas W. Murphy, Simon G. Southerton, and Angelo Baca criticize the Heartlander use of Kennewick Man.

Academic / Technical Report
Thomas W. Murphy

Thomas W. Murphy, Simon G. Southerton, and Angelo Baca, "Science and Fiction: Kennewick Man/Ancient One in Latter-day Saint Discourse," Journal of Northwest Anthropology 56, no. 2 (2022): 137–161

Journal of Northwest Anthropology
Angelo Baca, Simon Southerton, Thomas W. Murphy
Reading Public

Abstract In June of 1997 Orson Scott Card, a popular science fiction author and prominent Latter-day Saint, seized upon the news of the erosion of an ancient skeleton out of a riverbank along the Columbia River in eastern Washington during the previous summer. Card prematurely suggested to a Mormon audience that this Kennewick Man represented an ancient founding Caucasoid population displaced by ancestors of American Indians. Indigenous peoples called this ancestor the Ancient One and participated in a long and contentious struggle between a team of scientists and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over repatriation. This article critically examines the deployment and evolution of images of Kennewick Man in Latter-day Saint discourse about Native Americans, DNA, and the Book of Mormon. Despite cautionary warnings from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Latter-day Saint scientists, the latest pseudoscientific resurrection of a Latter-day settler colonial narrative about ancient America appears as David Read’s Face of a Nephite (2020) featuring a racialized and creationist distortion of the scientific analysis and facial reconstructions of Kennewick Man. Read’s book feeds into a larger discourse advocating a Heartland setting for the Book of Mormon in North America advocated by Rodney Meldrum’s misnamed Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism (FIRM). These authors anachronistically racialize both scripture and human DNA, misrepresent archaeological and genetic science, draw from fraudulent and looted materials, and disregard Indigenous perspectives on the Ancient One, now firmly established as ancestral to American Indians.

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