An ancient discovery (bipartisan cooperation) in the Columbia Basin


Advances in DNA testing, coupled with a united voice from the state’s tribal community, also proved mighty helpful.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican representing Central Washington, worked across the aisle to return the long-warred-over remains of The Ancient One -- Kennewick Man -- to his rightful place with the Columbia Basin tribes.

Murray and Newhouse detailed their efforts in a guest column in the Tri-City Herald on May 16. Here’s an excerpt:

“More than one year after first proposing legislation in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats agreed: returning the remains to the Columbia Basin tribes was the right thing to do.

“There’s no denying the deep political divisions that remain in our country and the many policy battles that lay ahead. But resolving the dispute over the Ancient One was essential to righting a wrong for the Columbia Basin tribes, and to remembering that Congress is still capable of working together to do what’s right.”

The operative phrase in that last sentence is this: "Congress is still capable of working together to do what’s right.”

Newhouse also has teamed up with our state's other senator, Democrat Maria Cantwell, to push for federal assistance with the 30-year Lake Kachess water storage project. (Cantwell secured Senate approval for $92 million for the project but differences with the House torpedoed the measure.)

The bipartisan cooperation around Kennewick Man and Lake Kachess isn’t likely to narrow the chasm between the two parties over climate science, healthcare, Citizens United, voter access or the myriad other issues that polarize us.

But as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Small steps — even 9,000-year-old ones — can lead to greater dialogue between left and right. And once people are talking, face to face in a civil manner, perhaps the steps can turn into strides on the biggest issues that confront us.

PHOTO ABOVE: From the Smithsonian Institute