Longtime Wanapum frontman dies aged 66

Associated press

KENNEWICK, Wash. – The longtime leader of the Wanapum Indian band has died.

Rex Buck Jr., 66, died Feb. 11 in his ancestral village of P’na in Priest Rapids on the Columbia River in Grant County, Wash., according to an obituary distributed Monday by the Grant County Public Utility District. No cause of death has been listed.

The Tri-City Herald reported that the Wanapum band lived on what is now the site of the Hanford nuclear reserve until the land was seized during World War II and the Wanapum were forced to relocate to their winter campsite at Priest Rapids.

“Rex was thoughtful and sincere, a leader who took his responsibility to the land seriously, constantly ensuring that the department understood the perspectives and priorities of the people of Wanapum,” said Brian Vance, director of the U.S. Department of Health. energy at Hanford.

Buck was given the responsibility of leading the Wanapum people when he was still in his twenties, according to the obituary. He was relentless in his support of the Wanapum culture, according to the obituary.

He worked with his wife, Angela, on the construction of the Wanapum Heritage Center in 2015 on Route 243. The museum tells the story of the Wanapum people and is also a place where the Wanapum can pass on their language and way of life. traditional life to new generations, according to his obituary.

Last month, the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle named Buck Associate Curator of Archeology to honor his decades of contributions to the museum and his work to repatriate Native American remains, including the skeleton known as Kennewick Man.

The approximately 9,000-year-old bones of Kennewick Man were found on the banks of the Columbia River in Kennewick, Washington in 1996.

One of the most complete ancient skeletons ever discovered, the bones sparked a legal custody battle between the US government, scientists and Native American tribes that lasted for years.

In 2015, it was announced that DNA analysis had shown that the Kennewick Man had the greatest genetic similarity between living peoples and Native Americans, including those from the Columbia River region where the skeleton was found. The bones were reburied in 2017 at an undisclosed location.

The Burke Museum became the court-appointed repository for Kennewick Man, known as The Ancient One, in 1998. Working with the museum, Buck helped ensure proper care for The Ancient One for 19 years until until the bones are reburied.

He also helped repatriate hundreds of ancestors and tens of thousands of artifacts for several Columbia River tribal nations as part of the Burke Museum’s commitments under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

Buck is survived by his wife, seven children and grandchildren.

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