The 20-year battle over North America’s most famous ancient man has come to a close. But, at this rate, the repatriation wars will not end.

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KENNEWICK Man is back in the earth. On December 16, 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which included a brief section that transferred control of the contested 9,000-year-old skeleton to five claimant tribes. Last week, the tribes reburied the Ancient One, as they call him, in a grave not far from where he was found along the Columbia River.

The 20-year battle over North America’s most famous ancient man has come to a close. But, at this rate, the repatriation wars will not end.

Although many museums and tribes amicably work together to follow the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), some continue to stoke controversy by pitting the interests of science against those of Native Americans. For instance, a letter last year in the journal Science likened the legal process of repatriation in the U.S. to terrorists’ destruction of heritage in the Middle East, a crime against humanity.

Such antagonism sustains conflict rather than offering real solutions. Repatriation demands will not cease. Native Americans will not yield their rights. The legal skirmishes over skeletons and ideological fights waged in magazines thus constitute an endless war given the millions of artifacts in American museums and yet discovered in the ground. Congress cannot create a law — as it did for Kennewick Man — for every skeleton in America’s closest.

Obstruction and enmity will not win science the repatriation wars. The only true victors will be those who build bridges of respect and mutual understanding. It is time for a truce — time to end the battles of a divided past and look ahead to a shared future.

Repatriation does not spell the end of science. The infamous antagonism stoked by Kennewick Man’s discovery, can be contrasted with the handling of a skeleton found the same year at On-Your-Knees Cave in Alaska where archaeologists embraced the opportunity to build a deeply respectful partnership with the local Native peoples. Before reburial, the 10,000-year-old remains were thoroughly researched and published. Some 200 Tlingit even offered their DNA for comparison.

Even with Kennewick Man, the skeleton’s most important scientific discovery came through collaboration. Geneticists consulted with members of the claimant tribes about conducting a genetic analysis. According to one report, the scientists spent “time explaining their goals and methods, and brought tribe members … for lab visits in hopes of winning their trust.” The tribes approved the work, and members of the Colville donated their DNA. The results proved Kennewick Man’s Native American ancestry and showed that the Colville, who live just 200 miles from where the skeleton was found, have close genetic affinities to the Ancient One. When Native peoples are included in science as stewards of their own history, new possibilities emerge.

Under NAGPRA, valid claims from descendants transfer control of cultural items to them. In other words, even after repatriation, science may continue. But for this to happen, scientists must first earn the trust of the communities they study and demonstrate how scientific practices can be respectfully applied for mutual benefit. Only compromise and cooperation will allow science to thrive in the age of repatriation.

Scientists can begin the truce. First, they can actively work with Native Americans to fix repatriation laws, such as supporting an amendment that fixes the legal confusion caused by the Kennewick Man case and ensures that any future ancient skeletons would essentially automatically fall under NAGPRA. Second, scientists can focus on areas of shared stewardship, which protect archaeological landscapes and thwart the illicit global trade in sacred and historical objects. Third, scientists can change the narrative to emphasize how repatriation restores important rights to Native Americans while laying the groundwork for new kinds of research.

The end of every war is a chance for a new beginning. Following these and other steps will ensure that scientists and Native Americans have a future together. As the Pawnee advocate Walter Echo-Hawk predicted long ago on the heels of NAGPRA, “We do have common ground. If we build on that, we may create a new science of North American archaeology.”