DNA LINKS NATIVE ALASKANS TO ANCIENT MAN FOUND IN GLACIER
Juneau resident Fernando Rado found out Thursday he is one of 17 Native people in Alaska and Canada related to an ancient man whose remains were found in a glacier in 1999.
Rado (right) was one of 250 Native people to be tested for a DNA match in a project sponsored by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) and Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI). The DNA results show 9 people from Alaska and 8 people from Canada are related to the ancient man, named by tribes Kwaday Dan Ts’inchi (Long Ago Person Found).
“It’s kind of overwhelming and it’s kind of very exciting because I feel like I’m related to a piece of time in history,” said Rado, an Eagle Killerwhale whose family is from Klukwan, Alaska.
Hunters found the remains in a melting glacier in British Columbia, and scientists believe he died roughly 200-300 years ago, possibly longer. He was wearing a spruce-root hat and a robe made of squirrel skins. In 2001, a DNA study was launched to determine whether Long Ago Person Found had any living descendants in Canada and Alaska. Mitochondrial DNA was extracted from blood samples given by Native people in Canada and Alaska. Of the Alaskans related to him, three are affiliated with CAFN and have been notified by the tribe, including Rado, who believes his mother enrolled him with the Champagne tribe. The remaining six Alaskans have yet to be notified and Sealaska Heritage plans to work with CAFN to locate them. Their identities will be kept confidential unless the individuals authorize public release of their names. Fifteen of the people identified themselves as Wolf or Eagle moiety (two did not identify their moiety).
It’s not a huge surprise Long Ago Person Found is related to tribes from both Alaska and Canada. Oral histories and genealogical studies have shown there were migrations of Southeast Tlingits into the Interior and of Interior Natives to Klukwan. There were also intermarriages between the two tribes. It’s also known that people from the Yanyeidí (Wolf) clan live in both Alaska and Canada.
“Alaska Native oral traditions talk about extensive contact between Southeast Natives and Canadian tribes,” Dye said. “Oral histories also indicate Native people did travel from Southeast to the Interior and from the Interior to Southeast. So, the test results really just strengthen that bond that already existed between Alaska and Canadian tribes.”
The news has strengthened Rado’s ties to Canadian Natives, too.
“With this information, I need to go and visit the Champagne tribe because there’s a whole piece of family that has 100 percent enlarged my family,” said Rado, also a shareholder of Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska.
Long Ago Person Found may have been from Southeast Alaska. One study found more than 90 percent of the protein in his diet was from marine sources. That study, by the University of Glasgow, concluded he “had strong coastal connections during his life and had been on the coast shortly before he died about 550 to 600 years ago.”
Some Southeast Alaska Natives believe him to be Kaakaldeini, who was immortalized in oral traditions. Many years ago Kaakaldeini was hurt while traveling to the Interior to trade. When a storm rolled in, he told his companions to leave him, fearing if they carried him, they would go too slowly and all die in the storm. His companions piled blankets on him, left and he was never seen again. Kaakaldeini was of the Sockeye Clan.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional nonprofit representing the
Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska. Its mission is
to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures.
CONTACT: Fernando Rado, 209-0093; Kathy Dye, SHI Media and Publications Director, 586-9189