DNA project aims to find descendants of ancient man

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

The Sealaska Heritage Institute is sponsoring DNA testing to determine whether there are living descendants of a Native man whose ancient remains were found in a Southeast cave.

The testing will be conducted during Celebration 2008, a Native festival taking place June 5-7 in Juneau.

The remains - estimated to be more than 10,000 years old - were conveyed to Tlingit tribes in Craig and Klawock last year by the federal government. The remains were discovered in 1996 during a U.S. Forest Service archaeological survey for a proposed timber sale on northern Prince of Wales Island.

The institute authorized the DNA study to determine if the ancient remains are related to Southeast Alaska Natives, SHI President Rosita Worl stated in a press release.

"It will scientifically prove that we've been here for 10,000 years," Worl said. "Our own people always say we have lived in Southeast Alaska since time immemorial. But beyond that, I think it would be very exciting to identify the kin who may have survived."

Dr. Brian Kemp from Washington State University will lead the team collecting DNA samples in the lobby of Centennial Hall during Celebration. Kemp and his colleagues spearheaded DNA research on the human remains, and their findings were reported last year in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Natives who want to participate must sign a consent form authorizing use of their genetic material for the study. Scientists will collect DNA by swabbing the inside of participants' cheeks. The results of the study may be published or presented in professional meetings, but participants' identities will remain anonymous. The institute will contact any one whose DNA is linked to the remains.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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