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DNA links Juneau woman to ancient man

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;Long Ago Person Found' lived 200 to 300 years ago

JUNEAU, Alaska - Juneau resident Marilyn Doyle is one of 17 Native people in Alaska and Canada related to an ancient man whose remains were found in a glacier in 1999.

Doyle was notified in early June by the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations that she is related to the ancient man, named by tribes Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi (Long Ago Person Found). She was one of 250 Native people to be tested for a DNA match in a project sponsored by CAFN and Sealaska Heritage Institute. The DNA results show nine people from Alaska and eight from Canada are related.

''I was surprised at first and then amazed to find out that I was one of nine people here in southeast Alaska whose DNA matched,'' said Doyle, who was the third person in southeast Alaska to publicly disclose her connection to the ancient man.

''I think it has a big impact not just on my personal family and clan history, but as a whole to our people. We always say we've been here since time immemorial, and I think this unique discovery of the 'Long Ago Person Found' confirms it.''

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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.

It's not a huge surprise ''Long Ago Person Found'' is related to tribes from both Alaska and Canada. Oral histories, clan stories and genealogical studies have shown there were migrations of Southeast Tlingits into the interior and of interior Natives to Klukwan. The Yanyeidi are the Inland Tlingit who migrated down the rivers and glaciers to settle in much of southeast Alaska. There were also intermarriages between the two tribes. Today it is known that the Yanyeidi (Wolf) clan lives in both Alaska and Canada.

Doyle is Tlingit/Nisga'a and a Wolf/Eagle from the Yanyeidi Clan whose lineage through her mother (Irene Roberts), grandmother (Mary Young Sutton) and great-grandmother (Jenny Young) connect her to Juneau/Douglas, Angoon, Klukwan and British Columbia, Canada. Her mother told her stories about her great-grandfather from Klukwan who traveled by foot into interior Alaska and Canada to hunt, trap and trade. Doyle agreed to the DNA testing in 2001 because she thought there might be a connection.

''I thought there's a slight chance that maybe I might be related, just knowing the full range of how our ancestors hunted and traded and that type of thing. So I thought yeah, there might be a slight chance,'' said Doyle, adding she can't stop wondering about this news and how her large extended family has grown even larger.

What's even more amazing to Doyle is that the DNA matches all share in common a single female relative that connects them together. Doyle helped coordinate a meeting in Juneau to bring together some of these new relatives who met one another for the first time, talked about the events that have taken place since the 1999 discovery, and began planning a memorial potlatch in the fall to honor Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi.

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.