DNA links 5,500 year old remains of aboriginal woman found in Canada and her 200 x great-grandaughter who still lives nearby

DNA links 5,500 year old remains of aboriginal woman found in Canada and her 200 x great-grandaughter who still lives nearby

Scientists have traced a genetic descent from the 5,500 year-old remains to a second set of 2,500 year-old female remains found nearby and, amazingly, to a woman still living close to both prehistoric sites on British Columbia’s northern coast.

The study used DNA samples from 60 modern members of the indigenous Tsimshian, Haida and Nisga’a tribes from the Metlakatla First Nation.  The samples were compared with mitochondrial DNA extracted from the teeth of four ancient people: two skeletons aged 6,000 years and 5,500 years unearthed in an ancient shell midden on Lucy Island, and two skeletons aged 5,000 years and 2,500 years found on Dodge Island.

Three living individuals had DNA matches with the older Dodge Island skeleton, and three of the skeletons matched at least one living person.  The oldest Lucy Island skeleton didn’t match any living relatives, but did match a 10,300-year-old skeleton previously unearthed on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

The team was surprised by the genetic link between the 5,500-year-old Lucy Island female and the 2,500-year-old Dodge Island female, but was elated to find they both had the exact same mitogenome of a living Tsimshian woman – a kinship covering at least 200 generations.

Previous DNA research suggests that 95% of all Native Americans can trace their mitochondrial ancestry to 6 women who lived between 18,000 and 21,000 years ago.  The mitochondrial signatures that these ‘founding mothers’ left behind aren’t found in Asia, which suggests that they arose in Beringia, the now-submerged land bridge which connected Asia to North America during the last Ice Age.

However, the genetic picture which followed their descendants’ migration into North America around 15,000 years ago has proven difficult to understand – mainly due to the effects of European colonization from the 16th century onwards, which, as well as adding European DNA into the mix, effectively snuffed out many indigenous genetic lineages.

Which makes this living mitochondrial link particularly important.

Study leader Ripan Malhi, said:  “It’s a rare lineage.  In my mind, I expect that lots of these rare lineages would have gone extinct after European contact and colonization because of the high mortality that was associated with contact.”

Study co-author and Metlakatla treaty official, Joycelynn Mitchell, added:  “It’s very exciting to be able to have scientific proof that corroborates what our ancestors have been telling us for generations.  It is amazing how fast technology is moving to be able to prove this kind of link with our past.”

'We've always been here' - members of the Metlakatla First Nation community in British Columbia who participated in the genetic study - image from Metlakatla Treaty Office
‘We’ve always been here’ – members of the Metlakatla First Nation community in British Columbia who participated in the genetic study – image from Metlakatla Treaty Office

Sources:  Live Science and Canada.com

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50 Comments

  1. United States WOW!! My husband has the French Canadian lineage but I am still in awe of the ancestors we have been able to trace for him. This is a beautiful story and I am so proud of everyone who has worked on it.
    Sandi Bennett
    Shiloh, Illinois

    • Canada well aboriginals were always the 1st people in canada..and lm glad they found that out now.

      • United States We are in the middle of land claims, and as an aboriginal there is a certain place my family comes from, my family was moved from the place after small pox, and all I would like to know, if we were to find remains at the place I am speaking about, could the DNA do a trace, and what would the cost be to do such a project? I work in archaeology in, and around the area. It would be great to find out the truth on my family’s history. Thank- you in respect, Johnny Johnson

  2. United Kingdom mazing this dna map which is ongoing world wide but really throwing up results in Europe especially and much on Scotland..the recently identified “Pict” gene group being well worth a read up on!Iam interested as my family name is linked to both Gaels and Picts :-)

  3. Canada What an awesome discovery! I think it does raise some questions about the Bering Strait theory, definitely. Who is to say there was only ONE continent with inhabitants…

    • Canada Science says so…lol. Researchers already know that Aboriginals have been in Canada for at least 12,000 years. They would have came before that. Current theories are that humans originated in Africa and spread out from there. There are plenty of migration maps on the internet.

      • United States Migration from Africa; Who is to say it wasn’t possible for beings to ride the sufficiently larger pieces of Terra-firma ,that occurred during the great split, to a new location.?

  4. United States Amaaaazing! Perhaps the descendant can put her ancestors to rest! Glad there is the proof some needed to show where First Nations people came from!

  5. United States Where can one get DNA testing to trace ones linkage. How much would a person expect to pay for such testing. I’m interested in DNA treating that specializes in First Nations linkage . Thank You.

    • United Kingdom Mike, try the link to Family Tree DNA at the bottom of the page. They have a sale on for the next couple of weeks.

    • United States mike, email me and i will give you some places, people, for dna testing. steve giordano,kane,pa

  6. United States First of all I speak only for myself, not representing any other group or organization. I do speak as an indigenous person of New Mexico with an ancient history of indigenous peoples.

    Discovery is an overused colonizing term to use here and throughout western history. The term “my word is my bond” may reflect more of authentic indigenous truths and practice of identity -which can now be supported by science adding to other measures of legitimacy. What the indigenous folks have known through their history and through repitition of story, a softer science known as traditional practice of “oral history” affirming over many, many generations -is simply CONFIRMED today through science. Since sience is often the main way Western folks can believe. While this research appears to be a discovery -its not. If indigenous people across the globe haven’t been diluted by the “Victor’s History” and if they have not yet severed practices from their culture -we likely know who we are because our family and community have instilled this in us. And even in those cases of uncertainty or “proof”, in our hearts and through the drum, we know who we are.

    It’s the rest of the folks who don’t wish to know indigenous history and have not allowed indigenous life and identity to thrive. As the First Nations people stated in the photo caption, “We’ve always been here”. Who believes and who doesn’t believe, is often not knowing or understanding indigenous history across the globe. It is simply not in our children’s educaitonal systems and not given any serious consideration. It is often a matter of not wanting to believe or know -why would any want to know the history of colonization? There would be a lot to question and “too much to lose”, The profitable gains for some, over many generations has to come from somewhere, and too often there are simple justifications for the historical infringements and losses of indiginous peoples acros the globe; including humanity, dignity, freedoms, spirituality, indigenous lands, water and sustinance. All this translates to gains for the victors and their generations of children to include: political and economic powers, entitlement, privilage; land and water acquisition; legal authority and other such endless colonizing gains.

    In addition, I don’t believe we have been “…effectively, snuffed out” as the writer of the article states. As indigenous people we remaine indigenous. Such reckless words lend itself to the continued dismissal and minimizing of who we are as indigenous identified people. It doesn’t matter if we live in an appartment or house in the city or in a hogan, adobe buildings, or huts in “reservations”. I welcome scientific proof, it may at some point allow us to reclaim our heritage and lands -but there are some things that can never be recovered and we live with that, but it doesn’t change who we are as indigenous people. It doesn’t matter if our bloodlines don’t reflect the percentages of “BIA or federally recognized” blood quantums. We are a people living and knowing where we are from. Like MY mother says, “We’ve always been from here.” -this is enough for me, I for one will not question her words. I also use research to affirm my ancestry, but I will not be limited to science alone. Science is simply a tool, it is up to us to use it intellegently and develop our humanity. Thank you for your time.

    • Brazil Thank you… i had some very similar feelings while reading this “good news”. many european languages remain extremely colonialist & the idea of “discovery” has always sounded much more like “invasion” to me, even though i was born in London, UK.

    • Canada Thank you Cynthia! You have expressed what I have thought for so long. The science is just ‘catching up’.

    • United Kingdom That’s a beautifully thought-out response Cynthia. However, I wasn’t suggesting that today’s indigenous people have been effectively ‘snuffed out’ – just that many ancient indigenous genetic lineages undoubtedly have been; they didn’t survive the disease and genocide that came with European colonization. That’s why the DNA in many ancient remains, like the 6,000 year old Lucy Island skeleton, don’t match with any living people today. That particular genetic lineage has most likely gone forever.
      Sandra

    • United States For non-Native people, this is really a neat thing. Most of us with mixed heritage have only a few generations we can go back. You seem to have been somewhat offended by this article’s tone and come off as rather defensive. Chill out. Yeah, YOUR heritage is passed down orally for many centuries. How cool for you! I’d get pumped if I could even trace either side of my family back to before they came to the U.S. By the way, because I’m only 1/16th Cherokee, my bloodline definitely doesn’t “reflect the percentages of ‘BIA or federally recognized’ blood quantums”.

    • Italy As you very well explained and wrote the aborigenal people of North America are still present in the continent and, most important, their spirituality,respect.honor and ancient philosophy of life are all still present, NO MATTER POLITICS around the world and the modern life should learn from them how to live a simple life more natural and really respectful to Earth Mother ….it is everyday too late to recognize that the ancient ways still are the right ones if we want to save the human being from their potential suicide.
      I am Italian but I have studied your wonderful history and Ceremonies and STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT WE COULD STILL TRY TO LIVE IN THE ANCIENT WAYS.

    • United States Every nationality throughout history has been conquered at some point in history. Only in America, where they are given freedom (at least at this point in time), do the conquered people have the right to speak out and to even talk about “reclaiming our heritage and our lands”. In any other time, (geographically or culturally) this would be considered treasonous and put down, likely by imprisonment or death. Historical record is always subjective. This nation will be conquered, too, and we may even be in process of such captivity as we speak. How we respond is what is important, both in initial reaction and resulting adaptation.

  7. United States White european History is a construct likened to arm chair theories dreamed up by wealthy historians or academicians. Its a form od propaganda used to justify the present and conceal the past. The Very nature of history is contained in its root words “his..” “story” this is consistent with interpretations of colonial accounts of european colonialization of non-european peoples around the globe. They are in fact as the savage indian described in popular movies when talking to white colonizers “…lies..”. Lol

  8. Canada Always here they were.can’t turn back time. Just hopefully make better for Indigeneous people’s of Canada & world.

  9. United States There might also be stories, ways of seeing the world/thinking, cultural activities, ways of preparing medicine,clothing food,etc. from long ago that are still with us because of the link these folks have to the past. Wow.

  10. United States That really nails down the validity of using “First Nation” moniker. This is a great story and needs widespread publicity.

  11. Canada This is definitely wonderful, well the saying goes that most Canadians have some native American ancestry at one point or another.

    • United States Zjak, not sure that most Canadians have North American Native Ancestry but if it weren’t for the First Nations people non-native people reaching these shores would have died instead of thrived. Canadian and U.S. political policy and silly cruel religious groups destroyed First Nations North American Natives in horrible ways that has had a ripple effect on the peoples and the culture that is still apparent today.

  12. Canada that is soooo incredibly amazing!!! There seems to be more and more evidence and proof of this is “our home and native land!!!

  13. United States im interested in your story,my ancester are from canada and some are still there.this is an amazing story.thank you very much for your reseach. i am fully aware of how much work goes into it. for i have done some of my own.

  14. Canada That proves everything that first nations were in canada first and we will always be here no matter if the HARPER government tries to kill us!!!

  15. Canada Reading this with interest I wondered how long it would be before someone decided to inject some political nonsense into the discussion. The current Canadian government has nothing to apologize for. There’s no reality that a society can be fair with a separate but equal approach to the relationships between its citizens. All stand together no matter what their heritage and the fact that the British conquered and enslaved my ancestors 700 years ago or 300 hundred years ago (whether you take my fathers path or my mothers)does not exempt me from the responsibility of participating in a productive way to future of our country. If you want to go live as your ancestors did feel free to hitch up your lodge polls to your women and drag them off into the bush, or paddle your wooden hued dug out into the sea and spear whatever you want. Just quit making it your neighbours responsibility to feed and clothe you and ensure your sanitation and health care up to modern standards. In short if you want your own nation start printing your own money, we’re tired of you using ours.

    on the topic at hand, it has been my understanding that the DNA path of west coast native populations link directly back to Asia at around 35 to 40 thousand years ago. I’m I correct in reading here that this assumption is now proven in error and that the archaeological evidence now suggestions a Northern blend from the Land bridge area? The land bridge area would also have been linked to Northern Europe, is this the path of immigration to Western North America in combination with the Asiatic nomads? As usual the research begs more questions than answers provided.

    • Canada “Just quit making it your neighbours responsibility to feed and clothe you and ensure your sanitation and health care up to modern standards”

      Get off your high horse after all it’s our resources that really feed and clothe you!
      And FYI we where more healthy (Smallpox’s/STI etc) and clean before the settlers arrived
      thank you

      “In short if you want your own nation start printing your own money, we’re tired of you using ours”

      Get off our land and we will make our own money/nation as we tire of you using ours.

      Ohh and neighbors is spelled without a U per your post.

    • United States Thank you, Thom Young for a break in the clouds and bringing a ray of truth to the discussion. (I would say to those who want to go back to “owning” the land that you do have a better life than you would have had otherwise, as M. Young said.) Sure, there are cultural things people want to keep, but realize that your very use of a computer is a result of being conquered. Your RIGHT to use one, is a result of assimilation. You may fantasize about a just, wise, dignified ancestor, but the truth is, most were waging war with their native “brothers”, where the spoils were scalps, women, and brutal tortures.
      READ some of the first-person accounts from the time.

      The more we learn about DNA, the more we see that our “nationality” is looking at the world through the wrong end of the telescope! We are all the result of many cultures. I have in the past been proud of my heritage, which is a mix, but in reality, my roots go far, far back to the cradle of civilization. As do yours. What bothers me is that many cultural natives in Canada want a government to serve them, as do many with the slave heritage in America. It will RUIN you! Witness what happened to the Innuit in Northern Canada. When the government came in and supplied them with checks, their culture evaporated and they turned into alchoholic zombies who watch tv all day! (I’m about 30 years from knowning how they are doing now, but the example still holds up.) Their culture of hunting and fishing for their livelihood was what sustained them AND made them have a sense of worth and value. Collecting a check that one has not earned only makes one resentful and greedy. It’s not the way to go.

      We need to honor honesty, work, family, nature, and God, but there is no free lunch on the planet. There is always a cost, whether it be monetary or in your heart.

  16. Canada Enough of this “First Nation” “I was here first, this is my land” stuff. If you do some research you’ll find that Native Europeans were actually here first, roughly 10,000 years ago, they came over during the ice age when there was an ice bridge that joined Europe and North America. They were settle here until about 7000 years ago when the Mongolians arrived and slaughtered the Native Euros that were already here, and settle here themselves, and evolved into the First Nations we all have here today.

    Yeah you guys got it rough when Columbus arrived, yeah they did some horrible things, but enough of “Get off my land” and “I was here First” crap, you were technically here second, you’ve just lived here an accumulated longer time than any other race.

    Its like saying that the next race to put a man on the moon would be the first and totally disregard that the Americans were already there in the 60s.

    • - Sorry, this isn’t the neo-Nazi creative writing workshop. These are self-indulgent fantasies that disregard a) the information in the very article you’re responding to that exceeds your 10,000 claim by 5,000 years and b) easily accessible information via any search engine that debunks the conspiracy theory you’re discussing here as false anyway. Thanks for trying, idiot, but this is the internet and anyone who reads your comment can see you’re an uncritical intellectual infant with an indignant racist piloting your body around needlessly. Take a university course in anthropology, even white western institutions aren’t claiming the white-wash jerk-off you’re spewing here.

  17. United States A psychopath is one who would deny others the very same concepts and protections of law he demands for himself. ( http://jimcraven10.wordpress.com/2008/07/15/review-of-snakes-in-suits-when-psychopaths-go-to-work-by-paul-babiak-and-robert-hare/ ) That is because of their grandiosity, malignant narcissism, arrogance, cunning, and other characteristics. The same can be said for a whole system that rests on foundations of hypocrisy, fraud, theft, genocide, missionary arrogance and zealotry and a few Canadian Taliban types who thought and still think they were and are destined by God and Providence to rule the many.

    Under capitalist law, one can legally acquire and pass on “property” in five ways: 1) Inheritance (one one cannot pass on or keep stolen property or property not legally titled); 2) Gift (but one cannot legally pass on or keep stolen property); 3) Sale (but one cannot legally sell or keep stolen property); 4) Spoils of Just War (but one cannot keep or pass on spoils of unjust wars founded on pretexts, lies, cherry picked intelligence, covert provocations etc see http://jimcraven10.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/just-war-and-the-interrelated-predicates-and-precedents-of-nuremberg/ ) 5) Discovery (but one cannot acquire or sell property that has indigenous people on it (prior discovery) without valid Treaties according to the Canons of Treaty Construction and International Law, aling with the respective Constitutions and systems of Government of the treating partners kept by both sides during the terms of the Treaty.

    There have been desperate attempts such as “Kennewick Man” to try to show that non-Indian even whites existed in various areas during or prior to the times of present-day First Nations Peoples and these attempts go back to the late 19th Century along with the “Skull Science” and “Eugenics types” that produced the 1933 British Colombia Race Hygiene Law and 1928 Alberta Sterilization Act,along with the sterilization laws of 27 U.S. states that the Nazis cited as their “inspiration” for their own “race and hygiene” laws and programs See http://jimcraven10.wordpress.com/category/rockefellers-and-nazi-eugenics/

    No matter what: none of the typical narratives and values of the Canadian Constitution, Laws or of the Bible so many of the very visible and so pious Christians love to thump, had anything to do with or fit with the reality of the founding and development of the Canadian system founded and run on genocide and serial hypocrisy. Some of the comments here show only that a few raw nerves have been hit and the only response is wounded vitriol and ad hominem.

  18. Canada This is very exciting news! Imagine how much we can learn from a tribe of people who have survived on our land for 5000 years! It’s time to realize our ancestors were smarter then us and we have to learn their lessons and go forward.

  19. Canada All in all great post and greater find now can we put some of theses crazy theories to rest?

    To think people still want to think we/I (Native) migrated from Asia rolls eyes still

    here first and no other proof to say other wise.

    Remember the treaties should be upheld

    AS LONG AS THE SUN SHINES THE RIVER FLOWS AND THE GRASS GROWS!

    Do we see this now? answer NO!

    • United States Of course your ancestors migrated from Asia. Why do you think Ydna Haplogroups “Q” and “C” are both in Asia and the Americas’s. That is history, so to speak.

  20. Canada My aboriginal wife always insisted her people did not come from Asia.
    Wow. This research indicates that her people came from a now submerged
    land near Alaska.

  21. United States You can also do DNA testing at ancestry.com that’s where I did mine. I have found and talked to cousins that I may have never found before.

  22. United States “The mitochondrial signatures that these ‘founding mothers’ left behind aren’t found in Asia..” Are those ‘six mothers’ descendants of MTdna A,B,C,D or X that migrated from Asia? Great information, but something seems to have been overlooked and further explanation would be very welcome.

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