A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Ministry of Small Business, Tourism, and Culture of British Columbia
September 13, 1999
Tatshenshini Find Moved to Royal B.C. Museum
Management team appointed to oversee Kwaday Dän Sinchi research
Victoria, British ColumbiaThe ancient human remains recently discovered in the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park have been moved to the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria for further study.
Small Business, Tourism, and Culture Minister Ian Waddell and Chief Bob Charlie of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) announced that the move is part of an agreement reached between the B.C. government and the CAFN to jointly manage how the remains and associated artifacts are handled and studied.
"The museum is a world-class research centre, with state-of-the-art storage facilities, laboratories, security, and considerable experience in handling human remains," Waddell said. "I am pleased we have a facility in B.C. to handle a project that promises to be of major significance--not just to British Columbia but to the Yukon and the international scientific community as well."
Three B.C. teachers made the discovery August 14 in a glacier in Tatchenshini-Alsek Park in northwestern B.C., adjacent to Alaska and Yukon. The Champagne and Aishihik Elders named the find, believed to be that of an ancient aboriginal hunter, Kwaday Dän Sinchi or "Long Ago Person Found."
Under the agreement, the CAFN and the ministry's archaeology branch have set up a management team with three members appointed from each group to oversee the research process.
The first job of the management team will be to assess the information on hand and consider the significance of new data, such as trhe age of the find, when available. In consultation with a scientific advisory panel, the management team will develop a research strategy, which is expected to take three months. Following that, requests for proposals will be accepted and reviewed, and then detailed research projects will begin.
Many scientific disciplines will be invited to undertake research on the find, for example forensic anthropology, microbiology, DNA studies and cryobiology (the study of the effects of temperature on organisms).
Several artifacts were recovered with Kwaday Dän Sinchi: a skin robe, a hat, a hunting spear, a leather sheath, and various wooden artifacts that may be parts of hunting tools. Some plant leaves and the carcass of a moose were also discovered at the site, although it is not yet known if those are associated with the human remains.
The artifacts and plant remains will also be the focus of much research, including paleobotany (fossil plants) and the study of pollen. Further archaeological work at the site of Kwaday Dän Sinchi is also planned.
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations government feels that this is an opportunity for Yukon First Nations, especially the youth, to learn about the history of their homeland, and who they are. Through the study of Kwaday Dän Sinchi, First Nations will have a better understanding of how their people lived on the land and faced the challenges it presented them.
"Our oral history has told us about the importance of this area as a travel route and about the nearby villages on the Tatshenshini River," said Chief Charlie. "Now Kwaday Dän Sinchi brings these stories to life."
The remains were originally taken to Whitehorse because it was close to the park. However, the Royal B.C. Museum was chosen as the most appropriate storage facilities for the period of scientific study.
The remains of Kayday Dän Sinchi will be returned to the Champagne Aishihik First Nations by December 31, 2000, unless the management team agrees to extend the date. If the findings show this person is from another First Nation, the remains will be returned to that First Nation.