The genes of today's native peoples in the Pacific Northwest can be traced back at least 10,000 years, new research shows. Photo by Julie McMahon
April 5 (UPI) -- According to new genetic analysis, the indigenous peoples of southern Alaska and the west coast of British Columbia are direct descendants of the first human inhabitants of northwestern North America.
"Our analysis suggests that this is the same population living in this part of the world over time, so we have genetic continuity from 10,000 years ago to the present," Ripan Malhi, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois, said in a news release.
Researchers analyzed DNA collected from the 10,300-year-old remains of Shuká Káa, an early human specimen recovered from a cave in southeastern Alaska. Scientists also sequenced the genomes of three other individuals found in British Columbia -- remained between 6,075 and 1,750 years old.
Scientists compared the ancient genomes to DNA collected from modern indigenous populations. Though mitochondrial DNA revealed no uninterrupted lineages, nuclear DNA did.
"The data suggest that there were multiple genetic lineages in the Americas from at least 10,300 years ago," Malhi said.
Even some of the study's co-authors are related to Shuká Káa. Malhi and his colleagues partnered with several native groups to conduct the research, which was published this week in the journal PNAS.
"We supported DNA testing of Shuká Káa because we believed science ultimately would agree with what our oral traditions have always said -- that we have lived in southeast Alaska since time immemorial," said Rosita Worl, an anthropologist and the director of the Sealaska Heritage Institute in Juneau, Alaska.
Worl is Tlingit, one of Alaska's many native peoples.
"The initial analysis showed the young man was native, and now further studies are showing that our ancestral lineage stems from the first initial peopling of the region," Worl said. "Science is corroborating our oral histories."