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Management Team Appointed to Oversee Kwaday Dän Sinchì Research


Sept. 13, 1999 SBTC \ 99:089

VICTORIA – The 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 Aug. 14 in a glacier in Tatshenshini-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 Sinchì 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 the 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 about 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 Sinchì 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’s 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 Sinchì 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 Sinchì, 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 Sinchì 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 facility for the period of scientific study.

The remains of Kwaday Dän Sinchì will be returned to the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations by Dec. 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.



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Paige MacFarlane
Communications Branch
Ministry of Small Business, Tourism & Culture


John Matters
Royal B.C. Museum

(250) 387-2134

Diane Strand
Heritage Resource Officer
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations

(867) 634-2331

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