Ancient DNA Analysis From Canada

malhi ripan in lab

Recently a new academic paper focused on Native American ancestry hit the news.  Ripan Malhi’s molecular anthropology and ancient DNA lab at the University of Illinois, shown above, in Urbana, Illinois has successfully extracted DNA from remains of individuals whose bones were found in an ancient trash heap in British Columbia and has successfully matched the DNA with living people today, confirming of course that today’s people were related to these ancient people and are a part of the same base population that lived there 5000-6000 years ago and remains today.

malhi paper map

Ripan’s paper, “Ancient DNA Analysis of Mid-Holocene Individuals from the Northwest Coast of North America Reveals Different Evolutionary Paths for Mitogenomes” discusses this in detail.  If you’re not up to this level of detail, a nice article in LiveScience covers the discovery as well.

Ripan has successfully connected the dots between the fossilized remains and currently living members of several Native tribes local to the region where the bones were found.

As part of this study, three new mitochondrial haplogroups were discovered in the Native population.  Two haplogroups, A2ag and A2ah are found alive and well today.  However, another, D4h3a7 has only been found one other time, in remains found in a cave in Alaska, and may have gone extinct.  It has not been found in living people to date, although a lot of people have yet to be tested.

The area where the remains were found is indigenous to the Tsimshian, Haida and Nisga’a tribes.

Today, local tribes are participating in additional research with Dr. Malhi in order to better understand their ancestry and to see if the genetic data supports their extensive oral history which suggests multiple migration waves from Asia into the Americas within the past 5000 years.



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10 thoughts on “Ancient DNA Analysis From Canada

  1. Very interesting, excellent paper – particularly appreciated the Ethic Statement contained therein. Very important to the Native people. Would be interested in follow-up information on this work.

    Bonnie Magee Smith

    Date: Thu, 4 Jul 2013 13:08:25 +0000 To:

  2. My hats off to the native, or rather First Nations, communities for their participation in DNA analysis. I hope continued success will result in greater willingness amongst native communities in America to test.

    For those who may wish to visit the area where these tests were undertaken, there is the ‘Ksan Historic Indian Village, an authentic reconstructed Gitksan village, east just off the Yellowhead Highway from Prince Rupert, probably the most popular attraction in this lightly traveled area. Other First Nations sites are somewhat harder to get to, but there are several native communities in the area, and of course the scenery is outstanding.

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