ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian Indians gathering in Juneau on Friday will get a chance to prove they're directly related to one of the very first Alaskans — a 10,300-year-old mariner whose bear-chewed bones were discovered a decade ago in a cave on Prince of Wales Island.
In return, molecular anthropologists collecting the participants' DNA hope to add to their knowledge about how the earliest Americans spread across the Western Hemisphere — possibly along a coastal sea route — in spite of the ice-choked plains.
First, however, they'll have to gather a little saliva, about a single milliliter per customer, by inducing potential relatives of the ancient Alaskan to spit into a laboratory test tube.
The fact that Southeast Native elders approve of the experiment — just as they earlier endorsed requests to examine the human remains — contrasts sharply with the protests and pitched legal battles Indian leaders in Washington state waged over the fate of "Kennewick Man," the 9,000-year-old Columbia River skeleton.
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