KENAI, Alaska (AP) — Scientists are studying ancestral Kenaitze remains to see if there is a link between prevalent diseases in the tribal population and the ancient DNA.
The DNA is being studied at a lab in Chicago, but all samples from remains uncovered on the Kenai Peninsula were released with permission from the elders, KTUU-TV reported (http://bit.ly/1JSn0p0 ).
Getting DNA to a lab has been a process with many steps. The Kenaitze tribe did not have access to their ancestral remains until the 1990s when the Native American Graves Repatriation Act forced any agency that was funded by federal dollars to return cultural items and remains back to their peoples.
Alexandra Lindgren worked with 35 Kenaitze tribal elders to figure out what they wanted to do with the remains and cultural items.
"The government recognizes that what your elders have to say is just as important as what the scientists have to say," Lindgren said.
In order to be sure all remains were treated with respect, a Kenaitze elder was present during the DNA extraction for the disease project.
Dr. John Molina, the director for health systems at the Dena'ina Wellness Center in Kenai, said the research could help present and future generations by finding if tribal members have a high risk to diseases, such as cancer and cardio vascular disease.
Results from the study will take at least a year to be released. The tribe may request more studies that involve genetic samples from living tribal members.
Information from: KTUU-TV, http://www.ktuu.com