The long history of First Nations people isn't one that can be found in books. Instead, it is a rich documentation detailed throughout time — a collective enterprise carried on by tradition and culture.

Oral tradition has often been discounted as just stories —  but science is proving that the facts behind those stories certainly shouldn't be discounted.

Last week, a study published in the journal Nature Communications linked the genomes of 25 Indigenous people who lived 1,000 to 6,000 years ago with 25 descendants in the Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla First Nation in British Columbia.

The ancient DNA was taken from archeological sites in the Prince Rupert area of B.C. that contain human remains. The researchers concluded that the genomes of the descendants were altered as a result of European colonization, making them more resistant to western viruses.

However, the other outcome of the DNA study was confirmation that the Metlakatla First Nation has been in the region for thousands of years — something the Metlakatla have long asserted through oral tradition.

The researchers also found that roughly 175 years ago, the population of Coast Tsimshian in the region declined by as much as 57 per cent. This coincides with colonization and the spread of diseases such as smallpox, the accounts of which have also been passed down in First Nations oral tradition.

"Science is starting to be used to basically corroborate what we've been saying all along," said Barbara Petzelt, an archaeologist with the Metlakatla First Nation, one of the researchers in the study.


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