THE ORIG­I­NAL HUNTER

Outdoor Life - - HUNTING - Bill Han­lon

I was Dall sheep hunt­ing with two bud­dies in the most beau­ti­ful real es­tate I’ve ever seen, the massive Tat­shen­shini-alsek wilder­ness of north­ern Bri­tish Columbia. We had back­packed in 55 kilo­me­ters to the head of a se­ries of glaciers and spot­ted a band of rams on a dis­tant ridge. As we were pick­ing our way along the lower edge of a glacier, I found a stick, then an­other. This is rock-and-ice coun­try, so it was un­usual to see wood. Then I re­al­ized I was look­ing at an ar­ti­fact—maybe an at­latl.

Just then one of my bud­dies said, “I think I found the poor fel­low who lost that stuff.” It was a par­tial body, 30 feet above us. All we could see was a pelvis. The legs were still frozen in the glacier.

We pho­tographed the find, and then went and killed a cou­ple of beau­ti­ful rams. We re­ported our dis­cov­ery when we got back to civ­i­liza­tion, and it be­came a ma­jor an­thro­po­log­i­cal event, the old­est or­gan­i­cally pre­served hu­man re­mains in North Amer­ica, es­ti­mated at 500 years old. The

First Na­tions called him Kwä­day Dän Ts’ìnchi, which trans­lates to Long Ago Per­son Found.

We later learned the body was that of a Tlin­git hunter 20 years old and in per­fect phys­i­cal con­di­tion when he died. With him, he had a robe made of arc­tic ground squir­rel skins and sinew from moun­tain goat and blue whale, plus a smoked sock­eye sal­mon in a pocket and a hat wo­ven from spruce root.

The news made a splash, but de­spite ex­ten­sive search­ing, ar­chae­ol­o­gists weren’t able to find the man’s head. Four years later, my bud­dies and I drew sheep tags again for the area, and we went back to the glacier, which had re­ceded a good deal since our orig­i­nal visit. And not 100 yards from where we found the pelvis, we found the head.

How was it that we made both these finds? A lot of peo­ple have talked about the as­tro­nom­i­cal odds, but I don’t think it was co­in­ci­dence. It’s taken me years to reach this con­clu­sion, but I think we were meant to find him. He was a hunter, and it took a hunter to find a hunter. I hope if some­thing like what hap­pened to him— fall­ing in a crevasse or get­ting lost in a mid­sum­mer storm and dy­ing of hy­pother­mia—hap­pens to me, it’s an­other hunter who finds me 500 years later.

Bill Han­lon looks over glacier fields in the Tat­shen­shini-alsek Park in north­west Bri­tish Columbia.

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