NEWS SHI, HIA to begin second phase of epigenetics study in Hoonah

NEWS SHI, HIA to begin second phase of epigenetics study in Hoonah

Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: December 22nd, 2020

Research to focus on Hoonah residents

Sept. 23, 2019

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) and Hoonah Indian Association (HIA) will begin the second phase of a collaborative genetics study next week that explores how historical trauma associated with European colonization may have changed the DNA of Native people.

The study, Epigenomic Effects of European Colonization on Alaska Native Peoples by the Malhi Molecular Anthropology Lab at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, is seeking to combine advances in technology with community-based research to study the biological basis shaping adverse health outcomes resulting from the many changes since European contact with Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The first phase of research for the project was completed June 17-21, 2019, in Juneau. In order to accommodate additional volunteers, two days have been added in Juneau, Sept. 26-27, 2019. The team will start phase two in Hoonah Oct. 1-4, 2019.

European colonization had a profound, global impact in terms of its demographic, environmental and genetic effects on populations worldwide. The social, economic and demographic effects of European colonization are well studied, but the biological consequences are less well understood, wrote Ripan Malhi, principle investigator and professor of genomic biology at the university.

“This is important because the effects of European colonization and the chronic stress generated by changes from traditional lifestyles are hypothesized to contribute to health disparities and psychosocial stress of indigenous peoples today,” Malhi wrote.

Participants will be asked to give a blood sample and take a survey, which will include questions about general well-being, demography, community events participation and traumatic experiences. Due to the sensitive nature of the survey questions, counselors from Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) will be on hand if a participant feels the need to pause the survey to talk to them.

The team will also ask community members about their participation in cultural events, eating traditional foods and engagement in subsistence activities. All of these things may modify or buffer against any potential DNA effects seen with historical trauma.

All individual data will be anonymous, and the results of the study will be presented to the community. Individual data results will not be released and DNA samples will be destroyed at the conclusion of the study.  Volunteers will be given a $50 gift card for their time.

Tlingit people living in Hoonah who are 18 years or older and interested in participating Oct. 1-4 should contact Niccole Williams at 907-945-3545, Those who wish to participate in Juneau Sept. 26-27 should contact SHI’s Culture and History Director Chuck Smythe at, 907.586.9282 or Mason Auger at, 907.586.9229. Questions about the study can be directed to Responsible Principal Investigator Ripan Malhi at, or project Post-Doctoral Research Associate Mary Rogers at ‪630-755-5871,

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Amy Fletcher, SHI Media and Publications Director, 907.586.9116,

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