Whitehorse Daily Star

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GOLD FIELDS SURRENDER SENSATIONAL DISCOVERY – Seen above is the complete baby woolly mammoth named Nun cho ga from Eureka Creek. Her trunk, ears, and tail are near-perfectly preserved. Photo courtesy GOVERNMENT OF YUKON

Discovery ‘a powerful and moving experience’

In what can only be called a “mammoth” discovery, the body of a mummified baby woolly mammoth was found Tuesday in the Dawson City gold fields region.

By Tim Giilck on June 24, 2022

In what can only be called a “mammoth” discovery, the body of a mummified baby woolly mammoth was found Tuesday in the Dawson City gold fields region.

The Yukon government, along with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government, announced the unique find this morning.

“On June 21, a near-complete, mummified baby woolly mammoth was found in the Klondike gold fields within Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory,” they said in a statement.

“Miners for the Treadstone Mining company working on Eureka Creek uncovered the frozen woolly mammoth while excavating through the permafrost.

“This is a significant discovery for Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the Government of Yukon. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elders named the mammoth calf Nun cho ga, meaning ‘big baby animal’ in the Hän language.”

According to the release, the Yukon has a world-renowned fossil record of ice age animals, but mummified remains with skin and hair are rarely unearthed.

A quick examination of the woolly mammoth suggests she is female and roughly the same size as the 42,000-year-old infant mummy woolly mammoth “Lyuba” discovered in Siberia in 2007.

Geologists from the Yukon Geological Survey and University of Calgary who recovered the frozen mammoth on site suggest that Nun cho ga died and was frozen in permafrost during the ice age, more than 30,000 years old.

“These amazing ice age remains provide an extremely detailed glimpse into a time when Nun cho ga roamed the Yukon along side wild horses, cave lions and giant steppe bison,” the two governments said.

The discovery of Nun cho ga marks the first near-complete and best-preserved mummified woolly mammoth found in North America. A partial mammoth calf, named Effie, was found in 1948 at a gold mine in interior Alaska. 

“Nun cho ga is the most complete mummified mammoth found in North America,” the statement said.

“In the months to come, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the Government of Yukon will work together to respectfully preserve and learn more about Nun cho ga and share these stories and information with the community of Dawson City, residents of the Yukon and the global scientific community.”

It didn’t take long for various politicians and scientists to comment on the exciting find.

Yukon paleontologist Dr. Grant Zazula said, “As an ice age palaeontologist, it has been one of my life-long dreams to come face-to-face with a real woolly mammoth. That dream came true today.

“Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world. I am excited to get to know her more.”

An excited Zazula spoke to the Star this morning about the find.

He said it’s more common to find such specimens in Siberia than in the Yukon and Alaska simply due to difference in terrain.

Most of the frozen and mummifed mammoths in Sibera come out of flat tundra locations where standing water, such as ponds, were more common. That made it easier for mammoths to be entombed in shoreline habitats after they likely drowned.

That kind of habitat was much less common in North America in Alaska and the Yukon, which is more rugged.

In this case, initial theories suggest the mammoth calf, which was approximately one month old, became trapped and drowned along the shoreline of the creek, possibly after being separated from its mother. It was quickly covered and frozen after it died.

It was found entombed under a layer of volcanic ash that has been studied fairly well.

The calf was fortuitously found by a miner, explained Zazula and Debbie Nagano of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. He was using a loader to scoop up the rick black clay and muck in the area, when he spotted the mammoth.

“The past couple of days have been the most incredible days of my life,” Zazula said. “I’ve always dreamed of looking at a mammoth face-to-face.

“It’s a deeply powerful and moving experience for Indigenous people to find something like this, and it’s an incredible day in the Yukon. Nothing like this has been found in North America before.”

“It’s a very profound experience,” Nagano added. That sentiment was shared by others.

“There will be one thing that stands out in a person’s entire life, and I can guarantee you this is my one thing,” said Brian McCaughan of Treadstone Mining.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Peggy Kormendy added, “It’s amazing. It took my breath away when they removed the tarp.

“We must all treat it with respect. When that happens, it is going to be powerful and we will heal. We must, as a people.”

Tourism and Culture Minister Ranj Pillai said the territory “has always been an internationally renowned leader for ice age and Beringia research.

“We are thrilled about this significant discovery of a mummified woolly mammoth calf. Without strong partnerships between placer miners, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, and the Yukon government, discoveries like this could not happen.” 

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph also commented on the discovery.

“This is as a remarkable recovery for our First Nation, and we look forward to collaborating with the Yukon government on the next steps in the process for moving forward with these remains in a way that honours our traditions, culture, and laws,” she said.

“We are thankful for the elders who have been guiding us so far and the name they provided. We are committed to respectfully handling Nun cho ga as she has chosen now to reveal herself to all of us.”

Brooke Rudolf, the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association’s executive director, said the association “is thrilled about this incredible discovery.

“We are proud to work with responsible placer miners, like the McCaughan family, that regularly contribute to the Yukon’s paleontological record through their work.

“We extend thanks to Brian and Sharon and the crew, as well as Yukon’s Paleontology Program and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in for coming together so quickly to preserve and celebrate this rare find.”

Comments (30)

Up 9 Down 7

MITCH on Jun 28, 2022 at 3:31 pm

@ Bonanza Joe - hey, it happens, thanks for being honest. The Chinese merchant marines were among the first to grow oranges at sea. So, you aren't alone in your interest in Chinese discoveries coming east across the Pacific. Always seemed curious to me that Han is a dialect in the region and that the coast is so close and the naval journey, fairly direct. I mean, Russia came here, the Inuit came here, the Vikings came here - the Chinese are not fools at sea and never were. I make no assertions, would love to hear from some Elders or first nations in the know.

And folks, I respect your feelings about this discovery having a first nations name, in their region, with their help and their knowledge I am sure was a contributing factor in the discovery. Fantastic opportunity for all involved. I take issue with the populism, not the intent. I do however, remind all that scientific discoveries are named after the discoverers so as to credit them or identify the discovery by terminology, not as a means of inclusion - this will only serve to foster further division in the face of no real action moving forward TOGETHER.

If you dug up a mammoth in my yard, I wouldn't call it trailer park or Bennie the Mammoth, I would call it the discovery of a nearly preserved Elephas primigenius - as the French naturalist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach misidentified it as an Asian variant of the Elephant. I wouldn't let you name it to acknowledge me either, it is already named.

Gunalchéesh ax een yéi jeeneiyí.

Up 13 Down 3

Marie on Jun 28, 2022 at 1:23 pm

@ Patti

When I read your posts it gives me the impression that you are likely out of touch with reality.

Up 7 Down 7

BNR1 not BnR on Jun 28, 2022 at 2:06 am

@whoever replied to me...

I'm pretty pretty sure we don't have reserves here. Relative to your comment, we have settlement land, traditional territories and Communities with humans living in them. If you have seen an area that seems like it needs some upkeep, bend over and pick up some garbage like everyone learns to do as a child. If you see someone's yard looks worse than you think it should look, mind your own business.

As for a discovery such as this, it's great if Elders and Knowledge Keepers are finally included. No one is claiming to own a baby mammoth. It has a name and care is being taken with input from multiple groups. That's how thing should be. The article may include some creative fluff making of what actually happened and that was my point. Media is media, not truth. Unfortunately we can only guess.

Up 7 Down 7

bonanzajoe on Jun 27, 2022 at 8:29 pm

@Patti Eyre. Like the old US Marine Colonel said, "you can't handle the truth".

Up 15 Down 8

drum on Jun 27, 2022 at 7:41 pm

I am fed up with the minority ruling the majority. Time to try a different Government who will listen to the majority.

Up 4 Down 3

MITCH on Jun 27, 2022 at 4:51 pm

On the point of ruining things; When Manitoba rescinds their appropriation of Canada Day, I will consider your points made, appropriately. Until then, your points are racism masked as ignorance - sucks to be only human, doesn't it?

Up 18 Down 11

MITCH on Jun 27, 2022 at 4:07 pm

@ Observer - if by that, you mean we are being renamed by political identity politics, then yes, I suppose I am going the way of "Bennie the mammoth". I am calling it that now and that is how I identify it. I am offended that you have tried to put me in a group.
Meanwhile - the fossil predates first nations. The fossil was probably named something in its natural language, not a token first nations name to seem edgy. Edgy doesn't prevent freezing to death during an ice age. Neither does being woke. I bet colonists killed that mammoth because it wouldn't comply right?

Up 6 Down 13

bonanzajoe on Jun 27, 2022 at 3:56 pm

Sorry Mitch, I gave you a thumbs down by mistake. You are right on the beam.

Up 21 Down 10

bonanzajoe on Jun 27, 2022 at 3:52 pm

@iBrian. After doing some serious history research, I am fully of the belief that the Chinese were here in this area hundreds of years before the FN were. They did leave their mark in many areas, particularly Old Crow. I knew a Chinese immigrant 38 years ago that was so amazed that some of the people of OC resembled Chinese, he actually thought they were from China. The assimilation was so great, he couldn't believe it. There was a time when the Chinese were great explorers that constructed large ships and went up along the coast of South and North America. They left their marks.

Up 17 Down 21

Patti Eyre on Jun 27, 2022 at 1:41 pm

I’m with Ken Bolton, it’s sad to see these vitriolic posts. Josie and bonanzajo, go spread your hate somewhere else!

Up 31 Down 17

Ken Bolton on Jun 27, 2022 at 12:23 pm

The gratuitous disparagement of First Nations involvement in this event is deplorable. There also was no Yukon Government at the time. Can't we simply celebrate a remarkable discovery that adds to the world's scientific knowledge, without wallowing in cheap politics? Special thanks to the McCaughan family.

Up 30 Down 8

Groucho d'North on Jun 27, 2022 at 10:31 am

Knowledge belongs to mankind, By who or why these discoveries are made is mute. We all have an opportunity to learn and develop by sharing what is found from long ago, but it seems the Aboriginal brand is being applied to everything in our natural world with some indication of ownership. For matters such as the discovery of Kwaday Dan Ts ìnchi, it is fully and completely within the aboriginal ownership and their directions to learn from the discovery to ensure we are respecting the honor this gentleman deserved. An ancient baby mammal is different.
Its not about ownership, its about confirming the previously unknown.

Up 6 Down 21

MITCH on Jun 27, 2022 at 9:26 am

You would think there would be more important archaeological priorities right now, given the accusations in Canada of genocide. I donated 250 dollars to Kamloops, and it wasn't to dig up mammoths. If I accused you of killing my kin, you would ask me to prove it. I ask for no less.

Up 13 Down 3

MITCH on Jun 27, 2022 at 8:36 am

Awesome

Up 18 Down 22

Observer on Jun 26, 2022 at 9:25 pm

Some of the comments here are just plain sad and completely out of line. The only thing that gives me hope for the future is that there are fewer and fewer that share that sort of view of the world. Those sad few are going the way of Nun cho ga.

Up 27 Down 18

@BNR on Jun 26, 2022 at 1:00 pm

Hi BNR, you wrote:
"When it comes to First Nations governments we need to be respecting the knowledge and spirituality that exists within the culture. Decisions that take this knowledge into account are going to result in the care needed for our land and planet as a whole."

Do you actually believe this, are you that naive?
Go look at the state of reserves and what the majority look like, the care of the land as you say is non existent.

Up 18 Down 36

BNR on Jun 26, 2022 at 10:45 am

This article reads of two governments as equals determining how this discovery will proceed. I hope that the text does reflect reality. It's about time we respect all governments present in this territory. When it comes to First Nations governments we need to be respecting the knowledge and spirituality that exists within the culture. Decisions that take this knowledge into account are going to result in the care needed for our land and planet as a whole. And if it's truly happening as this article reads, it is also a step toward the concept of reconciliation, not just ticking the box of Reconciliation.

Up 32 Down 12

iBrian on Jun 26, 2022 at 6:26 am

@ Josey Wales on Jun 24, 2022 at 8:07 pm
Your talking about Zheng He, yes, he was a Cartographer who mapped the Yukon River, Stewart, Pelly and Porcupine Rivers around 1385-1435AD. The Chinese explorer stated they saw no sign of inhabitants. Left many behind to set up a settlement.
Han is the majority of Chinese people, and they were also explorers. Which we now get Han FN. genetically and culturally they are identical with a few changes over time as the Han adapted to the Yukon climate.
It is sad, actually Pathetic that this great discovery got too Politicized. Just shows how far people are willing to lie.

Great discovery for science.

Up 21 Down 21

Wilf Carter on Jun 25, 2022 at 11:43 pm

Why don't some liberals believe in real science instead of trying to control what we need to know? Wow!!

Up 26 Down 1

Bob Wilson on Jun 25, 2022 at 9:05 pm

Nice story. I was just in the Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta and found the find amazing and in line with the Museum. A look back in time here in Canada.
When I was a Mountie in Whitehorse I had occasion to protect a Mamouth Tusk being shipped out of Yukon.
This story reminded me of that event back in the late 70’s

Up 32 Down 23

drum on Jun 25, 2022 at 3:40 pm

Way before the First Nations were here!!!!! Why has it anything to do with them. They came over the Beringa road from Mongolia way before this animal was here.

Up 51 Down 18

Huh? on Jun 25, 2022 at 3:32 pm

"“In the months to come, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the Government of Yukon will work together to respectfully preserve and learn more about Nun cho ga and share these stories and information with the community of Dawson City, residents of the Yukon and the global scientific community.""

What does this have to do with the FN's in the Klondike. They didn't excavate it, they weren't looking for it, they weren't even here when the thing died, they were still in Siberia. Why do they get to name it? Huh?

Oh right, "traditional territory" what a crock.

Up 48 Down 10

Local Man on Jun 25, 2022 at 1:51 pm

“We must all treat it with respect. When that happens, it is going to be powerful and we will heal. We must, as a people.”

Not sure how a pre-FN animal will do that, but okay. Thank you and congrats to the miners for their amazing find on their property.

Up 23 Down 34

Wilf Carter on Jun 25, 2022 at 11:42 am

This shows the earth is always evolving over time as it is now. All this talk about climate change warming of the earth, carbon tax is only political posturing by politicians to control voters thinking and create fear-mongering to get them to vote for them. Then you people who just want to make money of the fear-mongering and control your buying habits, and we've got to stand up for what's right not that BS.

Up 58 Down 5

Yukoner '71 on Jun 25, 2022 at 8:29 am

Nice to see miners continue their work which includes these discoveries that benefit the entire world let alone Yukon.

Up 23 Down 2

Leah on Jun 24, 2022 at 9:51 pm

How much does he weigh? How big is he? It's hard to figure.

Up 61 Down 26

Josey Wales on Jun 24, 2022 at 8:07 pm

So this wee creature died 20 000 years before the “natives” migrated from Asia...but this is a native thing? Equity Science I suppose?
Yes very cool find, but absolutely ripe with politicized nonsense.
Yeah it would be cool insight to a time before political opportunism both colonial and neo traditional infected each and every aspect of our current world.
Very dark that wee thing, why not name her Trudy, Castro or Justine?
Figured if this article can be rife with political crap, so too will be my participation today.

Up 43 Down 36

bonanzajoe on Jun 24, 2022 at 5:09 pm

Has the indigenous people ever found anything on their own? Are they even looking or trying? How come they get to name it? I think it should be named Snuffleupagus. Well, even Justin Trudeau would be nice.

Up 29 Down 8

Nathan Living on Jun 24, 2022 at 5:03 pm

This is a wonderful discovery.
These mammoths were sentient ice age mammals which deserve our respect. Let's not see a rush to use this animals DNA to recreate mammoths.
Let's chill a little and develop a respectful research plan.

Up 67 Down 6

Madeline A. Bruce on Jun 24, 2022 at 4:50 pm

What a thrilling discovery, which gives us a window into how different the face of the earth was more than 30,000 years ago.

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