“We didn’t stumble upon this person,” Bill Hanlon shares. “We were meant to find him, my slideshow will reveal why.”
The Trail native still recalls that extraordinary day 18 years ago when he spotted bones protruding from a glacier in Tatshenshini/Alsek Provincial Park in the northwest corner of B.C.
“The air was electric at the time so we knew we had come across something out of the ordinary,” Hanlon recounted to the Trail Times.
He was hunting for Thinhorn sheep with two buddies, Mike Roch and Warren Ward of Nelson, in August of 1999. They were skirting the end of a glacier and began to notice sticks, which Hanlon says was odd because the group was in a land of rock and ice.
“We soon realized the sticks were artifacts and moments later, Warren noticed a smudge up on the edge of a wall of ice above us,” he reminisced.
The unusual sight turned out to be another clue that something profound lay beneath – it was a fur cloak worn some 400 years ago by an ancient hunter known today as Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi, which translates to Long Ago Person Found.
“What he had noticed was Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi’s clothing,” said Hanlon. “That turned out to be his fur robe that was made from arctic ground squirrels,” he continued. “I scrambled up onto the ice to take a closer look and that is when I noticed, not far from the robe, a human pelvis protruding from the ice.”
(From left; Bill Hanlon, Warren Ward and Mike Roch)
That is only the beginning of the group’s fascinating story of Long Ago Person Found, Hanlon has been back to the discovery site three times since, most recently in 2014.
He’s been guest speaker at gatherings from Alaska to Nevada and Red Deer to Pincher Creek and many places in between.
Now, for the first time, Hanlon is bringing his riveting story and slideshow to Trail on Thursday, March 2 in the Muriel Griffiths Room.
“You’re going to have to attend my presentation to get the rest of the story,” he hinted. “I assure you won’t believe it.”
Titled “Archaeology and the Hunt: How a Dall sheep hunt turned into a life changing discovery of Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi,” Hanlon will share his story of discovery and the scientific studies that followed, including efforts to locate living relatives of the ancient iceman.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the presentation will start at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation, with proceeds going to the Trail Wildlfe Association and the West Kootenay Big Game Trophy Association.
All these years later, the incredible find continues to captivate audiences throughout Canada and the United States because of its uniqueness and rareness, says Hanlon.
Long Ago Person Found is one of only two glacier mummies every found.
In 1991, Ötzi the Iceman was found in the the Central Eastern Alps of Austria/Italy. Then eight years later, Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi, the oldest organically preserved remains ever found in the Americas.
“The story continues to grow,” Hanlon said. “And I meet more interesting people because of the discovery, requests for my slide presentation become more frequent.”
Because the original find took place during a hunting expedition, it is various hunting organizations like the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, that want to keep the story alive, he added.
“I also get requests to speak at numerous schools in the region for their aboriginal education and science classes on climate change,” said Hanlon. “My family, most of who still live in Trail, have been pestering me to come home and tell the story.”
(Above; Bill Hanlon moments before the discovery)