Old Crow’s part time archeologist

Allan Benjamin was in a hurry Saturday morning, that's why he ignored the human corpse.

Allan Benjamin was in a hurry Saturday morning, that’s why he ignored the human corpse.

He assumed it was only a white rock he saw sticking out of the bank of the Porcupine River and canoed past on his way to cut the grass at his aunt’s camp.

But when the Weed Wacker broke, he had a bit more time on his hands.

As he came back downriver and saw the round, white spot again, he couldn’t get his grandmother’s words out of his head.

“She showed me that place one time and she said there’s about three graves here,” he said. “So I knew that.”

He decided to bank the canoe, get out and take a look.

“Sure enough, it was a human skull,” he said. “I just took a quick look around and then I located some vertebrae and backbone and what I believe to be a femur bone. I never disturbed anything, I just took a good look, went back to Old Crow and notified the RCMP.”

When Benjamin directed the two RCMP officers to the site, he asked them if they could see the white spot from where he first spotted it on the river.

They couldn’t, he said.

“They call me ‘eagle eyes.’”

The community is blaming climate change and melting permafrost for exposing the remains, which they have identified as ancient.

But no studies were done to find out any more details on who the dead were, or how long they may have been there.

The First Nation followed elders’ instructions to be quick and respectful in dealing with them.

“The remains were relocated and buried yesterday near their original resting place with a proper traditional ceremony from our spiritual leaders,” said a news release issued by the Vuntut Gwitchin government this week.

“I did the right thing,” Benjamin said of his conscientious effort not to disturb anything and to notify the community right away. “But it was kind of strange.”

On the Saturday he found the bones, it was a nice, sunny day, perfect for paddling, he said.

“But when I discovered it, it started raining and wind just came up,” he said. “It was like that for three days – windy and raining. When they buried it, it calmed down and there was sunshine again.

“So I think they did the right thing too.”

Benjamin has lived in Old Crow all of his life. The well-known fiddler, snowshoer and cartoonist is 54 years old now and works at the Old Crow airport, although this experience has made him think about going back to school.

“I’m a part-time archeologist,” he said, laughing.

“But it is pretty significant,” he added earnestly. “It was quite the experience for me.”

There are a number of ancient burial locations in the Vuntut Gwich’in’s traditional territory that the community is aware of, the government’s news release said.

“We are working towards protecting these sacred areas from future disturbances.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read