The Nivkhi are a native people isolated in the Nogliki region of Sakhalin, Far East Russia, where our group recently recognized human T-cell lymphoma virus type I (HTLV-I) infection. In order to trace the Nivkhi's ethnic background and the HTLV-I carriers, we investigated HLA class I and II allele types of 53 Nivkhi (including four HTLV-I carriers). Major HLA class I alleles of the Nivkhi were A*24, A*02, B*40, B*48, B*27, B*35 with allele frequencies similar to the Orochon, a native people isolated in Northeast China. Major Nivkhi class II alleles were DRB1*0901, DRB1*1401, DRB1*1201, DRB1*1106 with allele frequencies similar to the Ainu in Hokkaido, Japan, but dissimilar to other Asian Mongoloids, including the general Japanese population. The same HLA class I and II allele frequencies are found in both Nivkhi HTLV-I carriers and the background population. A dendrogram of HLA class I alleles showed that the Nivkhi were closely related to the Orochon and Yakut, and remotely related to the Japanese, Ainu and other Asian Mongoloids. Interestingly, the Nivkhi were intermediately related to the Amerindians (Inuit, Tlingit and Andeans), a relationship closer than to the Japanese and Asian Mongoloids. These results suggested the Nivkhi might be related to some genetic group of Northeast Asian Mongoloids like the Orochon and Yakut, being infected with HTLV-I in the distant past before diverging into the current major Mongoloid ethnic groups.