The Yakuts are a Turkic-speaking population from northeastern Siberia who are believed to have originated from ancient Turkic populations in South Siberia, based on archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence. In order to better understand Yakut origins, we modeled 25 demographic scenarios and tested by coalescent simulation whether any are consistent with the patterns of mtDNA diversity observed in present-day Yakuts. The models consist of either two simulated demes that represent Yakuts and a South Siberian ancestral population, or three demes that also include a regional Northeast Siberian population that served as a source of local gene flow into the Yakut deme. The model that produced the best fit to the observed data defined a founder group with an effective female population size of only 150 individuals that migrated northwards approximately 1,000 years BP and who experienced significant admixture with neighboring populations in Northeastern Siberia. These simulation results indicate a pronounced founder effect that was primarily kin-structured and reconcile reported discrepancies between Yakut mtDNA and Y chromosome diversity levels. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.