First Nation’s DNA & Tribal Membership

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The first thing you need to know is that with the overwhelming evidence (not) someone like Elizabeth Warren has pointing to First Nation’s DNA, there is what is called a FALSE POSITIVE.

“…The concept of genetic testing to prove Native American ancestry is one that is discussed more frequently in recent times, but there are many problems with the idea.Å Perhaps foremost of these problems is that to make a genetic test the arbiter of whether someone is Native American or not is to give up tribal sovereign ability to determine membership and relations.Å But even taken on their own scientific terms, the tests cannot do much to identify who is and who is not Native American. This is because they yield many false negatives and false positives (they readily misidentify non-Native people as Native, and misidentify Native people as non-Native), and the positive results they do yield at best are only probabilities, not certainties.Å If these were medical diagnostic tests, they would never be approved or adopted…”

But the most important argument against this type of testing to establish tribal affiliations is that biology (and genetics) track just part of our tribal inheritance. These DNA tests treat ÒNative American biology as though all Indians were essentially the same. But in reality, our traditions make us who we are, not just our biology.

My nephew-in-law is a registered member of a specific First Nation’s tribe here in the United States, inheriting his ancestry from his mother.  His family recently registered Evelyn Sage, who is pushing two-and-a-half.  In order to receive registered tribal membership, a person must be able to prove their genealogy.  There is a substantive difference between taking a DNA test, which basically proves very little, and having actual provable ancestry.

This is where I could do a rant and rave about these stupid Ancestry DNA tests, but why bother.  All it does is tell you a few genetic markers. It DOES not prove ancestry.  It will NEVER get you into the DAR.  It doesn’t do much of anything.  There is a difference between an ancestry DNA test and genetic testing to prove parentage.

The various articles spewing forth gushing accolades about Elizabeth Warren‘s DNA are a joke.  There is a reason the whole thing is political and not scientific.  According to the DNA report, her bloodlines were cross-studied with Native populations from Utah. If you know anything about our First Nation’s populations you would know that the groups in & around Utah are Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Comanche.  Warren claims to have Cherokee ancestry.  I grew up in South Carolina.  A huge segment of the population has very real Cherokee ancestry.  Why did the ‘specialist’ not use established DNA databases from Ancestry where people have identified themselves as Cherokee?

I smell a rat.

Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante, is a liberal activist who says that he has no real database of actual First Nation’s DNA to use because he states people who are Native American don’t want their DNA profiled.  His patronizing racism harkens back to the days when everyone said primitive Indians would not allow photos because they were so backward.  Various tribes do different things, and it is NOT about being anti-science, but tied up in legalities.  If the DNA profile is correct, Warren DOES NOT have Cherokee ancestry as she claims. Thing is, contrary to what Bustamante has said, there is a way to profile for genetic markers pointing to Cherokee.  Warren has NONE of those markers.

Bustamante spews the Ancestry.com party lie about First Nations DNA tests.  The following is from the American Indian & Alaskan Native Genetic Research Center.  Now, if you read what Bustamante days, we can assume such a group does not exist, but it does.  Why did Warren not reference them?

“…As research generates more information, some genetic markers, such as SNPs, appear more commonly in some populations than others. However, these genetic markers do not reflect all of the genetic information in a person’s ancestry. With genetic ancestry testing, there are limits to the information available for AI/AN individuals because there are few samples from the AI/AN population in the current databases being used for these tests. Further, these tests do not provide information about all of a person’s ancestors. Kim TallBear describes this limitation well in her articles, including an explanation of how a person with AI/AN ancestry may not show up on a genetic test as AI/AN, or may be told they are of East Asian or other descent (TallBear 2003, TallBear and Bolnick 2004).  Brett Shelton and Jonathan Marks have also described thelimits of DNA testing with respect to Native identity. There is also some concern, highlighted by Marks and Shelton, thatboth false positives and false negatives occur in these tests. In other words, genetic ancestry testing using AIMs is not totally accurate or precise. With this testing, an individual can be misidentified as AI/AN even if they do not have the genetic markers that are more common among AI/AN peoples. On the other hand, an individual could be misidentified as non-AI/AN even if they do have the genetic markers found more often in AI/AN groups. For this reason, genetic ancestry testing can be viewed as just one piece of a larger puzzle about an individual’s ancestry. Other tools should be used to fill in the information throughout the puzzle, or the enrollment application. Kenneth Weiss and Jeffrey Long highlight that “not many documented single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are useful [ancestry informative markers]….For example, an AIM intended to reveal Native American ancestry may also be common in East Asians, and not private after all.”  These authors conclude that “Although DNA data have the aura of providing definitive answers to population and individual ancestry questions, they require careful interpretation in terms of both the laws of inheritance and the evolutionary process. Untrained individuals, and even some professionals, will have a difficult time reconciling the nuances of interpretation with the bottom-line aura that DNA carries” (Weiss and Long 2009). Thus, scholars have argued that genetic ancestry tests should be interpreted with caution, especially because there is currently not enough data from AI/AN populations to make specific claims to ancestry based on genetic testing.…”

Bottom line – there is no real test to do what Elizabeth Warren says she has done.  Some tribes use DNA testing, others do not.

 

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