Genetic Crossroads

The intersection of biotechnology, reproduction and society

Native American DNA Testing

The question of who belongs to what Native American tribe is rife with political, social, and legal implications. Do DNA ancestry tests provide answers or add another layer of misunderstanding? Read More

This is the current rank with

This is the current rank with regard to *Indians.*

1. Enrolled Indians with US federal tribes
2. State recognized tribes
3. People with legitimate American Indian ancestry though cannot fully document this (common in the Southeast US in small numbers).
4. People who claim such ancestry with unequivocally no proof and most likely have no such ancestry.
5. Interlopers and wannabes

I see these debates so often on many forums. Enrolled tribal members vs. non-enrolled. I agree that tribes need to protect their integrity from *fake* tribes but need to be a little more delicate to people who may have genuine ancestry but simply cannot fully document it. I tend to think undocumented ancestry is less common though it does exists. I’m sure the Indian Removal was a lot of mayhem and not every Indian who avoided the move was ever enumerated after this, most were but surely many were not. I think a better job was done in OK.

I saw a post from a tribal member on this forum;

“Even if the person is 100% fullblooded Indian, we don’t’ consider them Indian if they are not enrolled!”

Now I can understand the argument they may not be recognized by a tribal nation if not enrolled and I’m not into this Pan-Indianism, but pray tell me, what ethnicity does this 100% Fullblooded not enrolled Indian person become? They are still biologically Indigenous? Yes? That person has every right to say they are Indian. They may not be able to identify with a tribe but they are Indian. In all honestly, I doubt there are wandering fullbloods unless they were adopted.

The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma for example. This, one of three Cherokee federally recognized tribe in Tahlequah Oklahoma, unlike other tribes, they currently enroll members of all blood quantum. Many of its members are Cherokee by descent of a Cherokee ancestor on the Dawes. You have many people in that nation that are of other primary ethnicities but they share a common Cherokee heritage. You do have those of more BQ, but they are far and few compared to others. Most of their members are not pressured to marry within the nation, compared to a tribe that puts a strict 1/4 BQ. A child (1/4) marrying outside that tribe, their children, will be 1/8, may not be eligible for enrollment as long as the BQ is rigid.

With that being said, DNA testing has been interesting. For those that don’t know, it will detect markers from groups such as European, African, Native American/East Asian, South Asian (India). Since Native Americans share close genomic structure with Asians, seeing East Asian is common as well.
With 23andme for example, you have people with the Cherokee Blood Myth by the hordes with the same silly stories…. who are testing and guess what, most come back 100% European or with no evidence of Native American ancestry. Even with their claimed 100% Fullblooded great grandma that looks Native American who in essence, looks European. I have only seen a handful of people of European ancestry show any evidence of Native American ancestry. Some people have Native American and are surprised.
I have seen results in tribal, enrolled members and Native American is correctly identified. If you have it at least with a 3rd/ 4th great grandparent, it will show. Remember, you can have documented ancestry more distant but the test cannot go beyond that.

Though DNA testing is still new, it’s getting more accuracy. It is good enough at this point to verify *Cherokee Blood Myth* stories. Meaning it will tell you if you have any genetic evidence (not ruling out genealogical) of a Native American Ancestor.

With that being said, I think Native American ancestry is not common, whether documented or not. However,

i have lots of questions and

i have lots of questions and no answers. i want to prove everything i have been told. i have been told i have native american blood in me. but i was told it was 3 different kinds. how hard is it to prove which 3 it is. i live TX. my mothers mother is from TX and said to be Apache and Comanche. my bio fathers family is said to have settled the Appalachian mountains in Tenn area and said to have married native Americans. his family is originally from Germany. that is allot to take , but still how hard is it to prove and how much percentage is it to be a registered tribe member.

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Jessica Cussins is a researcher at the Center for Genetics and Society.


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