Some Native Americans Had Oceanic Ancestors

This week has seen a flurry of new scientific and news articles.  What has been causing such a stir?  It appears that Australian or more accurately, Australo-Melanese DNA has been found in South America’s Native American population. In addition, it has also been found in Aleutian Islanders off the coast of Alaska.  In case you aren’t aware, that’s about 8,500 miles as the crow flies.  That’s one tired crow.  As the person paddles or walks along the shoreline, it’s even further, probably about 12,000 miles.

Aleutians to Brazil

Whatever the story, it was quite a journey and it certainly wasn’t all over flat land.

This isn’t the first inkling we’ve had.  Just a couple weeks ago, it was revealed that the Botocudo remains from Brazil were Polynesian and not admixed with either Native, European or African.  This admixture was first discovered via mitochondrial DNA, but full genome sequencing confirmed their ancestry and added the twist that they were not admixed – an extremely unexpected finding.  This is admittedly a bit confusing, because it implies that there were new Polynesian arrivals in the 1600s or 1700s.

Unlikely as it seems, it obviously happened, so we set that aside as relatively contemporary.

The findings in the papers just released are anything but contemporary.

The First Article

The first article in Science, “Genomic evidence for the Pleistocene and recent population history of Native Americans” by Raghaven et al published this week provides the following summary (bolding is mine):

How and when the Americas were populated remains contentious. Using ancient and modern genome-wide data, we find that the ancestors of all present-day Native Americans, including Athabascans and Amerindians, entered the Americas as a single migration wave from Siberia no earlier than 23 thousand years ago (KYA), and after no more than 8,000-year isolation period in Beringia. Following their arrival to the Americas, ancestral Native Americans diversified into two basal genetic branches around 13 KYA, one that is now dispersed across North and South America and the other is restricted to North America. Subsequent gene flow resulted in some Native Americans sharing ancestry with present-day East Asians (including Siberians) and, more distantly, Australo-Melanesians. Putative ‘Paleoamerican’ relict populations, including the historical Mexican Pericúes and South American Fuego-Patagonians, are not directly related to modern Australo-Melanesians as suggested by the Paleoamerican Model.

This article in EurekAlert and a second one here discuss the Science paper.

Raghaven 2015

Migration map from the Raghaven paper.

The paper included the gene flow and population migration map, above, along with dates.

The scientists sequenced the DNA of 31 living individuals from the Americas, Siberia and Oceana as follows:

Siberian:

  • Altai – 2
  • Buryat – 2
  • Ket – 2
  • Kiryak – 2
  • Sakha – 2
  • Siberian Yupik – 2

North American Native:

  • Tsimshian (number not stated, but by subtraction, it’s 1)

Southern North American, Central and South American Native:

  • Pima – 1
  • Huichol -1
  • Aymara – 1
  • Yakpa – 1

Oceana:

  • Papuan – 14

The researchers also state that they utilized 17 specimens from relict groups such as the Pericues from Mexico and Fuego-Patagonians from the southernmost tip of South America.  They also sequenced two pre-Columbian mummies from the Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico.  In total, 23 ancient samples from the Americas were utilized.

They then compared these results with a reference panel of 3053 individuals from 169 populations which included the ancient Saqqaq Greenland individual at 400 years of age as well as the Anzick child from Montana from about 12,500 years ago and the Mal’ta child from Siberia at 24,000 years of age.

Not surprisingly, all of the contemporary samples with the exception of the Tsimshian genome showed recent western Eurasian admixture.

As expected, the results confirm that the Yupik and Koryak are the closest Eurasian population to the Americas.  They indicate that there is a “clean split” between the Native American population and the Koryak about 20,000 years ago.

They found that “Athabascans and Anzick-1, but not the Greenlandis Inuit and Saqqaq belong to the same initial migration wave that gave rise to present-day Amerindians from southern North America and Central and South America, and that this migration likely followed a coastal route, given our current understanding of the glacial geological and paleoenvironmental parameters of the Late Pleistocene.”

Evidence of gene flow between the two groups was also found, meaning between the Athabascans and the Inuit.  Additionally, they found evidence of post-split gene flow between Siberians and Native Americans which seems to have stopped about 12,000 years ago, which meshes with the time that the Beringia land bridge was flooded by rising seas, cutting off land access between the two land masses.

They state that the results support all Native migration from Siberia, contradicting claims of an early migration from Europe.

The researchers then studied the Karitiana people of South America and determined that the two groups, Athabascans and Karitiana diverged about 13,000 years ago, probably not in current day Alaska, but in lower North America.  This makes sense, because the Clovis Anzick child, found in Montana, most closely matches people in South America.

By the Clovis period of about 12,500 years ago, the Native American population had already split into two branches, the northern and southern, with the northern including Athabascan and other groups such as the Chippewa, Cree and Ojibwa.  The Southern group included people from southern North America and Central and South America.

Interestingly, while admixture with the Inuit was found with the Athabascan, Inuit admixture was not found among the Cree, Ojibwa and Chippewa.  The researchers suggest that this may be why the southern branch, such as the Karitiana are genetically closer to the northern Amerindians located further east than to northwest coast Amerindians and Athabascans.

Finally, we get to the Australian part.  The researchers when trying to sort through the “who is closer to whom” puzzle found unexpected results.  They found that some Native American populations including Aleutian Islanders, Surui (Brazil) and Athabascans are closer to Australo-Melanesians compared to other Native Americans, such as Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquian and South American Purepecha (Mexico), Arhuaco (Colombia) and Wayuu (Colombia, Venezuela).  In fact, the Surui are one of the closest populations to East Asians and Australo-Melanese, the latter including Papuans, non-Papuan Melanesians, Solomon Islanders and hunter-gatherers such as Aeta. The researchers acknowledge these are weak trends, but they are nonetheless consistently present.

Dr. David Reich, from Harvard, a co-author of another paper, also published this past week, says that 2% of the DNA of Amazonians is from Oceana.  If that is consistent, it speaks to a founder population in isolation, such that the 2% just keeps getting passed around in the isolated population, never being diluted by outside DNA.  I would suggest that is not a weak signal.

The researchers suggest that the variance in the strength of this Oceanic signal suggests that the introduction of the Australo-Melanese occurred after the initial peopling of the Americas.  The ancient samples cluster with the Native American groups and do not show the Oceanic markers and show no evidence of gene flow from Oceana.

The researchers also included cranial morphology analysis, which I am omitting since cranial morphology seems to have led researchers astray in the past, specifically in the case of Kennewick man.

One of the reasons cranial morphology is such a hotly debated topic is because of the very high degree of cranial variance found in early skeletal remains.  One of the theories evolving from the cranial differences involving the populating of the Americans has been that the Australo-Melanese were part of a separate and earlier migration that gave rise to the earliest Americans who were then later replaced by the Asian ancestors of current day Native Americans.  If this were the case, then the now-extinct Fuego-Patagonains samples from the location furthest south on the South American land mass should have included DNA from Oceana, but it didn’t.

The Second Article

A second article published this week, titled “’Ghost population’ hints at long lost migration to the Americas” by Ellen Callaway discusses similar findings, presented in a draft letter to Nature titled “Genetic evidence for two founding populations of the Americas” by Skoglund et al.  This second group discovers the same artifact Australo-Melanesian DNA in Native American populations but suggests that it may be from the original migration and settlement event or that there may have been two distinct founding populations that settled at the same time or that there were two founding events.

EurekAlert discusses the article as well.

It’s good to have confirmation and agreement between the two labs who happened across these results independently that the Australo-Melanesian DNA is present in some Native populations today.

Their interpretations and theories about how this Oceanic DNA arrived in some of the Native populations vary a bit, but if you read the details, it’s really not quite as different as it first appears from the headlines.  Neither group claims to know for sure, and both discuss possibilities.

Questions remain.  For example, if the founding group was small, why, then, don’t all of the Native people and populations have at least some Oceanic markers?  The Anzick Child from 12,500 years ago does not.  He is most closely related to the tribes in South America, where the Oceanic markers appear with the highest frequencies.

In the Harvard study, the scientists fully genome sequenced 63 individuals without discernable evidence of European or African ancestors in 21 Native American populations, restricting their study to individuals from Central and South America that have the strongest evidence of being entirely derived from a homogenous First American ancestral population.

Their results show that the two Amazonian groups, Surui and Karitians are closest to the “Australasian populations, the Onge from the Andaman Island in the Bay of Bengal (a so-called ‘Negrito’ group), New Guineans, Papuans and indigenous Australians.”  Within those groups, the Australasian populations are the only outliers – meaning no Africans, Europeans or East Asian DNA found in the Native American people.

When repeating these tests, utilizing blood instead of saliva, a third group was shown to also carry these Oceanic markers – the Xavante, a population from the Brazilian plateau that speaks a language of the Ge group that is different from the Tupi language group spoke by the Karitians and Surui.

Skoglund 2015-2

The closest populations that these Native people matched in Oceana, shown above on the map from the draft Skoglund letter, were, in order, New Guineans, Papuans and Andamanese.  The researchers further state that populations from west of the Andes or north of the Panama isthmus show no significant evidence of an affinity to the Onge from the Andaman Islands with the exception of the Cabecar (Costa Rica).

That’s a very surprising finding, given that one would expect more admixture on the west, which is the side of the continent where the migration occurred.

The researchers then compared the results with other individuals, such as Mal’ta child who is known to have contributed DNA to the Native people today, and found no correlation with Oceanic DNA.  Therefore, they surmised that the Oceanic admixture cannot be explained by a previously known admixture event.

They propose that a mystery population they have labeled as “Population Y” (after Ypykuera which means ancestor in the Tupi language family) contributed the Australasian lineage to the First Americans and that is was already mixed into the lineage by the time it arrived in Brazil.

According to their work, Population Y may itself have been admixed, and the 2% of Oceanic DNA found in the Brazilian Natives may be an artifact of between 2 and 85% of the DNA of the Surui, Karitiana and Xavante that may have come from Population Y.  They mention that this result is striking in that the majority of the craniums that are more Oceanic in Nature than Asiatic, as would be expected from people who migrated from Siberia, are found in Brazil.

They conclude that the variance in the presence or absence of DNA in Native people and remains, and the differing percentages argue for more than one migration event and that “the genetic ancestry of Native Americans from Central and South America cannot be due to a single pulse of migration south of the Late Pleistocene ice sheets from a homogenous source population, and instead must reflect at least two streams of migration or alternatively a long drawn out period of gene flow from a structured Beringian or Northeast Asian source.”

Perhaps even more interesting is the following statement:

“The arrival of population Y ancestry in the Americas must in any scenario have been ancient: while Population Y shows a distant genetic affinity to Andamanese, Australian and New Guinean populations, it is not particularly closely related to any of them, suggesting that the source of population Y in Eurasia no longer exists.”

They further state they find no admixture indication that would suggest that Population Y arrived in the last few thousand years.

So, it appears that perhaps the Neanderthals and Denisovans were not the only people who were our ancestors, but no longer exist as a separate people, only as an admixed part of us today.  We are their legacy.

The Take Away

When I did the Anzick extractions, we had hints that something of this sort might have been occurring.  For example, I found surprising instances of haplogroup M, which is neither European, African nor Native American, so far as we know today.  This may have been a foreshadowing of this Oceanic admixture.  It may also be a mitochondrial artifact.  Time will tell.  Perhaps haplogroup M will turn out to be Native by virtue of being Oceanic and admixed thousands of years ago.  There is still a great deal to learn.  Regardless of how these haplogroups and Oceanic DNA arrived in Brazil in South America and in the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska, one thing is for sure, it did.

We know that the Oceanic DNA found in the Brazilian people studied for these articles is not contemporary and is ancient.  This means that it is not related to the Oceanic DNA found in the Botocudo people, who, by the way, also sport mitochondrial haplogroups that are within the range of Native people, meaning haplogroup B, but have not been found in other Native people.  Specifically, haplogroups B4a1a1 and B4a1a1a.  Additionally, there are other B4a1a, B4a1b and B4a1b1 results found in the Anzick extract which could also be Oceanic.  You can see all of the potential and confirmed Native American mitochondrial DNA results in my article “Native American Mitochondrial Haplogroups” that I update regularly.

We don’t know how or when the Botocudo arrived, but the when has been narrowed to the 1600s or 1700s.  We don’t know how or when the Oceanic DNA in the Brazilian people arrived either, but the when was ancient.  This means that Oceanic DNA has arrived in South America at least twice and is found among the Native peoples both times.

We know that some Native groups have some Oceanic admixture, and others seem to have none, in particular the Northern split group that became the Cree, Ojibwa, Algonquian, and Chippewa.

We know that the Brazilian Native groups are most closely related to Oceanic groups, but that the first paper also found Oceanic admixture in the Aleutian Islands.  The second paper focused on the Central and South American tribes.

We know that the eastern American tribes, specifically the Algonquian tribes are closely related to the South Americans, but they don’t share the Oceanic DNA and neither do the mid-continent tribes like the Cree, Ojibwa and Chippewa.  The only Paleolithic skeleton that has been sequenced, Anzick, from 12,500 years ago in Montana also does not carry the Oceanic signature.

In my opinion, the disparity between who does and does not carry the Oceanic signature suggests that the source of the Oceanic DNA in the Native population could not have been a member of the first party to exit out of Beringia and settle in what is now the Americas.  Given that this had to be a small party, all of the individuals would have been thoroughly admixed with each other’s ancestral DNA within just a couple of generations.  It would have been impossible for one ancestor’s DNA to only be found in some people.  To me, this argues for one of two scenarios.

First, a second immigration wave that joined the first wave but did not admix with some groups that might have already split off from the original group such as the Anzick/Montana group.

Second, multiple Oceanic immigration events.  We still have to consider the possibility that there were multiple events that introduced Oceanic DNA into the Native population.  In other words, perhaps the Aleutian Islands Oceanic DNA is not from the same migration event as the Brazilian DNA which we know is not from the same event as the Botocudo.  I would very much like to see the Oceanic DNA appear in a migration path of people, not just in one place and then the other.  We need to connect the dots.

What this new information does is to rule out the possibility that there truly was only one wave of migration – one group of people who settled the Americas at one time.  More likely, at least until the land bridge submerged, is that there were multiple small groups that exited Beringia over the 8,000 or so years it was inhabitable.  Maybe one of those groups included people from Oceana.  Someplace, sometime, as unlikely as it seems, it happened.

The amazing thing is that it’s more than 10,000 miles from Australia to the Aleutian Islands, directly across the Pacific.  Early adventurers would have likely followed a coastal route to be sustainable, which would have been significantly longer.  The fact that they survived and sent their DNA on a long adventure from Australia to Alaska to South America – and it’s still present today is absolutely amazing.

Australia to Aleutians

We know we still have a lot to learn and this is the tip of a very exciting iceberg.  As more contemporary and ancient Native people have their full genomes sequenced, we’ll learn more answers.  The answer is in the DNA.  We just have to sequence enough of it and learn how to understand the message being delivered.

Posted in Aboriginal, Alaska Natives, Aleut, Algonquian, Anzick, Archaic Indians, Asia, Athabaskan, Australia, Canada, Chippewa, Clovis, Cree, Denisova, Education, First Nation, History, Kennewick Man, Lake Baikal, Mexico, Micmac, Migration, Montana, Neanderthal, Ojibwa, Origins, Research, South America, Tsimshian | 1 Comment

Among the Cherokee in Flint District in 1872

I found this article quite interesting, written by someone settled among the Cherokee in the Flint District of Indian Territory in1872.  It tells us about their lives and how they lived.  I also find it interesting that the author mentions that “thousands of the Cherokees you cannot tell from white people.”

Cherokee Flint dist

Thanks to Janine for this article from her blog post that includes information about her Cherokee ancestors.

Posted in Cherokee | 8 Comments

Kennewick Man is Native American

Finally, an answer, after almost 20 years and very nearly losing the opportunity of ever knowing.

Today, in Nature, a team of scientists released information about the full genomic sequencing of Kennewick Man who was discovered in 1996 in Washington state.  Previous DNA sequencing attempts had failed, and 8000 year old Kennewick Man was then embroiled in years of legal battles.  Ironically, the only reason DNA testing was allowed is because, based on cranial morphology it was determined that he was likely more closely associated with Asian people or the Auni that the Native American population, and therefore NAGPRA did not apply.  However, subsequent DNA testing has removed all question about Kennewick Man’s history.  He truly is the Ancient One.

Kennewick man is Native American.  His Y haplogroup is Q-M3 and his mitochondrial DNA is X2a – both unquestionably found in the Native American aboriginal population.  His autosomal DNA was analyzed as well, and compared to some current tribes, where available.

From the paper:

We find that Kennewick Man is closer to modern Native Americans than to any other population worldwide. Among the Native American groups for whom genome-wide data are available for comparison, several seem to be descended from a population closely related to that of Kennewick Man, including the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Colville), one of the five tribes claiming Kennewick Man. We revisit the cranial analyses and find that, as opposed to genomic-wide comparisons, it is not possible on that basis to affiliate Kennewick Man to specific contemporary groups. We therefore conclude based on genetic comparisons that Kennewick Man shows continuity with Native North Americans over at least the last eight millennia.

Interestingly enough, the Colville Tribe, located near where Kennewick Man was found, decided to participate in the testing by submitting DNA for comparison.

Kennewick Colville

The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man by Rasmussen, et al, Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature14625

Also from the paper:

Our results are in agreement with a basal divergence of Northern and Central/Southern Native American lineages as suggested from the analysis of the Anzick-1 genome12. However, the genetic affinities of Kennewick Man reveal additional complexity in the population history of the Northern lineage. The finding that Kennewick is more closely related to Southern than many Northern Native Americans (Extended Data Fig. 4) suggests the presence of an additional Northern lineage that diverged from the common ancestral population of Anzick-1 and Southern Native Americans (Fig. 3). This branch would include both Colville and other tribes of the Pacific Northwest such as the Stswecem’c, who also appear symmetric to Kennewick with Southern Native Americans (Extended Data Fig. 4). We also find evidence for additional gene flow into the Pacific Northwest related to Asian populations (Extended Data Fig. 5), which is likely to post-date Kennewick Man. We note that this gene flow could originate from within the Americas, for example in association with the migration of paleo-Eskimos or Inuit ancestors within the past 5 thousand years25, or the gene flow could be post colonial19.

The authors go on to say that Kennewick Man is significiantly different than Anzick Child, which matches closely with many Meso and South American samples.  Kennewick on the other hand, is closely related to the Chippewa and Anzick was not.

This divergence may suggest a population substructure and migration path within the Americas, although I would think significantly more testing of Native people would be in order before a migration path would be able to be determined or even suggested. It is very interesting that Anzick from Montana, 12,500 years ago, would match Meso American samples so closely.  I would have expected Kennewick to perhaps match Meso Americans more closely because I would have expected the migration pathway to be down the coastline.  Perhaps that migration had already happened by the time Kennewick man came onto the scene some 8000 years ago.

You can read the entire paper at this link.

Posted in Anthropology, Anzick, Chippewa, Colville, DNA, Kennewick Man | Leave a comment

How Much Indian Do I Have In Me???

I can’t believe how often I receive this question.

Here’s today’s version from Patrick.

“My mother had 1/8 Indian and my grandmother on my father’s side was 3/4, and my grandfather on my father’s side had 2/3. How much would that make me?”

First, this question was about Native American ancestry, but it could just have easily have been about African, European, Asian, Jewish….fill in the blank.

Secondly, Patrick’s initial question is a math question, but the real question is how much of a particular ethnicity do you have on paper versus how much you have genetically.

How could they be different?

Lots of ways.

Oral history in families tends to get diluted and condensed over time.  For example, maybe grandmother wasn’t really 3/4th – because her ancestors were admixed and she (or her descendants) didn’t know it.  And how does one have 2/3, exactly, with 4 grandparents.  So, the story may not be the whole story.

For our example, we’re going to eliminate the 2/3 number, because it can’t be correct.  A grandparent would be 1/4th, a great grandparent, 1/8th.  In other words, ancestors fractions come in divisions of 4, or 2, but not 3 – because it takes 2 people in each generation.

So, you could have 3 of 4 ancestors who are native, which would make the person 3/4th, 2 of 4 which would make the person half, or 1 of 4 which would make the person one quarter, but you cannot have 1 of 3, 2 of 3 or 3 of 3, because you have 4 grandparents, not 3.

Math

First, let’s answer the math question.

Math is your friend.

There are three easy steps.

1. Divide Each Generation By Half to Current

Each ancestral generation is reduced by one half, because the DNA is diluted by half in each generation.

So, if Patrick’s mother is 1/8, Patrick is 1/16 on their mother’s side, because Patrick received half of her DNA.  With fractions, you can’t reduce the top number of 1 by one half so you double the bottom number.

If grandfather was 3/4, then father was 3/8 on that side and Patrick is 3/16th.

So, now, add the numbers for Patrick together.

2. Find the Common Denominator

The two numbers you need to add together from the above exmaple are 1/16 and 3/16.  This is easy because the denominator is already the same – 16.  But let’s say you also have a third number, just for purposes of example.  Let’s say that third number is 3/32.

How do you add 1/16, 3/16 and 3/32?

The denominator has to be the same.  If you look at the denominators, you’ll see that if you double the fractions with 16, they become fractions with 32 as their denominator.

So, for this example, 1/16 becomes 2/32, 3/16 becomes 6/32 and 3/32 remains the same.

3. Add the Top Numbers Together

Now just add the numerators, or the top numbers together.

2/32 + 6/32 + 3/32 = 11/32

That’s the answer.  In this example, our person, per their family history, is 11/32 Native or 34.38%.

Patrick, who originally asked the question is 1/16 + 3/16 which equals 4/16, which reduces to 1/4 (by dividing the same number, 4, into the top and bottom of the fraction), plus whatever amount that “2/3″ really is.  So, Patrick is more than one quarter, at least on paper.

Genetics

The next question is often, “how do I prove that?”  In terms of Native ancestry, the answer varies on the purpose – general interest, tribal identification or tribal membership, etc.  I’ve written about that in two articles, here and here.

You can take a DNA test from Family Tree DNA called Family Finder that provides you with percentages of ethnicity, including Native American, as well as a list of cousin matches. They also offer additional testing that may be relevant if you descend from the native person paternally (if you are a male) or matrilineally (for both sexes.)

On the diagram below, you can see the Y DNA in blue, inherited by males from their father and the mitochondrial or matrilineal DNA in red, always inherited from the mother.  While the Y and mitochondrial tests give you very specific information on two lines, the Family Finder test provides you with ethnicity information from all of your lines.  It just can’t tell you which line or lines the Native heritage came from.

adopted pedigree

Often, due to admixture in the Native population over the past several hundred years, since the Europeans “discovered” America, the amount of Native DNA is less than expected and sometimes is so far back and such a small amount that it doesn’t show at all.

An individual could well be considered a full tribal member, yet have less than half Native heritage.  Examples that come to mind are Mary Jemison, an adopted captive who was European, but considered a full tribal member, and Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee alphabet.   Even the Cherokee Chief, Benge was at least half European, sporting red hair.  His mother was a member of the Cherokee tribe, so Benge was as well.  Cherokee Chief John Ross, born in 1790, was only one eighth Native.

So, the bottom line.  Enjoy your family history and heritage.  Document your family stories.  Understand that tribal membership was historically not a matter of percentages, at least not until the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Your ancestor either was or was not “Indian,” generally based on the tribal membership status of their mother.  There was no halfway and mixed didn’t matter.

DNA testing can confirm Native heritage.  It can also prove Native heritage in a variety of ways depending on how one descends from the Native ancestor(s), using Y and mitochondrial DNA.  Depending on whether Patrick is male or female, and how Patrick descends from his or her Native ancestors, the Y or mitochondrial DNA test can add a wealth of information to Patrick’s family history.

For some people, DNA testing is how one discovers that they have a Native ancestor.

So, how much Indian do you have in you, on paper and through DNA testing?

Posted in DNA | 5 Comments

Isaac, An Indian Slave

isaac, indian slave

 (1768) – “ISAAC, an Indian slave, aged about 40 years, run away from my plantation on George’s creek, in Buckingham, last Easter was twelve months. He was born and lived many years on the BROOK of CHICKAHOMINY, and has some connexions in Goochland, where he may probably be at present. He wore long curled hair before his elopement, but countenance and disposition are altogether Indian. His height about 5 feet 8 inches. He is outlawed. I will give FORTY SHILLINGS to Whoever will bring him to me. ROBERT BOLLING, jun (Virginia Gazette,Williamsburg, April 14, 1768.)

It’s interesting that Robert Bolling was known to have “an immense trade with the Indians and a store near Petersburg.”  He is intimately associated with other Indian traders such as Robert Hicks, Col. William Byrd, Robert Mumford and John Evans.  Additional details can be found in this rootsweb link where the full text of “Sketches of Greensville County, VA, 1650-1967, Chapter II, “That Honest Man, Capt. Hicks,” parts 1, 2 and 3, are transcribed.

http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/POCAHONTAS/2004-05/1084687416

Posted in Virginia | 3 Comments

Are You Native? – Native American Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins

At Family Tree DNA, having Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins indicating Native American ancestry does not necessarily mean you are Native American or have Native American heritage.

This is a very pervasive myth that needs to be dispelled – although it’s easy to see how people draw that erroneous conclusion.  Let’s look at why – and how to draw a correct conclusion.

The good news is that more and more people are DNA testing.  The bad news is that errors in the system are tending to become more problematic, or said another way, GIGO – Garbage in, Garbage Out.

I want to address this problem in particular having to do with Native American ancestry – or the perception thereof.

At Family Tree DNA, everyone who tests their Y DNA or their mitochondrial DNA have both Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins tabs as two of your 7 information tabs detailing your results.

haplogroup and ancestral orgins tab

The goals of these two pages are to provide the testers with locations around the world where their haplogroup is found, and locations where their matches’ ancestors are found – according to their matches.

Did a little neon danger sign start flashing?  It should have.

Haplogroup Origins

Haplogroup Origins provides testers with information about the origins of other individuals who match your haplogroup both exactly and nearly.  This data base uses the location information from both the Family Tree DNA participant data base and other academic or private databases.

haplogroup origins 2

Ancestral Origins

Ancestral Origins is comprised primarily of the results of the “most distant ancestor” country of your matches at Family Tree DNA.  This tab is designed to provide you a view into the locations where your closest matches are found at each of the testing levels.  After all, that’s where your ancestors are most likely to be from, as well.

ancestral origins 2

Most of the time this works really well, providing valuable information to testers, assuming two things:

1. Participants who are entering the information for their “most distant ancestor” understand that in the case of the Y line DNA – this is the most distant direct MALE ancestor who carries that paternal surname. Not his wife or someone else in that line.

Sometimes, people enter the name of the person in that line, in general, who lived to be the oldest – but that’s not what this field is requesting – the most distant – meaning further back in that direct line.

For mitochondrial DNA, this is the most distant FEMALE in your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s direct line – directly on up that maternal tree until you run out of mothers who have been identified. I can’t tell you how many male names I see listed as the “most distant ancestor” when I do DNA reports for people – and I know immediately that information is incorrect – along with their associated geographic locations.

mtdna matches

In this mitochondrial example, the third match shows a male Indian Chief.  The first problem is that this is a mitochondrial DNA test, so the mitochondrial DNA could not have descended from a male.  If you don’t understand how Y and mitochondrial DNA descends from ancestors, click here.

Secondly, there is no known genealogical descent from this chief – but that really doesn’t matter because the mtDNA cannot descend from a male and the batter is out with the first problem, before you ever get to the second issue.  However, if you are someone who is “looking for” Native American ancestry, this information is very welcome and even seems to be confirming – but it isn’t.  It’s a red herring.

Unfortunately, this may now have perpetuated itself in some fashion, because look at the first and last lines of this next entry – again – another male chief.  The second entry with a name is another male too, Domenico.  Hmmm….maybe information entered by other participants isn’t always reliable and shouldn’t be taken at face value….

mtdna matches 2

2. This approach works well if people enter only known, verified, proven information, not speculation. Herein lies the problem with Native American heritage. Let’s say that the family oral history says that my mother’s mother’s line is Native American. I decide to DNA test, so for the “Most Distant Ancestor” location I select “United States – Native American.”

united states selection

The DNA test comes back and shows heritage other than Native, but that previous information that I entered is never changed in the system.  Now, we have a non-Native haplogroup showing as a Native American result.

Unfortunately, I see this on an increasingly frequent basis – Native American “location” associated with non-Native haplogroups.

non native hap

This scenario has been occurring for some time now.  Family Tree DNA at one point attempted to help this situation by implementing a system in which you can select “United States” meaning you are brick walled here, and “United States Native American” which means your most distant ancestor in that line is Native American.

Native American Haplogroups

There are a very limited number of major haplogroups that include Native American results.  For mitochondrial DNA, they are A, B, C, D, X and possibly M.  I maintain a research list of the subgroups which are Native.  Each of these base haplogroups also have subgroups which are European and/or Asian.  The same holds true for Native American Y haplogroups Q and C.

In the Haplogroup Origins and Ancestral Origins, there are many examples where Non-Native haplogroups are assigned as Native American, such as haplogroup H1a below.  Haplogroup H is European..

non native hap 2

A big hint as to an incorrect “Native” designation is when most or many of the other exact haplogroups, especially full sequence haplogroups, are not Native.  As Bennett Greenspan says, haplogroups and ethnicity are “guilt by genetic association.”  You aren’t going to find the same subhaplogroup in Czechoslovakia, Serbia or England and as a Native American too.

non native hap 3

Haplogroup J is European.

non native hap 4

Haplogroup K is European, and so is U2e1, below.

non native hap 5

Unfortunately, what is happening is that someone tests and see that out of several matches, one is Native American.  People don’t even notice the rest of their matches, they only see the Native match, like the example above.  They then decide that they too must be Native, because they have a Native match, so they change their own “most distant ancestor” location to reflect Native heritage.  This happens most often when someone is brick walled in the US.

non native hap 6

Another issue is that people see haplogroup X and realize that haplogroup X is one of the 5 mitochondrial haplogroups, A, B, C, D and X. that define Native American DNA.  However, those haplogroups have many subgroups and only a few of those subgroups are Native American.  Many are Asian or European.  Regardless, participants see the main haplogroup designation of X and assume that means their ancestor was Native.  They then enter Native American.

In the example above, haplogroup X1c has never been found in a Native American individual or population, although we are still actively looking.  Haplogroup X2a is a Native American subgroup.

In some cases, we are finding new subgroups of known Native haplogroups that are Native.  I recently wrote about this for haplogroup A4 where different subgroups are Asian, Jewish, Native and European.  This is, however, within an already known base haplogroup that includes a Native American subgroup – haplogroup A4.

When testers see these “Native American” results under Haplogroup and Ancestral Origins, they become very encouraged and excited.  Unfortunately, there is no way to verify which of your matches entered “Native American,” nor why, unless you have only a few matches and you can contact all of them.

When someone has tested at the full sequence level, remember that their results will show on these pages in the HVR1 section, the HVR2 section and the full sequence section.  So while it may look like there are three Native American results, there is only one, listed once in all three locations where it “counts.”  In the example below, there are two V3a1 full sequence matches that claim Native American.  Those were the chiefs shown above.  There are those two, plus one more HVR1+HVR2 individuals who has entered Native American as well.  However, if the match total was one for the HVR1, HVR2 and coding regions, that would mean there is one person who tested and matched in all 3 categories, not that 3 people tested.  In other words, you don’t add the match totals together.

non native hap 7

What Does A Native Match Look Like?

Of course, not all matches that indicate Native heritage are incorrect.  It’s a matter of looking at all of the available evidence and finding that guilt by genetic association.

In this first confirmed Native example, we see that the haplogroup is a known Native haplogroup, and all of the matches from outside the US are from areas known to have a preponderance of Native Americans in their population.  For example, about 80% of the people from Mexico carry Native American mitochondrial DNA.

Native 1

In this second example, we see Native American indicated, plus Mexico and Canada, which it typical.  In addition we see Spain.  Just like some people assume Native American, some people from Mexico, Central and South America presume that their ancestors are from Spain, so I always take these with a grain of salt.  Japan is a legitimate location for haplogroup B as well, especially given that this result is listed at the HVR1 level. If this individual tested at the HVR2 or full sequence level, they might be assigned to a different subgroup, and therefore would no longer be considered a match.

native 2

It’s not just what is present that’s important, but what is absent as well.  There is no long list of full sequence matches to people whose ancestors come from European countries like the U2 example above.  Spain is understandable, given the history of the settlement of the Americas, and that can be overlooked or considered and set aside.  Japan makes sense too.  But a European haplogroup combined with a long list of primarily European high level matches with only one or two “Native” matches is impossible to justify away.

What Does Native American Mean?

This discussion begs the question of what Native American means.

It’s certainly possible for someone with a European or African haplogroup to descend from someone who was a proven member of the a tribe.  How is that possible?  Adoption, slavery and kidnapping.  All three were very prevalent practices in the Native culture.

For example, Mary Jemison is a very well-known frontierswoman adopted by the Seneca with many descendants today.  Was she Native?  Yes, she was adopted by the tribe.  Is her DNA Native?  No.  Were her ancestors Native?  No, they were European.  So, are her descendants Native, through her?  She married a Native man, so her descendants are clearly Native through him.  Whether you consider her descendants Native through her depends on how you define Native.  I think the answer would be both yes and no, and both should be a part of the history of Mary Jemison and her descendants.

If a European or African women was kidnapped, enslaved or adopted into the tribe, and bore children, her children were full tribal members.  Of course, today her descendants might have be unaware of her European or African roots, prior to her tribal membership.  Her mtDNA would, of course, come back as European or African, not Native.

This is a case where the culture of the tribe involved may overshadow the DNA in terms of definition of “Indian.”  However, genetically, that ancestor’s roots are still in either Europe or African, not in the Americas.

How Do We Know Which Haplogroups Are Native?

One of the problems we have today is that because there are so many people who carry the oral history of grandmother being “Cherokee,” it has become common to “self-assign” oneself as Native.  That’s all fine and good, until one begins to “self-assign” those haplogroups as Native as well – by virtue of that “Native” assignment in the Family Tree DNA data base.  That’s a horse of a different color.

Because having a Native American ancestor has become so popular, there are now entities who collect “self-assigned” Native descendants and ancestors and, if you match one of those “self-assigned” Native descendants and their haplogroups, voila, you too are magically Native.

I can tell you, being an administrator for the American Indian, Cherokee, Tuscarora, Lumbee and other Native American DNA projects – that list of “self-assigned” Native haplogroups would include every European and African haplogroup in existence – so we would one and all be Native – using that yardstick for comparison.  How about that!

Bottom line – no matter how unhappy it makes people – that’s just not true.

A great deal of research has been undertaken over the past two decades into Native American genetic heritage – and continues today.  The reason I started my Native American Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup list is because it’s difficult to track and keep track of legitimate developments.  Any time someone tells me they have “heard” that haplogroup H, for example, is Native, I ask them for a credible source.  I’ve yet to see one.

How do we determine whether a haplogroup is Native, or not?

The litmus paper test is whether or not the haplogroup has been found in pre-contact burials.  If yes, then it can be considered that the ancestor was living on this continent prior to European contact.  Native people arrived from Asia, across Beringia into what is now Alaska, and then scattered over thousands of years across all of North and South America.  We see subgroups of these same haplogroups across this entire space.

In some locations, the Native people are much less admixed than, for example, the tribes that came into the earliest and closest contact Europeans.  These tribes were decimated and many are now extinct.  I wrote about this in my paper titled, “Where Have All the Indians Gone.”

The tribes that are less admixed are probably the best barometers of Native heritage today.

We are hoping for new discoveries every day, but for today, we must rely on the information we have that is known and proven.

Interpreting Results Today

Native American haplogroup results today are subsets of Y DNA haplogroups Q and C.  If you find a haplogroup O result that might potentially be Native, PLEASE let me know.  This is also a possibility, but as yet unproven.

Mitochondrial Native American haplogroups include subgroups of A, B, C, D, X and possibly M.

If anyone tells you otherwise, personally or indirectly via Haplogroup or Ancestral Origins – keep in mind that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and data is only as good as its source.  Look at all of the information – what is present, what is absent, the testing level and what kind of documentation your matches have to share.

Finding your haplogroup listed as Native American in the Haplogroup or Ancestral Origins doesn’t make you Native American any more than it would make you an elephant if someone else listed “purple elephant.”

purple elephant

The only things that make you Native American are either a confirmed Native haplogroup subgroup, preferably with proven Native matches, or a confirmed genealogical paper trail.  Best of all scenarios is a combination of a Native haplogroup, matches that suggest or confirm your tribe and a proven paper trail.  That combination removes all doubt.

Evidence

Of the various kinds of evidence, some can stand alone, and some cannot.

Evidence Type Evidence Results Comments
DNA Y or mitochondrial Confirmed Native American subgroup – can stand alone sometimes With deep level testing, this can be enough to prove Native ancestry.  For Y  this generally means advanced SNP testing or matching to other proven Native participants.  For mitochondrial DNA, it means full sequence testing.
Proven paper trail Proven Native tribal membership, but does not prove ancestral origins Needs DNA evidence to prove whether the tribal member was admixed.
Matches to Haplogroup or Ancestral Origins If Native is indicated, need to evaluate the rest of the information. Level of testing, haplogroup, locations of most distant ancestors of other matches need to be evaluated, plus any paper trail evidence.
Autosomal DNA matches To people with Native ancestry Unless you can prove a common ancestor through triangulation, those individuals with Native ancestry could be related to you through any ancestor.  Matches to several people with Native ancestry does not indicate or suggest that you have Native ancestry.
Native DNA ethnicity through autosomal testing Native American results You can generally rely on these results, especially if they are over 5%.  Unless you have reason to believe that other regions could be providing some interfering results, this is probably a legitimate indication of Native heritage.  Locations that sometimes give Native results are Asia and eastern European countries that absorbed Asian invaders, such as the Slavic countries and Germany.  I wrote about this here.

If you don’t test, you can’t play.  If you think you have Native American ancestry, you can take the Y DNA test (at least to 37 markers) if you are a male, the full sequence test if you are testing mitochondrial DNA, or Family Finder to match family members from all ancestral lines and discover if you show any Native American in your ethnicity estimate provided in myOrigins.  Men can take all 3 tests and women can take the mitochondrial DNA and Family Finder tests.  Family Tree DNA is the only testing company providing this comprehensive level of testing.

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Butler Owens Confederate Pension Record

One of our subscribers was looking at the new 1901 Confederate Pension Applications on Digital North Carolina and found an application for Butler Owens in which he states he is part Indian and part white. He apparently joined the Confederate service in Edneyville  which is an unincorporated part of Henderson County, NC.

http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16062coll21/id/108602/rec/27

butler owens

Hat tip to Cindy for this find.

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