Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Native American DNA Testing for Tribal Membership

March 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Ethnic DNA Testing

To some groups of people, like Native Americans, DNA testing is used not only to establish links to ancestors but also to determine legal rights and privileges. Tribal sovereignty and legal rights are disputed in the courts all the time and are hot topics of debate in American political arenas. States, industries and land owners themselves challenge the tribes’ rights to govern their own lands and people, or to even exist at all. Most citizens don’t even realize that tribes are political entities unto themselves and not just quaint little ethnic groups. And because of the legal protections afforded Native Americans, DNA testing often becomes necessary for them to be able to prove their ancestry and enjoy the rights and privileges that their tribes have earned.

Because federal laws and tribal laws focus on the tribes relating as a group, their cultural continuity and their tribal land-base, many people who have Native American biological ancestors are unfortunately ineligible for federally recognized tribal status because they either don’t live with the tribe, don’t function with the tribe or their heritage has become mixed. To these Native Americans, DNA testing often is their only recourse to be legally recognized as a tribal member. Without this recognition, they may lose access to land, financial aid and even gaming business licenses. Some people even suggest that DNA testing become a legal requirement for proving Native American ancestry.

Tribe members themselves are also considering this mandate. For the wealthy casino tribes there’s a lot at risk. They disburse monthly payments to their members that can sometimes total thousands of dollars so it’s no wonder that they would want to protect their enrollment by excluding those who cannot legitimately claim to be tribe members.

But just how effective and reliable are these Native American DNA testing facilities and products? Native American DNA tests may be able to determine is actually a Native American, but they can rarely identify markers for specific tribes. And in today’s mobile society most Native Americans, in fact most people in general, are of more than one ethnic orientation. These test may indicate genetic markers that are ‘common’ in Native Americans but the problem still remains that ‘common’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘only found in’ Native Americans.

One supplier of Native American DNA tests has chosen to fall back on a Native American Paternity test. But those results only go as far as examining the genealogical information from the parents or possibly grandparents and still don’t confirm that all members of the family are legitimately members of the tribe. Again, this leaves the recognized tribe members at financial risk.

As long as Native American DNA tests continue to provide answers that are not quite fool-proof it falls on the shoulders of the individual to research and carefully document his ancestry to back up the DNA test results and assure his membership in the tribe. And if falls to the tribal leaders to carefully consider each applicant until these test are made more reliable.

Do you have Native American ancestry? DNA may give you the answer.


2 Responses to “Native American DNA Testing for Tribal Membership”
  1. Raymond "Resue" fink says:

    I was born a Resue, and adopted out as a small child. I have made contact with blood relitives. They told me we were Iriquoin but had no idea of tribe connections, I did more research and a new aquoitance informed me that the Resue name shows up in the Mohawk tribe. I was thinking of having DNA testing to find if for shure there is Mohawk in our history.

  2. If they want to keep control, then set a limit of the genotype amount. I understand protecting tribal heritage, but what about the people like me were are mostly passed away.

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