“My DNA test didn’t show any of my Native American heritage. The results are wrong,” said Susie. Have you thought the same thing as Susie? DNA testing may be the future of genealogy, but it’s new and complicated. If you are having trouble believing your test results regarding your Native American ancestry, this might be why.
A special thanks goes out to my friend and colleague, Kathy Reed, who inspired me dig deeper into understanding DNA testing and why so many people think their test came back ‘wrong’.
Is there a DNA Test for Native Americans?
I can’t even begin to number the people in the U.S. who are upset and angry that their DNA test did not show a Native American result. There are many reasons why this might have happened.
- Maybe your family isn’t actually Native American, after all.
- Maybe the Native American person in your family tree is so far removed from the person tested that it didn’t “show up.”
- And, maybe it’s because of a misunderstanding on our part.
Let me ask you a question….when I ask, “Are you Native American?” are you actually hearing “Are you Cherokee, Seminole, Shawnee, Apache, or a descendant of the other hundreds of Indian tribes that once lived all over the current day United States?” If that is how you interpreted the question, it is completely understandable. But guess what…DNA companies are not necessarily using that interpretation. When they say “Native American,” their definition refers to peoples who are indigenous to the Americas. And that includes, Inuits of Alaska and Mayans of South America, just to name two!
In fact, if you took a test at 23andMe and your ethnicity results showed up as “Native American,” you should realize your sample was referenced next to peoples of Colombian, Karitiana, Maya, Pima, or Surui ancestry. That’s it. These are peoples of the South American continent for the most part. [The Pima are a group of Native Americans living in the area of what is now central and southern Arizona.]
At Family Tree DNA, their reference groups include a population cluster for North & Central America and another for South America. [Read their full statement here.]
For the North & Central American group, they state the following: “The North and Central America cluster consists of present day Native American populations that span from southeastern Alaska down through the western half of the United States and end at the top of Nicaragua.”
For the South American group, they state: “The South America cluster is found in present day Native populations who inhabit Cuba, the Caribbean islands, the regions south of Nicaragua, and as far south as Argentina and Chile.”
In any of these statements, did you read that the reference population is that of known Cherokee, Choctaw, Seminole, Utes, Ojibwe, etc.? Nope, you didn’t. And yet, we continue to be upset when our DNA test results don’t include the results of ‘Native American’. So, unless your ancestors were from these reference populations (mostly South American peoples), your saliva it is not going to end in test results saying you are Native American.
So, What Should We Do Now?
My opinion is…get that DNA test done anyway! Your Native American ancestry can be proved through good old fashion paper trails and exhaustive research. DNA testing is valuable for many reasons, not just to give you an ethnicity report. DNA test results are not ‘wrong’…at least that is not the correct word. Instead, we might say DNA test results are complicated, becoming more accurate over time, and will help the majority of genealogists in their quest to learn their story. So, get that DNA test done and take advantage of the great sales going on now! [See below]
Valentine’s Day DNA Sales
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