Friday, March 1, 2013

DNA and the American Indian – Part I

For quite some time now, people have considered that the Amerind (American Indian) have known DNA markers that can be traced to certain areas of the world, namely to parts Asia. As an example, a Mitochondrial DNA analysis by an Atlanta, Georgia, group tested 167 American Indians with the result “All Native American MtDNAs clustered into one of four distinct lineages.” As of 2010, there were 2.9 million American Indians in the United States; consequently, what portion of the numerous American Indian groups could be determined by a test of 167 people?
In any event, despite the claims by many, especially critics of the Book of Mormon, this might be laid to rest by a recent study and report appearing in Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, written by Jonathan Marks, PhD, (above left) Vice-Chairman, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and Brett Lee Shelton, J.D. (above right), entitled “Genetic Markers Not a Valid Test of Native Identity,” in Counsel for Responsible Genetics.
This article draws on actual testing and evaluating for the purpose of determining the reality of who is and who is not a Native American—that is, who is an “Indian” and who is not. In so testing and evaluating, a lot of problems about such testing have surfaced and, frankly, seem to cast a huge shadow across the land as to the usefulness and even the validity of the DNA testing results. In fact, such tests seem to create more problems than they solve.
As the reports states: “Current DNA testing cannot distinguish among separate Native American tribes,” and that “The point that is frequently lost in the debate about using genetic analysis to determine whether one is Native American is that the genetic analysis itself is not conclusive, even on strictly scientific terms.”
Scientists, of course, have found certain variations, or “markers” in human genes that they call Native American markers “because they believe all original Native Americans had these genetic traits.” The report also states: “The theory is that, if a person has one of these markers, certain ancestors of the person must have been ‘Native American’.” And also: “Since these markers are called ‘Native American markers’, they are believed to be a genetic signature of the founding ancestors.”
These statements seem to show a very big “IF” factor, that is, believe, theory, must be, etc., do not seem like positive or straight forward responses to something that most people in our society think is a tried and true proven science with specific and exact results.
And if that isn’t a concern, the report goes on to tell us that all testing of Native Americans has been based on the belief that “both females and males inherit their mitochondrial DNA (MtDNA) only from their mother,” and that this line of biological inheritance, therefore, stops with each male. That means that, if you think of your 4 great-grandmothers, you and all your brothers and sisters have inherited your MtDNA only from your maternal grandmother's mother.
The problem with this is simple—since 2002, this mitochondrial MtDNA belief has been shown to be inaccurate and completely wrong.
However, continuing with the previous belief that has permeated all testing results for the past twenty-five years, this means that, if all one’s great grandparents were Native American, and their mother’s mother’s mother was non-Indian, then they will not likely have one of the “Native American” MtDNA haplotypes. So, 7 of their 8 great-grandparents may be Indian, and yet they would not be identified as Indian from the DNA test
Moreover, it really goes farther than that, since it has been believed that the MtDNA only comes from the purely maternal line, if one goes back two more generations, 31 of their 32 great-great-great grandparents could be Indian. Yet they would not be identified as Native American using the DNA test if that one of their 16 (great-great-great) grandmothers who is part of their female lineage was not Native American (or more specifically if her mother did not have one of the five haplotypes called “Native American.”)
And if we keep going back further, and still only a single one of their female ancestors is detectable, while the number of ancestors invisible to this test increases enormously. Conversely, the opposite is also true—that is, if their mother’s line was back to 32 great-great-great grandparents and only 6 women in a single line were American Indian and the other 26 were not, they would be labeled a Native American.
And what about the males? Males inherit a close copy of their Y-chromosome from their fathers, while females do not have a Y-chromosome. So males could also be tested for Native American markers on their Y-chromosome, but the analysis has similar limitations as testing MtDNA. Here again, the test only traces one line of ancestry, and misses most of the subjects' ancestry because the vast majority of the ancestors are invisible to the test. If a man has 15 Native American great-great-grandparents, but his father's father's father's father was non-Indian, that person will not appear to be Native American under The DNA test. So, almost 94% of that person's genetic inheritance may be from Native Americans, but under this test he may be identified as “non-Indian.” And again, the opposite is true in that a man may be considered Indian though the vast majority of his ancestors were non-Indian.
Therefore, according to the researchers, like MtDNA analysis using the purely maternal line, using Y-chromosome analysis to determine Native American ancestry ignores a greatly increasing percentage of a person's ancestry as they go more generations into the past with the analysis.
There is another possibility of false negatives from these types of tests as well, which is that another type of false negative would arise if some Native American people simply do not have one or more of the ”Native American” markers. Scientists have not tested anywhere near all native people, so they do not know for sure that Native Americans only have the markers they have been identified, if their maternal or paternal bloodline does not include a non-Indian. After all, real peoples are not bound by the geneticist’s ideal of purity. The scientists already admit to some of this uncertainty when they estimate that, for example, 95% of Native American men without a known non-Native in their purely paternal line (father’s father’s father, and so on) have one of the two Native American variations they have identified. This implies that at least 5% of the men can have other genetic markers.
The point of all this is simply that DNA testing can be used for some things with degrees of probability, but not of certainty. To say this or that group came from this or that area is far afield of where the science is so far, despite many genetists, evolutionists and genealogists hopeful disagreement. 
(See the next post as we continue to look into this claim that the Amerind came fro East Asia--Mongolia, China, South Korea and Japan)

No comments:

Post a Comment