The Differences Between Native Ancestry and Tribal Citizenship

It is entirely possible that a person’s DNA test results show that the person has some Native American ancestry. That information is not equivalent to having tribal citizenship.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (Democrat – Massachusetts) released information about her heritage. Part of the information involves the results of a DNA analysis that she submitted to Dr. Carlos Bustamante, a professor of Biomedical Data Science, Genetics, and Biology at Stanford University.

He issued a report summarizing his analysis. It included:

* The report concludes that there is “strong evidence” that Elizabeth’s DNA sample “contains Native American ancestry.” Specifically, Dr. Bustamante concludes with 99% confidence that Elizabeth’s DNA sample contains five genetic segments, spanning 12,300,000 DNA bases, which are “Native American in origin.”

* The report also details the results of “several additional analyses to confirm the presence of Native American ancestry and to estimate the position” of an “unadmixed Native American Ancestor” (i.e. an ancestor with “100% ancestry assigned to a single population”) in Elizabeth’s family tree. It concludes that such an ancestor can be found “likely in the range of 6-10 generations ago.”

* In addition, Elizabeth’s DNA was compared to two non-Native reference sets from the 1000 Genomes Project – 99 Americans of predominantly European ancestry from Utah and 86 British individuals of European ancestry from Great Britain.

* The report concludes that the Native American segments involved in Elizabeth’s sample are 12.4 times higher than the average value for the British population. They are 10.5 times higher than the average value for the Utah reference population, which includes a few individuals who have “a small amount of Native American ancestry.”

In short, Senator Elizabeth Warren does have Native American ancestry. But, she is not enrolled in a tribe – so she does not have tribal citizenship. Her family was never enrolled in a tribe.

Tribal citizenship requires a person to complete their genealogical research, document their ancestry, and determine which tribe their ancestor was affiliated. The person can then apply for enrollment with that specific tribe.

Related Articles on

* Dawes Rolls – Native Indian Records

* Resources for Finding Records on Native American Ancestors

* Native American Ancestors

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