What Does it Mean to have "Native American DNA"?

23andMe posted a detailed blog written by Samantha Ancona Esselmann, Ph.D., a 23andMe Ancestry Product Scientist. In the blog, she provides information and explanation about what it means to have “Native American DNA”. She also makes it clear what it does not mean.

Samantha Ancona Esslemann, Ph.D., notes that it is important for Direct-to-Consumer DNA testing companies to be clear about the differences between DNA, ancestry, and identity. She decided to share what she’s learned about how these concepts impact not only the lives of Indigenous American individuals but also the sovereignties of Indigenous Nations.

Whether or not you have “Native American DNA,” it’s important to understand what it means – and doesn’t mean – to find evidence of this ancestry in your DNA.

What it does mean:

With some degree of statistical confidence, some sections of your DNA match a limited set of Indigenous American reference individuals more closely than they do other global reference populations.

If information about a possible Indigenous American ancestor is new to you, you can be excited about this ancestry and use it as a starting place to learn more about the diverse Indigenous histories of the Americas in a respectful way. But your test result should be viewed with caution in the context of the technology’s limitations.

What is does not mean:

You cannot use these results to seek or confirm membership in a Tribe or Nation. There is simply not enough information provided by these tests to confirm this kind of affiliation. Tribal enrollment processes use genealogical evidence of kinship, not genetic ancestry test results.

It doesn’t mean you should start identifying as Native American based on the results of a genetic ancestry test.

It doesn’t mean you can claim Native American identity and then use genetic ancestry testing to “confirm” it.

It doesn’t mean you can go to your Native American friends and say, “Hey guess what? I took a DNA test and it turns out I’m Native American too!”

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

The Differences Between Native Ancestry and Tribal Citizenship

Resources for Finding Records on Native American Ancestors

Dawes Rolls – Native Indian Records

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