Native American DNA
Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science
Publication Year: 2013
Who is a Native American? And who gets to decide? From genealogists searching online for their ancestors to fortune hunters hoping for a slice of casino profits from wealthy tribes, the answers to these seemingly straightforward questions have profound ramifications. The rise of DNA testing has further complicated the issues and raised the stakes.
In Native American DNA, Kim TallBear shows how DNA testing is a powerful—and problematic—scientific process that is useful in determining close biological relatives. But tribal membership is a legal category that has developed in dependence on certain social understandings and historical contexts, a set of concepts that entangles genetic information in a web of family relations, reservation histories, tribal rules, and government regulations. At a larger level, TallBear asserts, the “markers” that are identified and applied to specific groups such as Native American tribes bear the imprints of the cultural, racial, ethnic, national, and even tribal misinterpretations of the humans who study them.
TallBear notes that ideas about racial science, which informed white definitions of tribes in the nineteenth century, are unfortunately being revived in twenty-first-century laboratories. Because today’s science seems so compelling, increasing numbers of Native Americans have begun to believe their own metaphors: “in our blood” is giving way to “in our DNA.” This rhetorical drift, she argues, has significant consequences, and ultimately she shows how Native American claims to land, resources, and sovereignty that have taken generations to ratify may be seriously—and permanently—undermined.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright PAge
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Many people helped along the path to this book. I can name but afew important individuals here, and I name them chronologically. Ithank my mother, LeeAnn TallBear, for impressing on me from my ear-liest memory that education could make all the difference in living afull and productive life—that it could take me to interesting places in...
INTRODUCTION: An Indigenous, Feminist Approach to DNA Politics
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Scientists and the public alike are on the hunt for “Native Amer-ican DNA.”1 Hi-tech genomics labs at universities around the worldsearch for answers to questions about human origins and ancient globalmigrations. In the glossy world of made-for-television science, celebritygeneticist Spencer Wells travels in jet planes and Land Rovers to far-...
1. Racial Science, Blood, and DNA
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...in all of its richness only if it is understood as co-constituted with U.S.race categories, which themselves are coproduced with Euro-Americancolo nial practices, including eighteenth- through twentieth-century U.S.race laws, policy, and programs. The meanings of Native AmericanDNA and the practices that in part produce it must also be articulated...
2. The DNA Dot-com: Selling Ancestry
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In the early 1960s, researchers began applying new genetic tech-niques to traditional anthropological questions.1 The new science wascoined “molecular anthropology.” Today, researchers around the worlduse a growing arsenal of techniques to study ancient human migrationsand the biological and cultural relationships between human groups in...
3. Genetic Genealogy Online
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...pastime.1 This chapter explores the practice of “genetic genealogy,” orgenealogical (“family tree”) research that makes use of ancestry-DNAtests to fill in documentary gaps. Often called an obsession, genealogyre search had an estimated forty million practitioners in the United Statesalone by 2004.2 Today, Rootsweb.com boasts more than thirty thousand...
4. The Genographic Project: The Business of Research and Representation
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In April 2005, the National Geographic Society and IBM, with fund-ing from the Waitt Family Foundation (established by a cofounder ofGateway, Inc.), launched the Genographic Project as a five-year “researchpartnership”1 that aims to “trace the migratory history of the humanney,”3 has been frequently compared to the failed Human Genome Diver-...
CONCLUSION: Indigenous and Genetic Governance and Knowledge
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...“Native American DNA” fascinated me from the first moment thatI heard it uttered. Not having taken a genetics or biological anthropol-ogy class, that first utterance struck my ears at a meeting having to dowith a grant that my employer had won from the U.S. Department ofEnergy’s program in the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI)...
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...1. I will refrain from consistently putting scare quotes around “NativeAmerican DNA” or referring to it as “so-called Native American DNA,” whichcould be tedious for the reader. But rest assured that I mean the constituted and2. Deborah A. Bolnick et al., “The Science and Business of Genetic Ances-try Testing,” Science, October 19, 2007, 399–400; Amy Harmon, “DNA Gath-...
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About the Author
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Kim TallBear is associate professor of anthropology at the University...
Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013