Native American history is a tragic one, marked by the near genocide of a once-thriving race. Even to this day, the scars from the past-inflicted atrocities remain apparent in a mostly forgotten minority. Much healing is to be done, and much work is still in progress to right a wrong. Special Native American groups like Idle No More and American Indian Movement have been working behind the scenes to bring to attention the need for equal treatment.
Native Americans hold a genealogy that is truly unique and found in no other racial groups. Over the past 20 years, researchers have been conducting a series of genetic tests to determine whether the earliest Native Americans migrated to modern day North America in one fellow swoop or arrived in small waves. There’s also question whether the population descended from a single Asian population or from multiple sub-groups.
A team of international scientists has been working feverishly comparing DNA samples from various Native American tribes and Eurasian groups. After years of painstaking studies, the team has come to the conclusion that western aboriginals came from a single Asian population.
According to Britt Schroeder of University of California Davis, the findings prove that Native Americans are unique in the sense that they are more closely related to one another than any other Asian groups. While previous studies have arrived to the same conclusion, this one in particular is especially significant because it yields solid evidence that cannot be reconciled with multiple ancestral groups.
The full study can be found in the May volume of the Molecular Biology and Evolution Journal.
The study is actually a follow up of multiple previous studies where a unique genetic marker was discovered in the DNA of modern Natives. The marker was given the moniker “9-repeat allele.” While the variant does not serve a biological function, it has been discovered on all 41 sampled Native American subgroups. The groups consisted of tribes originating from as far north as Alaska to as far south as Chile. Tribes from Greenland were also among the groups sampled.
The sample included a total of 908 test subjects, and roughly 33% of them had the variant in their DNA.
Previous research concluded that Native Americans from the sampled group all descended from a single Asian population. The 9-repeat allele is absent in all other Asian groups, which bolsters the theory that Natives were isolated from other Asian subgroups for several thousand years before they made their trek to North America.
While the findings were significant, there were other possible explanations for the 9-repeat allele’s presence. The variant could have arisen as a result of a mutation. It’s also possible that there were two ancestral groups, and the variant was only present in one group but somehow made its way to the other.
The latest study, headed by Noah Rosenberg from the University of Michigan, was able to discount both of these alternative theories. The mutation hypothesis has been ruled out as a mutation would have also resulted in varied DNA sequences around the allele. The fact that the DNA surrounding the allele share similar characteristics across samples also rules out that the allele could have spread through natural selection. If this was the case, then the surrounding strands would have been present even in those without the allele.