How Accurate Is Genetic Testing For Native American Ancestry?

Can You Take a DNA Test for Native American Ancestry?

Over the years, Native American has been listed as part of the ethnicity category for which ancestry tests are done.

However, this has now been discovered to be not entirely accurate as there really is no specific Native American ancestry test.

Even though companies try to make it seem like there is, they really use different methods to determine this result.


Why genotyping tests from ancestry companies are undependable for Native American ancestry.

Native American ancestry, is broader than you would think.

This mainly because there are not enough people in North America who have Native American ancestry to create a Native American database.

For this to be done, the United States would need to have enough so they can create a reference population.

Even though the tests show the difference between Native North America and South-Central populations, it is unable to differentiate the tribes.

The major reason why it is a bit difficult is mainly since individual tribes are too genetically similar to differentiate due to various reasons.

Colonialism also played a major role in this seeing as there was intermarriage and intermingling which would make a person not entirely Native as they would still have European, African and Asian ancestry.


What are different types of ancestry testing?

Microarray Genotyping

This is the most popular type of testing used for DNA analysis.

The process basically entails sending saliva samples to 23andMe or AncestryDNA. Our DNA is then compared to a reference genome to find specific SNPs.

There are various variations which can be found in our autosomal DNA which traces up to 10 generations back of our ancestry. Autosomal DNAs are usually inherited from both parents.

We inherit 50% from each parent. However the half we receive is random.

Which is the reason why we are neither exact copies of our siblings nor do we have the exact ancestry markers as them. The exception in this case are monogenic or identical twins.


Haplogroup analysis

This method involves tracking down your maternal or paternal ancestry (or both if you have an X and Y chromosome)

For the maternal haplogroup, it is basically looking at your Mitochondrial DNA and using that to trace your maternal ancestors.

The paternal test can only be taken by those who are genetically male.

Women can also take this test, through a male relative.

This test can only trace two lines from your family tree which is of your father and mother. So even if you do have Native American ancestry, it may not reflect.


Testing for Short Tandem Repeats (STRs)

This is one of the rarely used method by companies.

STR is short for Short Tandem Repeats which is basically the part of your DNA that repeats itself in a unique, identifiable way.

This method comes in handy when you are going for a familial relationship test and forensic DNA profiling.

This method, however, reveals a limited amount of information as it only reveals what percentage European, African or Asian a person is without narrowing it down to a specific region.


Companies offering Native American ancestry reports

Even though none of the present DNA tests tells you the exact tribe of which you are from, there are ancestry tests that lists “Native America” as ethnicity result and some even go as far as telling you where your ancestors are from, be it North or South America.

Below are how five major ancestry companies show Native America Ancestry:

While the results gotten from these don’t contain the full details, it works for some as all they need for their confirmation is a little percentage of Native American in their DNA tests.

Although this might change in some years’ time if enough people of Native American ancestry enter into the database.


Native American ancestry test and tribal enrollment

Although not all tribes allow this, certain tribes allow enrolment if you take a DNA test with an enrolled member and proven to be related to them by meeting the blood quantum which is the requirement needed.

Currently, tribes do not allow enrolment based on the results of a commercial ancestry test like the AncestryDNA.

Reason being that this test cannot be verified independently and because Ancestry databases lack North American Native DNA.

Becoming a member of a tribe isn’t purely genetic as it has little to do with blood relationship.

Back in the days before there was the blood quantum requirement, people usually became members by being adopted into tribes, marrying into a tribe or being absorbed into one.

Today, it may seem that tribes are a bit reluctant into accepting new members even if your results turn out to be accurate.

Reason being that the applicants aren’t really to the tribe in any meaningful way being that they know next to nothing about the tribe and are only connected by DNA.


Is getting an ancestry test for native american ancestry worth it?Applying to be a memeber of a Native American tribe

Taking an ancestry DNA test should probably be the first option to explore, since this can provide genuine evidence of your Native ancestry. To join a tribe, you will need a CDIB (“Certificate Degree of Indian Blood”) card usually issued by the US government.

You would also need to meet the blood quantum requirement which often differs depending on the tribe you wish to join.

Some tribes require ½ (one parent who was a tribe member) while some require as little as 1/16 (one great-great grand parent who was a member of the tribe).

Even though the ancestry DNA test suggests that you meet the blood quantum requirement by having enough Native American DNA, you might not always be able to get the exact tribe your ancestor belongs to and this can be quite frustrating in some instances. 

But per adventure you don’t meet the minimum requirements needed to join a tribe, you can still self-identify yourself as a Native American but at your own discretion.


Also read: Can Indian DNA Test Find Or Prove Native American Ancestry By Richard Hill

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