The systematic destruction of the Native Americans, First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and their entire way of life was not only one of recorded history’s greatest tragedies, but, as with the slave trade, deeply spiritually wounding to all involved.The utter decimation of their culture is one of the most shameful aspects of our history, the extent of the damage still being down-played and denied entry into textbooks and history-lessons to this day.
The threads of these ancient cultures – having existed here for tens of thousands of years prior to the arrival of the ‘pioneers’ – no matter how tenuous they may currently be, must be preserved, strengthened and woven back into a quilt that tells the unique story of not only their past, but of their bright future as well.
For two decades, researchers have been using a growing volume of genetic data to debate whether ancestors of Native Americans emigrated to the New World in one wave or successive waves, or from one ancestral Asian population or a number of different populations.
“Our work provides strong evidence that, in general, Native Americans are more closely related to each other than to any other existing Asian populations, except those that live at the very edge of the Bering Strait,” said Kari Britt Schroeder, a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, and the first author on the paper describing the study.
“While earlier studies have already supported this conclusion, what’s different about our work is that it provides the first solid data that simply cannot be reconciled with multiple ancestral populations,” said Schroeder, who was a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the university when she did the research.
“If natural selection had promoted the spread of a neighboring advantageous allele, we would expect to see longer stretches of DNA than this with a similarly distinct pattern,” Schroeder said.“And we would also have expected to see the pattern in a high frequency even among people who do not carry the 9-repeat allele. So we can now consider the positive selection possibility unlikely.”
The results also ruled out the multiple mutations hypothesis. If that had been the case, there would have been myriad DNA patterns surrounding the allele rather than the identical characteristic signature the team discovered.
“There are a number of really strong papers based on mitochondrial DNA – which is passed from mother to daughter – and Y-chromosome DNA – which is passed from father to son – that have also supported a single ancestral population,” Schroeder said.“But this is the first definitive evidence we have that comes from DNA that is carried by both sexes.”