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Thursday, June 7, 2012
Haida, Na-Dene, Inuit Genetically Separate
What becomes clear with this work is that the Haida were surely a
coastal migration that came by sea along the coast from Japan at
least possibly even 20,000 years ago. The Na-Dene were the peoples
of Beringia who pushed south and east behind the melting Ice and
finally broke out into the southern plains. The Inuit expanded more
recently as arctic ice conditions effectively opened up increasing
their available range.
We also have an European injection of peoples known as the
Solutreans who entered the Americas from the east at much the same
time as the Haida. Both shared effective sea going technology.
Cultural history supports the Na Dene as late comers who arrived
after the ice disappeared.
This model continues to tighten up quite nicely. It also supports
the ready absorption of Indians of the eastern seaboard into the
European gene pool in particular and why genetic work there can be
somewhat confounding. Multiple generations of intermarriage do allow
for specific Indian characteristics to largely disappear which does
not happen as easily with the more distinct groups.
Ancient History of Circumarctic Peoples
by Staff Writers
(SPX) May 25, 2012
A Tlingit leader wears
a traditional wolf headdress.
Two studies led by
scientists from the University of Pennsylvania and National
Geographic's Genographic Project reveal new information about the
migration patterns of the first humans to settle the Americas. The
studies identify the historical relationships among various groups of
Native American and First Nations peoples and present the first clear
evidence of the genetic impact of the groups' cultural practices.
For many of these
populations, this is the first time their genetics have been analyzed
on a population scale. One study, published in the American Journal
of Physical Anthropology, focuses on the Haida and Tlingit
communities of southeastern Alaska. The other study, published in
theProceedings of the NationalAcademy of Sciences,
considers the genetic histories of three groups that live in the
Northwest Territories of Canada.
markers in the DNA of people living in the circumarctic region, the
team of scientists uncovered evidence of interactions among the
tribes during the last several thousand years. The researchers used
these clues to determine how humans migrated to and settled in North
America as long as 20,000 years ago, after crossing the land bridge
from today's Russia, an area known as Beringia.
Penn houses the
Genographic Project's North American research center.
inform our understanding of the initial peopling process in the
Americas, what happened after people moved through and who remained
behind in Beringia," said author Theodore Schurr, an associate
professor in Penn's Department of Anthropology and the Genographic
Project principal investigator for North America.
Both papers also
confirm theories that linguists had posited, based on analyses of
spoken languages, about population divisions among circumarctic
Schurr contributed to
both papers, along with Penn colleagues Matthew Dulik, Amanda Owings,
Jill Gaieski and Miguel Vilar.
paper focused on the Haida and Tlingit tribes, which have similar
potlatch, or rituals of feasting, totemic motifs and a type of social
organization that is based on matrilineal clans and moieties,"
Using cheek-swab DNA
samples, the analyses confirmed that the two tribes -
although they possessed some similarities in their mitochondrial
DNA makeup - were quite distinct from one another.
Comparing the DNA from the Tlingit and Haida with samples from other
circumarctic groups further suggested that the Haida had
been relatively isolated for a significant period of time. This
isolation had already been suspected by linguists, who
have questioned whether the Haida language belonged in the Na-Dene
language family, which encompasses Tlingit, Eyak and Athapaskan
In the clan system of
Haida and Tlingit peoples, children inherit the clan status - and
territory - of their mothers. Each clan is divided in two moieties,
or social groups, for example the Eagle and the Raven in the Tlingit
tribe. Traditionally, a person from the Raven clan married someone
from the Eagle clan and vice versa.
"Part of what we
were interested in testing was whether we could see clear genetic
evidence of that social practice in these groups," Schurr said.
"In fact, we could, demonstrating the importance of culture in
molding humangenetic diversity."
The other paper
expands this view of circumarctic peoples to closely consider the
genetic histories of three groups that live in the Northwest
Territories: the Inuvialuit, the Gwich'in and the Tlicho. The
Inuivialuit language belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family,
while the Gwich'in and Tlicho speak languages belonging to the
Na-Dene family and the Athapaskan subgroup.
In this study, the
researchers analyzed 100 individual mutations and 19 short stretches
of DNA from all individuals sampled, obtaining the
highest-resolution Y chromosome data ever from these groups.
The team's results
indicate several new genetic markers that define previously unknown
branches of the family tree of circumarctic groups. One marker, found
in the Inuvialuit but not the other two groups, suggests that this
group arose from an Arctic migration event
somewhere between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago, separate from the
migration that gave rise to many of the speakers of the Na-Dene
correct, [this lineage] was present across the entire Arctic and in
Beringia," Schurr said. "This means it traces a
separate expansion of Eskimo-Aleut-speaking peoples across this
Many of the native
groups who have participated in both studies are also enthusiastic
collaborators, Schurr said.
"What we find
fits very nicely with their own reckoning of ancestry and descent and
with their other historical records. We've gotten a lot of support
from these communities."
"Perhaps the most
extraordinary finding to come out of these two studies is the way the
traditional stories and the linguistic patterns correlate
with the genetic data," Spencer Wells, Genographic
Project director and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, said.
"Genetics complements our understanding of history but doesn't
replace other components of group identity."
contributors to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology paper
are Sergey Zhadanov of Penn, Judy Ramos of the Yakutat Tlingit Tribe,
Mary Beth Moss of the Huna Indian Association, Francis Natkong of the
Hydaburg Cooperative Association and the Genographic Consortium.
For the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences paper,
the Penn team worked with Alestine Andre, Ingrid Kritsch, Sharon
Snowshoe and Ruth Wright of the Gwich'in Social and Cultural
Institute; Crystal Lennie of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation;
Mary Adele Mackenzie, James Martin and Nancy Gibson of the Tlicho
Community Services Authority; Thomas Andrews of the Prince of Wales
Northern Heritage Center; and the Genographic Consortium. Support for
both studies was provided by the National Geographic Society, IBM,
the Waitt Family Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania.