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More Anomalous Mitochondrial Lineages in the Cherokee - Part Two

Sunday, October 05, 2014


Peramelia Vaughn was born September 22, 1901, in Coffee County, Tennessee. She was the maternal grandmother of Cherokee DNA Project Phase II participant Sharon Rebecca Chatterton of Lady Lake, Florida. Chatterton is one of the H's in the project.

This installment in the series describes the sample and summarizes haplogroup findings.

Procedure and Methodology

The purpose of the Cherokee DNA Project is to sample and investigate the genetic heritage of persons who may be of Cherokee descent and establish a reference collection of their DNA results and genealogies. Enrollment in Phase II began in October 2009 following the release of Phase I results in the blog post "Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee" (August 31, 2009). Data were published in Yates (2012) pp. 161-62.

As in Phase I, a notice of the search for volunteers was publicly displayed on the company's website. Holli Starnes has acted as administrator throughout. All candidates signed up when they purchased either a mitochondrial DNA HVS1+2 ancestry test or a mitochondrial "report only" based on previous testing. After receiving fulfillment of their personal order, they were requested to execute and mail back a standard informed consent form. Participation was at no extra cost. Open enrollment via the website lasted until August 31, 2014, at which time 67 candidates were verified and accepted into the final sample. All had learned in their personal report that they probably had direct female descent through mitochondrial DNA from a Native American woman.

The sample selected for Phase II is composed of 39 female (58%) and 28 male (42%) subjects. Two husband-wife couples enrolled. Sometimes the subject's test was ordered by a family member, but no participants knew they were closely related a priori. Ages varied from 30 to 90. Participants mostly lived in the United States and Canada, where they were residents of scattered locations, from New Hampshire and Florida to California, Texas and Hawaii. One joined from as far away as New Zealand. No single state (such as Oklahoma or Tennessee) stood out in the demography.

Of the 67 subjects, eleven of them (16%) tested with other companies first, including Family Tree DNA, Ancestry.com and DNA Diagnostics Center. About half (47%) got first-time test results from DNA Consultants' service lab, Genex Diagnostics of Vancouver, British Columbia, and about one-third tested with Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City, Utah. Two participants did not want to reveal the identity of their lab. Enrollment was fairly evenly distributed over five years. The largest number of tests (27) was taken in 2010, at the beginning of the study.

The numbers above are provided to emphasize that though the study is purposive in nature, its scope has proved random with regard to geographical location, date, age, sex and other factors. The sample size (n=67) is similar to that of Phase I (n=52). There are no known biases in the sample. No public or private funding was sought or obtained, no volunteer was paid, and no commercial interests were involved.

Motives, Customer Profiles and Report Fulfillment

Typical in respect to approach, background, motives and process was Sharon Benning of Roseburg, Oregon. "My grandmother and her family always said we were Cherokee and I know that they were afraid of looking too brown and would always stay out of the sun," wrote Benning in a customer inquiry on April 4, 2010. "They didn't want to be connected to Native Americans at all. I feel like I have missed part of my heritage and would like to know if this story is true." After purchasing a Native American DNA Test on April 5, she received and returned her sample collection kit. Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City, our service lab at the time, released her results to us in a "Certificate of Mitochondrial DNA Analysis," dated April 29, 2010. Staff then fulfilled her Native American DNA Report, which was signed by Donald N. Yates, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, on June 16, 2010.

In it, the customer was informed of hypervariable region sector 1 and 2 or control region mutations, matched to other instances of her haplotype and provided with an evaluation of its origin, history and distribution. Standard databases consulted were the Cambridge Mitochondrial DNA Concordance (version 2.0, 1998), Richards et al. (2000), mtDNA Population Database, incorporating "sequence data from the scientific literature and the GenBank and European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) genetic databases (Monson et al. 2002, also known as Swygdam and FBI) and Mitosearch, a free online research tool from Family Tree DNA, Houston, Texas.  

The basis for all testing and comparisons was the revised Cambridge Reference Sequence of the Human Mitochondrial DNA, described in Anderson et al. (1981) and Andrews et al. (1999) 

Haplogroup H is not one of the six classic Native American female lineages A, B, C, E, and X, although it has been identified in the Cherokee, where it is usually ascribed to admixture with Europeans (Schurr). Haplogroups T, J, K and U have also been found in Southeastern tribes (data on file, Bolnick). The subject’s particular haplotype, with one exception, only matches descendants of women born in North America. It is probable, although still ambiguous, then, that it is Native American or indigenous to North America. In conjunction with a family tradition that the maternal line was Native American, it should be considered Native American. The subject is encouraged to join Phase II of our Cherokee DNA Studies.

Benning volunteered for Phase II and became participant No. 43. Pending the completion of the project, she was issued a certificate that specified "Female Lineage:  H, Prob. Native American."

Typical of participants who submitted previous mitochondrial results for evaluation and possible inclusion, in other words who tested with another lab, was Juanita Sims. Her niece, Elizabeth DeLand, contacted Dr. Yates in July of 2014 and succeeded in enrolling her aunt as participant No. 67—one of the last to be accepted in Phase II. "Aunt Juanita originally had the test done because her grandmother and great-grandmother spoke Cherokee and she is trying to find it in her DNA," wrote DeLand. "She is U5 haplogroup and was told it was not Native American." Sims became one of six U5's in the second phase, joining six others in Phase I. Additionally, 9 of 135 in the old Family Tree DNA Cherokee Project were U5's. Sims' form of U5 exhibited two unmatched single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), 16291T and 272G, although it loosely matched four other U5's in the study.

Juanita Sims was originally tested by Family Tree DNA and thus received no certificate from DNA Consultants, as hers was a "report only." Family Tree DNA did not certify her mitochondrial line as Native American but as Eurasian. Under its rules at the time, "Native American mtDNA Haplogroups are A, B, C, D and X," tout court. The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band adopt similar definitions for what they consider "true" American Indian DNA types. Our study made no presumptions about the ethnicity or affiliation of haplogroups.

Note on CBC Project

In addition to cross-references within the project, all participants were compared to 135 mitochondrial records from the Cherokee DNA project begun in 2002 under the late Chief Joe White of the Central Band of Cherokee of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The project met with a large response and remained active until 2011 under administrators June Hurd, Marcy Palmer and Holli Starnes. It was closed for unknown reasons in 2011. Members' records and administrators' names were all peremptorily removed. Its replacement project at Family Tree DNA shows 51 records, has the same name and lists Roberta Estes as administrator, but is not to be confused with the original project. Fortunately, the CBC generously gave access and granted permission to DNA Consultants to make a study of this valuable collection before it was taken offline.

Summary of Phase II Results

Haplogroup Distribution

To tabulate haplogroup assignments from Phase II, 57 individuals (85%) proved to have anomalous haplogroups and 10 (15%) A-D or X. These proportions are quite consistent with Phase I. In the project to date overall (n=119) there have been 101 anomalous types (85%) and 18 (15%) A-D or X. The CBC mitochondrial data (n=135) show 97% anomalous (H, I, J, K, L, T, U, W, no N or V) versus 3% non-anomalous (C, X, no A, B or D).

In Phase II as in Phase I, the largest haplogroup represented was T. This was the haplogroup of 13 individuals, or 19.4%, in Phase II (n=67). In Phase I (n=52), there were 14 T's (26.9%). Project-wide (n=119), the T's number 27 and account for 22.7% of participants.

Haplogroup U made the second highest appearance. Phase II had 10 individuals (14.9%). There were rather more U's (13, or 25.0%) in Phase I, bringing the total for both phases to date to 23, or 19.3%.

H was represented by 11 subjects in Phase II (16.4%) and 4 (7.7%) in Phase II. The total number of H's in the project is 15 (12.6%). In the CBC data, H is the largest haplogroup, accounting for 40.0% of individuals. The top three haplogroups (T, U and H) thus covered about half of participants across the two phases of the project.

Second tier anomalous types in Phase II were J (6, or 9.0%), L (6, or 9.0%) and K (4, or 6%). These moderately well represented haplogroups (J, K, L) accounted for about 21.8% of all participants and about 25% of anomalous types. The leading haplogroups T, U and H made up an average 45% of the anomalous samples.

At the bottom frequencies, anomalous haplogroups with 2 or fewer individuals were I (3.0%), W (3.0%), N (1.5%) and V (1.5%). These minor types accounted for 7.6% of the anomalous results in Phase I. They did not appear in Phase I. Project-wide, they represent 5% of results, and combining with CBC, which had 1 I and 2 W's, the minor anomalous types amount to 3.5% of haplogroup assignments. In addition, there have been four unknown haplogroups, all in Phase I, totaling 1.6% of the greater sample (n=254).

Fig. 1 Haplogroup Distribution Phase II




A-D, X




































Unique Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms

In Phase II, comparisons in all readily available worldwide databases (chiefly the Cambridge Mitochondrial DNA Concordance, Monson et al. and Mitosearch) produced 55 rare, unreported or unique SNPs on HVR1 and HVR2. A list of these mitochondrial DNA mutations of interest along with the haplogroups in which they occurred is provided in Fig. 2. A number of these yield matches within the project, or by comparison with CBC tested individuals, but there remain many individuals with such rare mutations that they do not match anyone in the world or at best only partially match others in the three samples (n=254).

The results of our analysis seem to implicate a specific, coherent and diverse gene pool of ancient structure and origin among present-day Cherokee descendants. Such a characterization is supported by the distribution of female haplotypes; invariable pattern of matches leading to mitochondrial linkage in North America, often to persons identified as Native American, and sometimes even as Cherokee; occurrence of very old mutations; and presence of unique SNPs that match with others in the sample, if with anyone.

The role of admixture depends on what population one  "privileges." From the perspective of entrenched models and theories of genetics, the finding of H or any of the other anomalous haplogroups in the Cherokee, no matter how many or in what proportions, should naturally be explained as the result of post-1492 European intermarriage or "random mating" with Native Americans. In the scheme "A-D and sometimes X," the presence of T, U, J or any other anomalous type in the Cherokee must be attributed to recent admixture.

Fig. 2. Unique and Rare SNPs



Phase II

Phase I


C, L

20, 51


H, L





11, 12, 13, 14, 16












T, L

5, 6, 16

24, 25, 26, 32, 50





U, T, B

23, 56, 58

2, 11, 16, 51, 52


U, T, B

23, 56, 58

2, 11, 16, 51, 52


H, K, L, T




H, L




21, 59


T, L


24, 25, 26, 32, 36, 50





U, H, T

14, 42, 44

6, 41


U, H, T

14, 42, 44

6, 41


L, A, J

47, 61






8, 63


J, K







T, H

21, 32, 59


T, U




8, 63, unknown









U, L

36, 64



L, H










A, H, U

33, 36



N, L

2, 51





U, B, I

4, 46, 48, 54, 60









C, L






J, L, Unknown

35, 52



J, U, Unknown

3, 32, 41

4, 8, 15, 16, 36, 45


H, W, L, J

12, 30, 31, 47, 63



D, H, W

25, 30, 31, 62


N, I, L, U

2, 48, 51, 52, 54



J, W, L

8, 30, 31, 54








I, T, L











20, 66



48, 54



20, 66



20, 66


J, K

35, 53

We have seen, however, that cracks and whole chasms have been developing in the formerly tidy, tied-up-with-ribbons "peopling of the Americas" hypothesis. Even if anomalous population components are ascribed to admixture, though, we still want to determine what time or times in the past, and from what source or sources, did that admixture enter into the picture. The condition that mitochondrial-line admixture is female-mediated, not male-mediated or autosomal, demands that we have a source population with a great number of women. Moreover, the female genetic founders must approximate the distribution, age and diversity of haplogroups in the study population (Cherokee descendants in the strict female line).

Gene flow into Native American populations historically has been almost exclusively the result of privileged European men taking lesser status American Indian female partners. Very few European women in colonial times bore the babies of Native American men. In the conquest of North America, Indian male lines were preferentially reduced and extinguished, while Indian women often became the prizes of war or simply an inevitable choice in a world overflowing with single males. If Native American women had children with European men, their daughters and maternal granddaughters perpetuated Native American mitochondrial DNA.

It bears repeating that only women can pass down trans-generational mitochondrial markers. The corollary is also true:  men cannot be responsible for mitochondrial ancestry. All present-day mitochondrial haplotypes must trace back to a woman, usually to a mother who had at least two daughters.

Can our admixture be explained as coming from other time frames and possibly non-European origins? If it is ancient rather than recent, does it even make sense to regard it as admixture? These are the questions we will address in the next section of our report. 

Sharon R. Chatterton (nee Toms). 


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More Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee - Part One

Thursday, October 02, 2014

By Donald N. Yates

Because of its length, our long-awaited report on Phase II of the Cherokee DNA Project is being published in installments. Part I deals with the background of American Indian haplogroup analysis and the "peopling of the Americas" hypothesis that has prevailed in genetics since 1993. Part Two will describe our procedure and methodology. 

A purposive sample of individuals who took a mitochondrial DNA test to determine female lineage (n=67) was created from participants in DNA Consultants' Cherokee DNA Project Phase II. Almost all beforehand claimed matrilineal descent from a Native American woman, usually believed to be Cherokee, and often named in genealogy research undertaken by the customer. The majority of subjects revealed "anomalous" haplotypes not previously classified as American Indian. Many matched others in Phase I. Several individuals overcame the barrier of a sealed adoption to find biological relationships, often to other participants. As in Phase I, a Middle Eastern type, haplogroup T, emerged as the most common lineage (19.4% in Phase II, 22.7% overall in the project), followed by H, U and J, all Eurasian types. Sub-Saharan African haplogroup L (9%) was prominent as a minor category. Old Europe haplogroups I, N, V and W occurred in small amounts and should be considered strikingly new, unreported signals of authentic Cherokee ancestry.



Ever since the pioneering work of Douglas C. Wallace, Rebecca L. Cann and others on the use of human mitochondrial DNA as a marker for genetic ancestry and disease, scientists have insisted on a very limited and rigid number of ancient Asian female founders for present-day American Indian populations. In 1993, Satoshi Horai of the National Institute of Genetics in Mishima, Japan was the lead author in a study with the agenda-setting title, "Peopling of the Americas, Founded by Four Major Lineages of Mitochondrial DNA." That same year, Antonio Torroni of the University of Pavia coined the term haplogroup in a publication in the American Journal of Human Genetics in which he and his co-authors postulated but four lineages, A, B, C and D to account for mitochondrial ancestries in their sample. Also in 1993, Anne C. Stone (Arizona State University) and Mark Stoneking (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology) confirmed the four haplogroups in a 1300 C.E. burial ground in central Illinois, the Norris Farms site. The year 1993 was truly an annus mirabilis in American Indian genetics. It remained only for the minor haplogroup X to be added to the original four lineages (Brown et al. 1998, Malhi and Smith 2002; Smith et al. 1999).

In the ensuing twenty years, academic studies, textbooks, the popular media and governmental policies fell into lockstep about the "peopling of the Americas." Despite a number of voices being raised in criticism (Jones; Guthrie; Jett), the model restricting American Indian ancestry to mitochondrial lineages A, B, C, D and X has remained intact. When direct-to-the-consumer DNA testing became available in 2000, commercial companies hopped on the abecedarian bandwagon. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you could have an Indian DNA test say anything you wanted as long as it was A, B, C, D and sometimes X. But were these haplogroup rules possibly equivocal and not conclusively decidable anyway?

Etched in stone along with the five classic Native American mitochondrial haplogroups has emerged a belief that all American Indians can be traced to a single entry from Siberia roughly 10,000 years ago across the Bering Strait, supposed at that time to have formed a land bridge. This prevailing notion was summarized and defended by Kemp and Schurr (2010). According to University of Florida doctoral dissertation writer Joseph Andrew Park Wilson, "Today it is rare to find a molecular anthropologist who favors more than two distinct migration events, and a majority of researchers are enamored with the single-origin hypothesis, which postulates just one founding group ancestral to all Native Americans." Wilson cites the following studies in support of this observation:  Bonatto and Salzano 1997; Fagundes et al. 2008; Goebel et al. 2008; Kolman et al. 1996; Merriwether et al. 1995; Mulligan et al. 2004; Rubicz et al. 2002; Stone and Stoneking 1998; Tamm et al. 2007; Tarazona-Santos and Santos 2002; Zegura et al. 2004 (p. 102).

Band-aids on the Battleship
This "A-D" thesis continues to stand with minor alterations. Perego et al. (2009) proposed on the basis of phylogeographic analysis of 69 mitochondrial types a  "simultaneous but independent Asian source populations for early American colonists." But this modification of the theory involving "two roads taken" still kept within the A-D canon and maintained the primacy of the Bering land bridge (aided in a minor way by a seaborne route from Asia using the "kelp road").

After extensive examination of the subject Wilson concludes that the five mtDNA haplogroups actually have complex, multilayered histories. Setting aside the initial colonization of the Americas with its foundational genetic imprint, a host of unsolved questions about the remainder of the pre-Columbian period persist as problematic, including the number, timing, impact, duration, direction and scale of movements between the Old World and New World. Moreover, the genetic story represents only one of the pieces of the puzzle; other evidence to be harmonized into a coherent "archeogenetic narrative" are languages and material culture (pp. 141-42).

Torroni and Wallace (then at Emory and La Sapienza in Rome, respectively) were apparently the first to use the term "anomalous" of mitochondrial types. However, in their important letter to the editor of the American Journal of Human Genetics in May 1995, they applied it rather narrowly to "a heterogeneous set of mtDNAs due either to recent genetic admixture or to new mutations that have abolished a preexisting primary marker," in other words to non-conforming types within the A-D paradigm.

Utterly "foreign" anomalies only came within the sights of geneticists in 2013, when a devastating shockwave hit the archeological establishment. At the epicenter was Danish researcher Eske Willerslev, who reported on two 24,000-year-old Siberian skeletons at the "First Americans Archeology" conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The fullest sequencing of ancient human DNA to date suggested that the people who lived near Lake Baikal at the dawn of human civilizations, and who later developed into the Native Americans of the New World, came more proximately from a westernly direction in Europe, not from Asia. Moreover, the mitochondrial haplogroup of the so-called Mal'ta boy the Danish team sequenced was U, a "non-Indian" type (M. Raghavan et al. 2014). The term anomalous now extended to entire haplogroups that did not fit the mold.

On the face of it, no haplotyping study can distinguish between deep ancestry and more recent admixture as the cause of unusual variations in DNA. Whereas tools like "time to coalescence," bootstrapping and phylogenetic trees can be used to compare types and estimate genetic distance, no logarithm can tell the geneticist where any given haplotype may have arisen and become characteristic. Projections of the source, spread, mutation and survival of uni-parental haplotypes can be deceptive, especially when they telescope tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of years.

Navajo Puzzles
To consider an apposite question from Navajo research, we might ask when did certain Asian genes in the modern-day Diné matching 4000-year-old DNA from Siberia and the Tarim Basin travel to the Americas? It could have been 20,000 years ago or it could have been in the 16th century. The "genetic signature" could have arrived by gradual "star-like" diffusion or through one or more discontinuous movements, some possibly seaborne, some repetitive, some marked by diversity of types, some non-diverse, some minor, some major, some conceivably separated from each other by centuries or millennia. Similar problems beset any modeling of tribally-specific genetic scenarios. As the Jones white paper pointed out long ago, geneticists have a tendency to take the long view and telescope genetic incidents. They often rely solely on statistical modeling applying classical evolutionary components like random mating and natural selection and do not take concerted account of histories, archeology, cultural baggage like myth and religion, and family or clan genealogies. 

So far, autosomal DNA analysis has not assumed a large role in elucidating haplogroup history and the subject of admixture. The Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen's Natural History Museum of Denmark has led the way with a new "dual ancestry" model augmenting the A-D thesis. The current issue of Archaeology contains the heretical suggestion that "the earliest travelers to the New World made their way more than 20,000 years ago from what is now the west coast of France and northern Spain" (Swaminathan, p. 25), but this seems to be just another shot in the dark. A quite recent autosomal study of European DNA headed by Harvard's David Reich identified three ancestral populations on the basis of ancient DNA, one of which is Willerslev's "ancient North Eurasians related to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians," called ANE (Lazaridis et al. 2014). Belonging to haplogroup U, and sharing some alleles with 8,000-year-old Scandinavian hunter-gatherers, ANE is thus an ancient link between Europeans and Native Americans, one quite separate incidentally from Turkic Chuvash and N-dominated Saami, both of which "are more related to east Asians than can be explained by ANE admixture" (p. 412). Haplogroup U has thus been established as an ancient founding haplogroup in Native American populations, dating back 24,000 years ago to the same time period as the A-D canon.

It is to be hoped that genetics will embark on a fundamental new beginning for the study of American Indian haplotypes rather than continue to repair outworn theories. Promisingly for Cherokee research, Willerslev's team in Denmark has included several participants in the present project as part of a larger study. The Danish initiative has sampled the 35,000 members of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama:  Dr. Joel E. Harris, Sr. maintains a communication page.

Photo above:  Participant #56, Karen Freeman Worstell, a risk management professional in Gig Harbor, Washington. Worstell tested as having a very rare T* that matched Cherokees on official rolls, even though T is universally considered a non-Indian type. She says, "I was always told we were Cherokee by my mother." Her T haplotype exactly matched two participants in Phase I of the DNA Cherokee Project, both relatives of Patrick Pynes, a professor of indigenous studies in Arizona. Pynes has traced the line to Mildred Gentry (1792-1852) and Nancy Gentry (b. 1801), daughters of the wife of Tyree Gentry, sometimes named as Delilah.  

Karen Worstell's grandmother Odessa Shields Cox (shown with her husband William M. Cox and Karen's mother Ethel about 1922) was born about 1904 in Indian Territory. "As for my family's oral history," says Worstell, "there was tremendous secrecy about anything related to my Indian background. My grandfather used to call me 'squaw,' which would infuriate my mother. My mother cut off all connection with her own mother sometime before I was born. My grandmother has strikingly Indian features and I do wonder if perhaps she was an adopted Indian child." 


Nae Boots commented on 03-Oct-2014 10:33 PM

at least they can't call my grandma a liar anymore. and that is good enough for now.

Janice Maxwell commented on 24-Mar-2015 11:36 AM

I have had my DNA done a few years ago. I am in the Hap group "T". I have Cherokee heritage from my mother and my father. How can I get involved with the Native American studies. I would like to see where my results fit in with the other Cherokee people.

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Jesse Montes: Where Do I Come From

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I grew up in the Southwest in Richmond, California. My father was from Guayama, Puerto Rico, and my mother was from Maui, Hawaii. My paternal great grandparents kept a diary and worked in the sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee fields and told stories of the Taino Indians from the island of Boriken near Puerto Rico.  My mother’s side migrated to Hawaii from Spain and Puerto Rico to work in the pineapple and sugar cane fields. My mom and relatives were in Pearl Harbor and some served in WWII.

My mom's maternal grandmother was born near Ponce, Puerto Rico. 

I knew that I had Spanish and heard there might be some Native American from my grandparents, but I did not know for sure. I always had a gut feeling I was Native American, but I did not know how to confirm this until I took the DNA Fingerprint Plus and your Native American DNA test. My Dad talked about having some Taino Indian, and I thought maybe I had a trace. I did not know. I was always very curious about my ancestry.

It was a big surprise to me what the tests showed! I have a Spanish name, but the Native American DNA test showed that I have Native American on both sides and have a match to Taino and possibly Cherokee. My Native American haplogroup, C1, is relatively rare and corresponds to Taino lineage.  I am assuming the Taino is on my Dad’s side and the Cherokee is on my mom’s side. The latter was especially surprising since I am from the Southwest. I have not done any other DNA testing, but my sister did. She did a DNA test from another company and was told said she had Cherokee which we thought odd, but this is just more confirmation. My DNA Fingerprint Plus report said the Spanish and French enslaved and resettled many Native Americans to the highlands of Puerto Rico, so I imagine that is where I got Cherokee ancestry. Also, the DNA Fingerprint Plus showed I have top matches to Native American populations in my world and megapopulations. It was a big surprise to discover I have so much Native American. Oh, and I discovered I also have some Jewish in my ancestry which was quite a surprise.

I am hoping to now be able to connect with some of my ancestors online on my mom’s side to discover even more from the Native American DNA test and to join the Dr. Yates’ Cherokee Project with DNA Consultants. Dr. Yates believes my mother’s line is Cherokee. I am very excited about that. You guys have my full support. I finally know who I am! This has helped me very much. It isn’t that it was just useful to me. This is a useful tool that would help everyone find out who they are. God bless you and what you are doing. You are a dynamic duo and have given me a golden key. I always had a gut feeling that I was Native American, and it was such a relief to find out I have a strong line of it from my mother. I am usually a very quiet person, but I am so excited about this that I want to be recognized. This is me! 

52-year-old Cherokee DNA Project Phase II Participant No. 20, Jesse Montes of Richmond, Calif., was interviewed by Teresa Panther-Yates, Vice President of Communications, August 6, 2014.


Luis Alberto commented on 27-Sep-2014 11:06 AM

Mr. Montes. I am glad of your findings. one of my family lines is Montes also. And, from Mayaguez, PR

The quest for blood lines is been here forever, Even before DNA was a fact of life.

The main thing in all these findings is that you are a perfect example of what you and all of us are.

Not only a part but as a whole we are member of the Human Race. Rejoice!
A single grain of sand that we contribute to rebuild our decadent society will be of great help, Nothing else, Nothing more. my fellowman.


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Nobody Can Tell Me Who I Am

Friday, September 19, 2014

Postings from the Edge

By Donald N. Yates

They called her Mother Qualla—a stately, bluish-gray skinned schoolteacher in New York with angular features, thin lips and quick, intelligent eyes. Brian Wilkes and I drove her to her motel room at a meeting of the Southwestern Cherokee Confederacy in Albany, Georgia.

That was twenty years ago but I shall never forget Mother Qualla's take on Indian recognition. She listened to our stories, looked at us sternly and said, "No one can tell me WHO I AM!"

Such words could well serve as the mantra of more than a hundred dedicated genealogy seekers in DNA Consultants' Cherokee DNA Project who are proving the geneticists wrong. Participants in Phase II received a thank-you email from the company September 20 that provided many with the confirmation they had long sought in vain from previous testing.

"I always had a gut feeling that I was Native American," said San Pablo, Calif. resident Jesse Montes, a fortyish Latino who resembles nothing so much as Sir Joshua Reynolds' 1762 portrait of Ostenaco. "It was a big surprise and relief to discover I am Indian in both my father's male and my mom's female line, just as family stories said we were." His mitochondrial sample turned out to be haplogroup C, the type of Cherokee Beloved Woman Nancy Ward and a whole line of chiefs from the Wolf Clan, including Dragging Canoe.

Although none of the participants previously knew each other, many found out they were related as descendants of the same Cherokee ancestor and evidently belonged to the same clan. Indeed, several were adoptees totally uninformed about their ancestry before joining the project.

Juanita Sims was one of the frustrated clients of previous testing, which can often be cut-and-dry, case-closed on the matter of who is Indian. Said niece Elizabeth DeLand, "She originally had the test done because her grandmother and great-grandmother spoke Cherokee and she is trying to find it in her DNA." Sims proved to have a rare form of U5a1 DNA, fully matching a woman born in Walker County, Alabama, in 1828. DeLand enrolled her aunt as Participant #67 in the study, one of the last to be accepted.

Under the rules of Family Tree DNA's Cherokee DNA Project, "Native American mtDNA Haplogroups are A, B, C, D and X," and any others are ineligible. The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band adopt similar restrictions for what they consider "true" American Indian DNA types.

Of the 67 participants, eleven of them (16%) tested with other companies first, including Family Tree DNA, Ancestry.com and DNA Diagnostics Center. On the other hand, about half (47%) got first-time test results from DNA Consultants' service lab, Genex Diagnostics of Vancouver, British Columbia. About a third tested with Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City, Utah, a source used by the company in the first two years of the phase's existence. Two participants did not want to reveal the identity of their lab.

Despite not having to pay for benefits of being included in the study, all candidates had to purchase either a Native American Test or Report Only analysis. As a measure of their passion to find answers, they collectively spent an estimated $50,000 between one company or other, according to Holli Starnes, project administrator and assistant principal investigator.

In addition to cross-comparisons within the project, all participants will be now compared to 135 mitochondrial records from the Cherokee DNA project assembled in 2002-2011 under the aegis of the late Chief Joe White and longtime administrator Marcy Palmer of the Central Band of Cherokee.

According to Jan Ravenspirit Franz, webmaster for the CBC, this project was closed and reorganized by its sponsor Family Tree DNA, where it currently lists 51 members, but the wishes of the original participants are being respected and all data has been maintained for continuing analysis.

In a preliminary tabulation, 16% of participants proved to have direct female descent in "standard" American Indian haplogroups A, B, C, D and X. The majority (84%) had what are commonly recognized as "non-Indian" haplogroups.

With surnames like Allen, Harris and Wilson (four of these), and Little Bear, Thundereagle and Buitenhuis, they joined from Tennessee, Washington State, Oklahoma, Texas and Connecticut. Some verified ancestors they knew about from the paper trail; others met new figures on the trail blazed by modern genetics. One matched Kitty Prince of the Bear River Athabaskans; another, Cherokee Beloved Woman Nancy Ward (haplogroup C).

"My grandmother and her family always said we were Cherokee and I know that they were afraid of looking too brown and would always stay out of the sun," wrote one participant. "They didn't want to be connected to Native Americans at all. I feel like I have missed part of my heritage and would like to know if this story is true."

She happened to have haplogroup H, a controversial type for Indian ancestry, but matched three possible Cherokee descendants and no one else.

Another, who happened to bear the African haplogroup L3, matched several ancestors claimed by others in the records and reported to be Cherokee. A similar L3 turned up in a California man and was reported in A Te Anu, a Muscogee Creek woman.

One man, an adoptee, managed to get his adoption papers opened on the strength of his DNA testing. His mitochondrial DNA was a rare form of T* that coincidentally matched that of others in the project, and no one else in the world.

As in Phase I, rare T haplotypes accounted for about one-fifth of participants and was the leading anomalous Cherokee type. H and U, as well as K and J were also prominent. New additions came in the form of W (2), N (1), L (6), I (2) and V (1).

Two participants (B and U) had family stories they were Jewish.

Surnames of Individuals Tested

Afshari Allen Alvarez Anonymous Barrios Benjamin Benning Brill Buitenhuis Carpenter Carter (2) Cazee Chatterton Clark Dulaney England Epstein Espinoza Francisco (2) Franz (2) Guillermo Gurule Harris Haynes James Keating Kellam Kubik Lambert Little Bear Melton Montes Murphy Nagy Nielsen Perez Ponder Poole Pyle Rahamim Redding Rogalla Rymes Santos-Montanez Sexton Shipman Shippley Sims Sponenburgh Stritzel Stults Swinney Thundereagle Van Poperin Walker (2) Ward Williams Wilson (4) Worstell Young.


James E. Walker commented on 23-Sep-2014 03:54 PM

Thanx guys for all your Great work,i can see this is going to be good reading.James

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One Giant Leap for Kennewick Man

Monday, August 25, 2014

The most important human skeleton found in North America has finally been given a reprieve from legal obstacles to be studied and the resulting information published. In an article by Douglas Preston in Smithsonian Magazine titled "The Kennewick Man Finally Freed to Share His Secrets," the amazing story of the 9,000 year-old skeleton—and the enormous lengths to which the government and tribal protesters went to block it—is told for the first time.

And what a story it is, whether you consider the astounding new evidence it provides for a completely new version of the peopling of the Americas or the shocking tale of government and Native American obstruction. In both narratives, Douglas Owsley a physical anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, is the hero. He became the key plaintiff in a decades-long legal battle that cost taxpayers "at a bare minimum . . . $5 million." And he is the lead editor in the long-awaited scientific monograph from Texas A&M University Press appearing next month, Kennewick Man:  The Scientific Investigation of an Ancient American Skeleton.

Kennewick Man appears to have resembled an Ainu or Mauri fisherman, stocky, bearded, light-skinned, belonging to an ancient sea-faring race from Southeast Asia that first colonized the Americas about 15,000 year ago. His story, replete with details on how he lived and died, turns the traditional account of American prehistory on its ear. The people we call Native Americans did not come until later, much later. "An ancient population of seafarers ... were America's original settlers," writes Preston.

Tooth and Nail

This is not an absolute get-out-of-jail-free card for Kennewick Man, however. The defenders in the suit have fought and continue to fight letting the scientists study the skeleton's teeth and DNA. And Native American tribes like the Umatilla still cling to their "deeply held religious beliefs," which would demand that the skeleton be reburied in a secret location according to the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act and completely lost to science. 

No one will ever know the exact circumstances of Kennewick Man's burial 9,000 years ago in what is now southeast Washington State because the government finessed this issue several years ago. When the scientists asked for permission to examine the site where Kennewick Man was found, even as Congress was readying a bill that would require the site's preservation, the Corps of Army Engineers dumped "a million pounds of rock and fill over the area for erosion control, ending any chance of research." 

The government was found to have engaged in many other acts of blatant bad faith. A judge in 2004, John Jelderks, awarded attorney's fees of $2,379,000 to [Owsley's lawyer Alan] Schneider and his team."

The keepers of Kennewick Man still refuse to let the scientists analyze the spearpoint that was buried in the skeleton's hip.

Perhaps if scientists declared that a search for truth was part of their "deeply held religious beliefs" they might make better headway . . . . 

If you like ancient seafaring people in the Americas, you might enjoy the following titles:


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Destination Europe

Monday, August 18, 2014

European Populations in the DNA Fingerprint Ancestry Test

In the days before standardization of railway gauges, passengers were sometimes obliged to get out of the railcar when the tracks reached a border and climb aboard a waiting train on the next set of rails, which were broader or narrower in design.

An analogy is being able to fly to certain destinations only with a connecting flight. Unfortunately, because the U.S. and Europe follow different standards for reporting DNA profiles, the same situation applies in ancestry testing.

All DNA Consultants' results are based on published studies. The two main forensic conventions are those of the FBI (CoDIS) and Europe (ENFSI). The two standards are as different as electricity at 120 volts (U.S.) and 220 (Europe).  No one converter will plug in at your hotel room in Boston and Brussels.

When we have data that conforms exclusively to one standard or another, we cannot make up the missing values or "fudge" comparisons. There are no direct flights from Phoenix to Rome.

Introduced in May of 2013, DNA Consultants' new method for giving customers matches to countries of Europe where they may have ancestry underwent some enhancements to overcome these problems as of August 15 of 2014.

All full DNA Fingerprint reports now specify European results in several different ways, while the $99 EURO report will only give one result (no. 3, ENFSI).



Possible Matches


Top 50 world populations out of 450 all together

9 Core CoDIS Markers

181 European populations, e.g. Russia - Pskov (n=62)


Top 20 extended EURO populations without other world populations

10 ENFSI standard markers derived from all published sources

71 populations, e.g., Romania - Dobruja (n = 569)


Top 10 core European countries belonging to European Union*

10 ENFSI standard markers actually reported by ENFSI

24 populations, e.g. England/Wales (n = 437)


Top 10 Megapopulations out of 22

9 Core CoDIS Markers

10 European megapopulations, e.g. Mediterranean European


Map of World Ancestry

9 Core CoDIS Markers

Intensity of green shows strength of match, as before


Certificate of Testing

Combined methods

Your ENFSI matches appear in right column, your megapops in left


Ancestry Certificate

Your Personalized Report

Any population, megapopulation or ethnic marker can be displayed

As for special certificates ordered after you get your report, the match you specify must appear in the top world, European or ethnic panel results in your personal ancestry analysis. If it does, it will be reproduced exactly according to the nomenclature adopted from the original study, e.g. Italian, Filipino, Sub-Saharan African, East Asian. Customers may choose between American Indian or Native American, whichever they prefer. Only one population match per certificate! Available in hard copy exclusively.

(*) Note:  Nineteen of the European Union's 27 countries are included in official ENFSI data:




Czech Republic+










North Ireland











Those countries marked with a + are also included in our world data on a different basis (CoDIS).

Omitted from official ENFSI calculations either because they have not been sampled by ENFSI itself or are not in the European Union are:


















Almost all of these countries are covered in our world data (using the CoDIS standard). For instance, Greek - Northern (n = 318) or Lithuania - Vilnius (n=140).

Included with ENFSI populations are two countries that are not members of the European Union:



Between one dataset or another, a customer can find at least one match for any country on the modern map of Europe they might have exotic ancestry in, even Cyprus, Malta, Iceland and Turkey, which are often grouped with Europe. Bulgaria and Ukraine, for which no data at all are available, are estimated by neighboring populations across their borders.

Remember, multiple matches do not mean multiple ancestry! For instance, if you get 10 matches to Spanish/Portuguese, that does not necessarily mean you have 10 times the amount of that ancestry than if you received only one match.

The converse is also true. Many Americans are looking for confirmation of Irish ancestry, but there are only two sets of data for Ireland:  Ireland (n=300) and Northern Ireland (n=207). Setting aside neighboring populations like Scotland/Glasgow (n=494) and England/Wales (n=437), your Irishman or Irishwoman thus only gets two "lottery tickets" to enter in the Irish Sweepstakes. If Ireland or Northern Ireland comes up, its significance is not diminished by its sole appearance since there are only two possibilities available.

We wish you didn't have to carry an electrical adapter kit for European travel, but as stated above, we can't change the conventions any more than we can change the time zones. 


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The China Wire - Part Three

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rare Chinese Allele Found Among Southwestern U.S. Hispanics and North Mexican Indians

Like about 5 percent of North Americans, Francesca Serrano was adopted and never knew her birth parents. Wishing to find out her ancestry, she took our DNA Fingerprint Plus, an autosomal test based on an analysis of STR frequencies that can suggest overall ancestry matches to world populations. The caseworker who prepared her report was amazed at all the apparent Chinese ancestry mixed with Hispanic and Native American.

Photo:  A Chinese woman.

After delivering the report recently, we nervously interviewed Serrano, who works in an East Coast DNA diagnostic center. She explained that the results made perfect sense. She grew up in Colima, Mexico, and people often asked her, "Do you have any Asian going on in you?"

Taking a closer look at her 16-locus STR profile, we noticed several unusual alleles. We will focus on one of them in this report, a value of 9 at D16S539. Admittedly, this is only one tiny ray of light into the genomic inheritance of a person, but geneticists have proved the utility of examining single STRs like this.

Sioux Need Not Apply

A rather sensational article—if genetics literature can ever be considered crowd-inciting—appeared in 2007, when Kari Schroeder and her team at the Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, showed that a value of 9 at D9S1120 cropped up in sample profiles of 35.4% of North and South American Indians as well as "West Beringians." This marker was later dubbed a "private allele" shared by the members of a small hunting party that crossed the Bering Land Bridge and spread through the Americas many, many moons ago (the "single entry" theory).

STRs mutate almost as slowly as mitochondrial DNA and can therefore be useful markers for deep ancestry (see our post, "Evolution and Ancestry:  DNA Mutation Rates," October 23, 2012). One must be careful, however, not to make too much of them. For instance, the Sioux and Jemez reported 0.0% frequency of the touted allele (see Schroeder et al., "Haplotypic Background of a Private Allele at High Frequency in the Americas," Mol. Biol. Evol. 26/5 [2009] 1003), but that doesn't make them any less Indian than the others. Try telling any Lakota Sioux he is less Indian than the others.

In Hispanic people in the American Southwest, our allele (which we will call for the sake of convenience "the Serrano allele") occurs in only 8% percent of the population. It is not even among the most common possible numbers on that location; a repeat of 11 occurs in 31%.



% =9

Southwestern Hispanics


California Hispanics


Arizona Hispanics








Huichol Indians Chiapas


El Salvador


Analysis and Conclusion
From these figures, we get a general picture of the Serrano allele running relatively high, though still a minority report, in Western Hispanics, Mexicans and Indians. It is highest in the Navajos (who are rumored to have migrated from Chinese Turkistan in historical times). It is about the same in Arizona Hispanics as Mexicans from Chihuahua. We have no data from Sonora or Sinaloa, unfortunately.

Although present at an average frequency of about 12% in American Indian populations, the Serrano allele reaches its highest level among the Salishan Indians of British Columbia, where it is 30%. In neighboring regions of Canada, indigenous people have only about 8% of it (Saskatchewan aboriginals). 

Everything comes from somewhere, and the Serrano allele in terms of human history is no exception. Its frequency is low or entirely absent in European populations and extremely high in East Asian, where it is highest among the Atayal tribe of Taiwanese aborigines (52%). It is also elevated among the Evenks (one of Russia's native peoples), the Japanese, Pacific Islanders and Koreans. It is about the same level in Central, North, Chaozhou, Sichuan, Cantonese and Singapore Chinese populations, about 25%.

Like all alleles it is found in Africa, the ultimate source of all present-day humans, in modest amounts, but in even scarcer quantities in all the populations between there and North Asia. It enjoyed an enormous expansion in China.

It averages only 2.4% in all Native Americans, showing it is an extremely rare allele for American Indians to have overall. 

Serrano's No. 1 match on the basis of her entire profile (13 loci) is Chinese Hui - Ningxia. In this homeland of the Tangut people which once formed part of the Xia Xian Empire, the value of 9 on this marker is modal, with a frequency of 30%. 

What are we to make of a single allele that is relatively rare in Native Americans, even rarer in European, Middle Eastern and other populations, but modal in some Chinese populations, with an apparent ancient center of diffusion in Taiwan? We conclude that it just may be a vestige of Asian DNA from China's ancient and medieval periods of history, not deep history tracing back to Siberia.

In our next post we will see if any confirmatory evidence comes from other avenues of investigation.


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The China Wire - Part Two

Friday, August 08, 2014

Buddhist Priests in Ancient Arizona

Monument on northeast boundary of the Ironwood National Forest in the Samaniego Hills.

By and large, the genetics literature on American Indians has been confined to small, scattered samples gleaned from modern groups. This morass of information is vast, growing, and inconclusive.

Attempting to present the "peopling of the Americas" from such a reductive approach is like playing a game of Solitaire with important cards missing.

One Brazilian geneticist completely despaired of any solution as long ago as 2002. Francisco Salzano wrote in an article titled "Molecular Variability in Amerindians:  Widespread but Uneven Information, that "the present trend of favoring essentially applied research suggests that the situation will not basically improve in the future" (Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, vol. 74, no. 2, p. 1).

It hasn't, of course. We shall not attempt here anything like a synthesis of the subject, although a later installment in this series will tackle the autosomal DNA story. Only alternative approaches such as alu insertions, human lymphocyte antigens and autosomal DNA can possibly cut the Gordian knot.

Turning from DNA to Actual History
In the meantime, let us continue the thread begun with "Did the Chinese Settle in Northwest Mexico and the American Southwest" (blog post, July 30, 2014).  In Part One, we saw that the Mexicans and Chinese retain memories of Chinese settlement in the New World if most Americans do not.

The classic historical reference is a Chinese text about the Land of Fusang, an account redacted in the 14th century describing events going back to the fifth century. It occurs in the 41st Book of Chüan (or Kuen 327) in the 230th volume of the Great Chinese Encyclopedia, a vast imperial compilation known simply as The Chinese Classics. Joseph de Guignes, a learned French Orientalist, sinologist and Turkologist, brought it to the attention of the Western world in 1761.

De Guignes identified the original narrator as Hwui Shen (or Hui Shen), a Buddhist priest from Kabul (Afghanistan, then part of India), who visited ancient Mexico with four or five other priests in 458 C.E. Hui Shen appeared before the Chinese emperor in 499 and gave an exact account of his travels, surviving in several versions (see the summary in Henriette Mertz, Pale Ink, pp. 21-22).  

De Guignes' report on the Chinese in the Americas appeared in the papers of the French Academy of Inscriptions and Royal Society of London and confounded Europe.  Savants over the next two hundred years—Julius Klaproth (1831), Dominique Alexandre Godron, Joseph Needham—confirmed Hui Shen's place in history. In 1885, Edward P. Vining published the provocatively but succinctly titled Inglorious Columbus: or, Evidence that Hwui Shen and a Party of Buddhist Priests from Afghanistan Discovered America (see extensive bibliog. in Stan Steiner, Fusang, p. 240-44).

If Buddhist priests were living in sixth century Arizona, skeptics may charge, they can't have left much proof of their existence. Their landfall in the Americas was no doubt accidental. They left no enduring mark. It's as if it never happened. In fact, it probably did not happen. Hui Shen's story is a charming fairy tale, not a historical account.

Mesoamerican Religious Practices
To the contrary, there are numerous signs of a deep and lasting Asiatic imprint in Mexico. No less an authority than Hubert Howe Bancroft devotes many pages to the bewilderingly diverse forms of religion among ancient Mexican Indians. Of those in Sonora, Sinaloa and Durango, he writes:  "They had innumerable private idols, penates of all possible and impossible figures, some being stone, shaped by nature only" (Native Races, vol. 3, Myths and Languages, San Francisco, 1882, p. 179).


 Lingams and cross at San Xavier.

He notes that some Western Mexican tribes worshipped a black stone like the Kaaba in Mecca, and that Quetzalcoatl and other divinities were connected with stone-worship (p. 281). One Americanist "even explains the meaning of the name Quetzalcoatl despite the usual definition as 'twin of a precious stone.'"

If all this sounds like lingam worship, perhaps it is. In our rambles through the Ironwoods National Forest we were surprised to discover an altar we dubbed Bighead in a hidden cove (see photo). When we questioned a Papago elder he recognized the place immediately and said it was one of his people's most sacred shrines. 

The closest member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, as the Papagos are now known, lives in Tucson, thirty miles away, but certain religious leaders still know this now-empty territory like the back of their hand.

We were not completely shocked after this, when we visited the Mission of San Xavier del Bac, which serves as the parish church for the Papagos living around Tucson.There we photographed a collection of Shaivistic lingams placed beneath the giant Christian cross. The heirs of the Hohokam may have adopted the creed of the Jesuits and Franciscans but apparently they cling to some of their old forms of worship.

Some Possible Echoes in Place-Names
Mertz proposes that the very word Sinaloa (in Nahuatl Zineloque) is derived from Chinelos, "foreigners." She draws attention to the Huichol Indians, who live around Colima, a possible origin point according to a consensus of archeologists for the early Hohokam. These carriers of Arizona's first advanced native culture arrived around 400 C.E. from the south with a fully formed society, featuring, among other things, distinctive pottery, copper bells, cremation practices and irrigation knowledge.

"The religious nature of the Huichol," writes Mertz, "and their attendant religious ceremonies, had strong Buddhist characteristics . . . Some Huicholes bore such striking resemblance to the Chinese that the Mexicans called them 'Chinos'" (p. 73).

Mertz speculates that certain place-names in the Sonoran Desert and West Mexico coast commemorate Asian colonies. The name of Picacho, the hat-shaped landmark that dominates the barren lands between Phoenix and Tucson, may derive from Pi-k'iu (compare Sanskrit Bhiksu "mendicant priest").

Sacaton, an important Hohokam town, seems to bear the name of the Buddha's clan—Saka or Sakya. Prince Siddhartha Shakya (5th century BCE) was the founder of Buddhism and came to be known as Gautama Buddha. Related, according to Mertz, are the names Zacatecas and Zacatlan.

Well, that is all fine and dandy, you may say, vague legends and twisted linguistic analogies. Where's the hard evidence?

An Unusual Petroglyph
Not far from Picacho Peak and Tucson are the Santa Catalina Mountains, and on the Golden Ranch north of the Catalina State Park are the San Ysidro Ruins. Here is located what we suggest is as hard a piece of evidence as you could hope to find. It is a petroglyph of the Buddha meditating in a lotus position. Unmistakable, the iconic figure appears on a rock panel over older, conventional fertility figures and hunting scenes and can be dated to about 1500 years ago (see photo).

If Buddhist priests came to the Hohokam heartland long ago, as recounted in the Chinese Classics, they were hardly idle travelers or adventurers. They were self-described missionaries with a serious purpose. They expected to find people they could communicate with and convert. That the Hohokam and their parent populations already included a sizable Asiatic element is a given.

Asian residents, not mere visitors, are frankly implied in a Chinese poem quoted by Steiner:

Where the sun rises

In the land of Fu Sang

There is my home.

Seeking fame and riches

I came to the land

Of the eternal flowers.

So the "Land of the Eternal Flowers," Fusang, is West Mexico, from Arizona, California and Sonora to Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit and Michoacán. Hwui Chen went back to the Orient, but obviously other compatriots of his stayed and called America home. 

In Nayarit, which appears to be the center of Chinese and Buddhist influence, Bancroft reports that the ancient inhabitants conceived of heaven or paradise as filled with ministering healers "with shaved heads." After death, he writes, the good Indians "went to a place . . . where they lived under the care of men with shaved heads" (p. 529). They also believed in transmigration of souls (p. 529).

Being for the most part celibate, the men with the shaved heads cannot have left progeny, so it would be fruitless to look for their legacy in the DNA record. But that is not the case for the Chinese merchant who emigrated to Fusang to seek fame and riches. Moreover, Chinese junks were capable of transporting an entire colony numbering in the thousands, including women.

Could there be an autosomal trace of gene flow from the East, if not a Y chromosome or mitochondrial trail? Our next post will examine this possibility.


Donovan commented on 22-Sep-2014 10:12 PM

The Native Americans are the Hebrew Peleg branch. They picked up religious customs while migrating to the Americas. A few of their cousins the Chinese and other various Shemitic Island people may have joined them or assisted them in their Journey to the New World.

Robert Bridgford commented on 06-Oct-2014 02:59 PM

I believe the slanted-eyed giants of which my Cherokee ancestors speak of had been of China; "came from, ...returned to the west,...", the Priests who lead the mound-building of the Mississippi "period," likely, from my finds of connections, being that both the mound builders, & giants, had bred with the Cherokee people, indeed were those venturing to Fusang, (America). I find great truth for a man of the government on Facebook discredited, with GREAT persistence, such had been NOT so. Any information would be appreciated very much.

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The China Wire - Part One

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Did the Chinese Settle in Northern Mexico and the American Southwest?

We had just finished a meal of delicious fish tacos at what was to become our favorite Mexican restaurant on the Southside of Phoenix. The cook and owner was a lady from Sinaloa. She asked what I did for a living, and when I told her DNA testing, she immediately said, "I imagine our DNA in Mexico is a combination of Spanish, Indian and Chinese, right?"

            Her frankness took me aback. I have read all that Bancroft, Menzies, Thompson, Mertz, Stewart and others have to say on the pre-Columbian Chinese presence. Our favorite source is actually a book little read today but excellent and authoritative. Fusang: The Chinese Who Built America was published in 1979 by the impeccable American historian of multiculturalism, Stan Steiner. He covers the subject very thoroughly and definitively in Book One:  The Chinese Who Discovered America, beginning with the Buddhist missions to America in 441 C.E.

            Recent contributions by Charlotte Harris Reese continuing the scholarly work of her father Hendon M. Harris, Jr., (The Asiatic Fathers of America) have literally put Chinese exploration and settlement on the map, if not in the textbooks.

            What will it take to persuade people of the fact of Chinese visits and even colonization and influence? Evidently, more than a steady stream of respected bestsellers and blockbuster exhibitions at the nation's capital.

            Yet as Steiner notes in his introduction (p. xi), "The mysteries of history are only mysterious to those who are ignorant of them."  Perhaps DNA could help dress up an old topic and make even the willfully ignorant take notice?

            Alu insertions are short stretches of DNA implicated in the study of disease. They provide useful markers for the study of inter-population affinities and historical processes.  Data on these systems are not numerous in Native Americans and related Asiatic populations. What has been published is highly specialized and not for the faint of heart.

            Haplotype studies have occasionally found Asian types in the New World, though these anomalies are usually brushed aside. That not more attention has been paid to them is surprising in the light of ancient "Amerindian" DNA. One of the oldest and perhaps most leading pieces of evidence came from a 5,000-year-old burial in China Lake, British Columbia (!). The two individuals were both mitochondrial haplogroup M, a type that is widely distributed and even dominant in parts of Asia today. But the discoverer, a genetics professor, despite the fact that he was of Asian ancestry himself, could not bring himself to regard the individuals as having Asian ancestry. He timorously concluded only that "the founding migrants of the Americas exhibited greater genetic diversity than previously recognized" (p. 642). See "Mitochondrial Haplogroup M Discovered in Prehistoric North Americans."

            M is the single most common mtDNA haplogroup in Asia, according to Kivisild et al. ("The Emerging Limbs and Twigs of the East Asian mtDNA Tree"). It peaks in Japan and Tibet, where it represents about 70% of the maternal lineages and is pervasive in India, where it has approximately 60% frequency. Among the Chinese, haplogroup M accounts for approximately 50% of all people.

            In our own studies of Sephardic haplotypes, we found a not-insignificant number of cases of O3, a pure Asian type, for instance, Burquez (Mexico) and Ronquillo (New Mexico); see chapter 3, "Sephardim in the New World," in Jews and Muslims in British Colonial America (2012). Unbroken Chinese descent from Native American males marrying Mexican women is a more natural explanation than far-wandered Chinese merchants among the Spanish settlers.  

            We look forward to investigating the female lineages among the colonial populations especially of New Mexico, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima and Michoacán. In the meantime, it occurs to us that perhaps autosomal DNA may harbor some of the answers.

            Stay tuned for our next post, which will report an investigation of three autosomal markers that could provide solid evidence for Chinese DNA buried in the genetic record of West Mexico and the American Southwest.

Photo above:  Greenstone figure of a youth holding a limp were-jaguar baby, found in the Mexican state of Veracruz in the Olmec heartland, is East Asian looking to most people. No one has doubted its authenticity. Wiki Commons.



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DNA Consultants Method in a Nutshell

Monday, July 21, 2014
We often are asked, "How does your ancestry analysis work," and "What makes it different from other methods?" Principal Investigator Donald Yates was recently interviewed along these lines and here are his answers.

How do DNA ancestry tests work—or not work? It is fairly simple to explain the difference between first-generation tests that looked at your sex-linked lines and the new wave of admixture and population match tests that examine your whole ancestry.  The pitfalls of Y chromosome and mitochondrial haplotying tests are well known: information limited to only two lines in your tree, irrelevant broad matches instead of valid exact matches, false results from non-paternity events, outdated genetic theories about human prehistory and historical migrations and so forth. So-called "percentage tests" did little to alleviate the situation. Now many companies are claiming to test thousands of SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). However, the inferences linked to these are mostly still based on sex-linked data, medical studies and haplotype surveys. That is not truly an autosomal method, since the meaning of autosomal is non-sex-linked.  The DNA profile method (CoDIS markers) offers the next best thing to "percentage tests." Using true autosomal data and capturing published STR values for world populations, it calculates your random match frequencies and can probabilistically predict ancestry according to several parameters, including metapopulations, megapopulations, ethnic marker affinity and rare alleles.

Above:  Each test in the DNA Fingerprint family of products starts with a 16-loci DNA fingerprint or profile from the lab. Green indicates the so-called "core CoDEX" loci, which yield the greatest coverage in population data. Yellow shows four additional ones for which there is a lesser number of populations, and blue shows two extra loci used in the European system (our EURO section). 

For more information

Autosomal DNA Set to Rewrite History of "Peopling of the Americas" (announcement)
Emerging Prehistory of Ethnic Groups (blog post)
Autosomal Testing Revalidated (blog post)


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