More Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee – Part Four


donald yates rome

Part Four is the conclusion to our series of reports on the “anomalous Cherokees.” Depicted left is author Donald Yates in Rome.

Read the full paper
More Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA Lineages in the Cherokee


J, a Major Jewish Haplogroup

Haplogroup J, termed Jasmine in the scheme of Oxford Ancestors, is believed to have originated in the Old Near East and to have moved north and west into Europe, especially after the spread of agriculture beginning 5000-3000 BCE. It is found throughout Europe with particularly high concentrations around the eastern Baltic Sea and Russia, as well as in Bedouins and Yemeni, where it reaches frequencies of 25% or higher. J is a major Jewish female lineage (Thomas 2002), being a strong maternal contributor to Jewish, Arab, Greek and Italian populations. J is also the apparent carrier of congenital longevity and a host of “Jewish” diseases that are just beginning to be understood by medical science.

There were 6 J’s in Phase II (nos. 3, 8, 32, 35, 41 and 63, composing 9%), 4 in Phase I and 17 in the CBC data, making for an aggregate of 10.7%, somewhat less than the level for the Middle East and Europe (12%).

There were multiple matches between participants. An example is James Richard Stritzel (8), whose form of J1b1 matched No. 63  on HVS1 with several mismatches on HVS2. Stritzel’s grandmother, Eunice Mable, was adopted out of the Mohawk tribe and given the last name Ahern abt. 1900. His rare haplotype is similar to five J’s reported in Phase I. Of these, Nadine Rosebush’s type is not matched anywhere in the world. In other words, these J types seem to be specific to the micro-population in which they are found today and are not widespread. One might make an argument of inferred ancestry as follows, although other interpretations are also possible. The germ line and enclosing population may have originated in classical antiquity. Instances survived to the present in North America only because they were part of the discrete and continuous existence of a “people.” This “people” had spread intact by discontinuous, long-distance migration from its point of origin, where in the course of centuries its presence became extinct.

Rarest of the Rare:  I, N, V and W

Turning now to the four haplogroups that first cropped up in Phase II, we have one or two individuals each with I (54 Swinney, 48 Francisco), N (2 Kellam), V (39 Ponder) and W (30 Carpenter, 31 Sponenburgh). Percentages, phylogeny and phylogeographic patterns are probably not meaningful. Let us note, however, that one of the I’s (54) had no matches anywhere, while the other (48) matched Dicie Gray, born 1828 in North Carolina. For haplogroup N, the sole example Norma Kellam (no. 2, N1A) traces her mitochondrial line to Roanoke, Virginia. She had several unique SNPs and matched only a handful of other people. In medieval times, N gave birth to one of the four major Ashkenazi Jewish founder lineages, probably in the Rhine Basin.

James Stritzel Norma Kellam
Fig. 14. James Stritzel (8) was told by previous labs that in “no way” could his DNA be Native American. His mother’s line, however, was confirmed as Cherokee (or Mohawk) despite being an unusual type. Here the Manchester, Wash. resident carves a Deer Pipe after spending part of last summer training under a sixth-generation Lakota Nation Pipe Maker.  Fig. 15. Norma Kellam (2) of Westminster, Calif. has maternal line ancestry in Virginia and matched only five Mitosearch users, two of whom also traced to Virginia. The other three pointed to Tennessee, Mississippi and unknown origins. Her maternal grandmother was Daisy Brooks (b. 1894, m. Cronk) and great-grandmother, Nancy Ann Tingery (m. John Sellars Brooks).

African L Haplotypes

Surprisingly, there were 6 L haplotypes in Phase II (9.0%). In Phase I, there were 3 (5.8%), and the CBC data include 7 (5.2%), bringing the total across all datasets to 16, or 6.3%. The most common haplogroup was L3, the oldest African lineage, associated with and most common today in East Africa. If the African DNA were the simple effect of gene flow into the Cherokee from historical-era slaves and freemen, one would expect West African centered L2 to dominate the results, as this is far and away the most prevalent type carried by African Americans (as much as 50%). L3, on the other hand, is characterized by a relatively greater presence in circum-Mediterranean and European populations. According to one authority, “L3 is more related to Eurasian haplogroups than to the most divergent African clusters L1 and L2” (Maca-Meyer et al. 2001). Sub-Saharan African L lineages account for 10% of the population in Saudi Arabia, and L3 occupies a prominent position (72% of them; Abu-Amero et al. 2008). It has also been observed in Slavic or East European populations, especially among Ukrainian Jews, possibly vestigial admixture from ancient slaves in the Roman Empire and Islam. L3 accounts for only one-third of L lineages within Africa.

We will highlight three L3’s. Shelia Maria Wilson (52), who lives in New Mexico, has 20 mutations on mitochondrial control regions 1 and 2, the highest number we have ever studied. Generally, the more mutations, the more ancient the type. There was, however, not even a remote match in databases, making hers a unique type reported only in North America. Wilson knows her genealogy only as far back as her great-grandmother, Mrs. Julia Adams. The surname came from the Georgia slave master of her father Harry Adams. Harry, who called himself “Mali blasta,” was kidnapped in Mali as a pre-teen shortly before the Civil War. Shelia’s mother Willie Mae Adams, born in 1927, remembered seeing the whelps on her grandfather’s back where he was whipped. “I had been informed by some relatives,” writes Wilson, “that my great-grandmother was at least part Native American and White.”  Another L3 (47, Lovancia Francisco) matched a historical Native woman, A Te Anu, Muscogee.

Shelia Wilson Shelia Maria Wilson
Fig. 16. Willie Mae Adams was born June 2, 1904 in Butler County, Ga. She was the youngest girl of seven children. Her mother was a mix of black, Caucasian and Native American. Fig. 17. Shelia Maria Wilson (participant 52) carries an old and rare form of L3 that apparently left no descendants except for her and her family.

Gregory Damon Haynes (no. 16) has another unique and otherwise unreported L3 haplotype, with a SNP found in no other person (16163G). His father had a rare American Indian Q haplotype with relatives on two Indian census rolls. His maternal grandmother was Lily Marie Benjamin (Blythe), born October 15, 1922 in North Carolina. Could his maternal line have been Cherokee? The question remains open, as it is extremely difficult to investigate the lines of ex-slaves.

Fig. 10. Haplogroup Distribution versus Europe and Other Populations, Based on Richards et al. 2000.

Hg N= % Europe Egypt Middle

East

Eastern

Med.

T 27 23.1 8.4 23.4 11.9 6.0
U 23 19.7 22.2 7.8 26.3 16.4
H 15 12.0 53.5 14.0 36.8 47.9
J 11 9.4 9.5 6.3 11.4 12.7
L 9 7.7 15.6
K 6 5.1 5.8 3.1 6.2 3.6
I 2 1.5 4.7
N 1 0.8 6.3
Total n=117 ~80% n=1021 n=64 n=2736 n=165

Conclusions

If we are to accept our sample as valid for its purposes, several salient parameters of the study population labeled “Anomalous Cherokees” seem to leap out from the table of haplogroup frequency comparisons (Fig. 10).

1) The first striking feature is the high amount of T lineages evident in Cherokee descendants. T is the leading haplogroup (23.1%), with a frequency on a par with modern-day Egyptians (23.4%) and Arabs (24.4%). That is elevated by a factor of 4 over the East Mediterranean levels, three times that of Europe and the United States and twice that of the Middle East. T is thus a defining mark of Cherokee ancestry. Where did it come from? We can safely rule out recent European admixture.  As we have discussed again and again, there was no available source for a huge, sudden influx of female-mediated Middle Eastern DNA on the American frontier.  Even Sephardic Jews (11-14%), many of whom were also Indian traders, could hardly have accounted for such admixture. Moreover, had it occurred in the colonial period or more recently the diversity, age and unique characteristics of the T haplotypes would not have yielded the patterns noticed in this paper. Most T’s would have matched people in the Old World and we would simply be looking at an effect of migration. Instead, we have a North American branch of T with peculiar SNPs which is evidently a cross-section of a very old population originating in the Old World. The thesis of Donald Yates’ study of Cherokee history is that an expedition of Ptolemaic Egyptians and others in the 3rd century BCE served as the nucleus of settlers that became the Eshelokee (Cherokee). If this historical model is correct, there was a severe bottleneck of DNA accompanying the establishment of the Cherokee, with many founder effects—something suggested by the frequent cross-matches, high degree of interrelatedness and clustering of types in our data.

2) The second glaring figure is the relatively low amount of H (12%), which is the leading haplogroup in Europeans (~50%). If the admixture were attributable to European women in the colonial period we would expect it to be much higher.

3) The third observation we can make is the similarity of haplogroups strongly associated with Jews (J, K at 14.5%) to European levels (15.3%). At whatever time period admixture occurred, whether in ancient or modern times, Jewish women likely formed part of it.  Men cannot pass mitochondrial DNA. Like other contributions to the gene pool, J and K came from a feeder population or sub-population that had families on board. In other words, JK haplotypes could not have been the result of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors, Arab or Jewish merchants, soldiers or any of the other suspects often trotted forth. Judging also from the uniqueness of JK types and their diversity, we are looking at a Jewish signal deeply embedded in the structure of Cherokee populations.

4) L haplogroup frequency (7.7%) is about half that of Egypt (15.6%). East African-centered L3 predominates, not West and Central African-oriented L1 and L2 haplogroups, which are twice as abundant, and which define the majority of slaves and their descendants in the New World. We are unsure how to read this. It may be that in the nature of things, African American lines were under-sampled. Federal regulations and the controversy embroiling the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in their on-again-off-again rejection of freedmen as citizens might have served as a disincentive to blacks’ testing their DNA. Blacks are also hampered in tracing genealogies, unlike whites or Hispanics, or indeed Native Americans.

Certainly, however, our data suggests there has always been a constant African component in Cherokee DNA, one that resembles North and East African populations rather than West and Central Africans. Beginning around the start of the Common Era, the Bantu expansion swamped all Africa with L1 and L2 genes. A high proportion of L3 could mean that admixture with the Cherokee predates that event. We have records of Phoenician colonization efforts as massive as the “30,000  desert-dwelling Moors from the hinterland of Carthage” in about 500 BCE (Yates 2012, p. 32). Mining operations then and now used a large number of women slaves, who were prized for their agility in negotiating small openings as well as their becoming inured to cruel conditions (this is still the norm in Egypt, India and Bolivia, though the workers are no longer legally considered slaves; see Del Mar 1902). The clan that specifically included black-skinned people among the Cherokee was called the Blue Paint or Panther (Ani-Sahoni; see Panther-Yates 2013, pp. 30-31). It was related to the original (Red) Paint Clan, named for the Paint People, or Phoenicians (Ani-Wodi).

5) Finally, we might remark on the minor (I, N, V, W), unknown (I 33, 36, 37, 40; II 33) and missing haplogroups (G, HV, pre-HV, M and other Asian types).  I, N, V and W are minimally adduced in Egyptian, Palestinian, Arab and Turkish populations.  They round out our picture of the original genetic inputs to the Cherokee, showing that the source of “admixture” was deep seated and diverse. The Cherokee population structure seems to be rather an effect of long-distance travel and conquest than of gradually developing encroachment, migration or genetic drift.

Admixture, just like the word “anomalous,” is a relative term. Its use depends on one’s perspective. Geneticists, as we have seen, tend to privilege a rather narrow body of recent U.S. and European scientific literature. It is time to de-colonize the human past and open our eyes to the diversity of American Indian peoples. The personal genealogies of over one hundred Cherokee descendants contradict popular and professional received wisdom about Indian nations.

Addendum:  Begging the Question

For science to be separated from pseudoscience, its findings must obey the rule of falsifiability. This term has often been misunderstood, but what it means according to philosophers of science is that empirical statements such as “All swans are white” must be “such that to verify them and to falsify them must both be logically possible” (Popper 2005). Otherwise, as Wolfgang Pauli famously remarked, an argument “is not only not right, it is not even wrong.”

In plain language, we could say that so far from barking up the wrong tree, that dog don’t hunt.

“All swans are white” is a falsifiable statement. It can be tested by observation and shown to be generally true (though false in cases of black swans). But such statements as “All American Indians descend from haplogroups A-D and sometimes X” is not falsifiable. Neither this generalization nor its converse is testable in any experiential way. No amount of corollaries, exceptions to the rule or qualification will fix it.

“A woman of haplogroup A (or B, or X, or T, or W) founded a Cherokee matriline,” on the other hand, is falsifiable. It is scientifically true in certain individual cases and datasets, as claimed in the present study (“experiment”), just as it is scientifically false in other instances.

Much of the surmises of science about the peopling of the Americas can be said to be on the wrong track. It can neither be proved true nor decided false that ancestors of American Indians crossed a hypothetical Bering land bridge at some time in the unknown past. Let us hope that the growing demand for truth from amateur roots-seekers and test takers will force professionals to predicate their research agendas and phrase their findings more carefully in the future. If they do not, they will be failing the public trust. There is also a need for science reporters and writers to frame their stories more responsibly. We have always said, “There are Indians and Indians.”

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Project data available upon request from dpy@dnaconsultants.com.

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  Comments: 1

  1. Lyndsey Eggleston


    I’ve done both autosomal and mtdna. Testing with DNA consultants first, My autosomal came back with Jewish II and Jewish III with Jewish ranking number 1 in mega populations with Iberian second. European match is Portugal number 1 and my Jewish Population match was to Hungarian Ashkenazim.

    Testing with Family Tree, My MTDNA haplogroup is T2b4 with matches to several Jewish cousins who have J and K haplogroups and Sephardic was listed twice in the comments section of My origins page at Family tree.

    Since my Jewish ranking was number 1 and with the Sephardic showing up on my maternal line, I was expecting a J or K haplogroup and was surprised that it came back as T2b4……Is it also possible that T can be associated with Sephardic Jews (from Iberia)….I’m confused with the above article saying its’ connected with Cherokee..

    Just need help understanding all of this and connecting the dots.

    Thank you in advance for any help you can give,

    Lyndsey Eggleston

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