James Stritzel, participant no. 8 in Phase II of the Cherokee DNA Project, was interviewed by Vice President of Communications Teresa Yates on October 20, 2014. His story appears in Cherokee DNA Studies: Real People Who Proved the Geneticists Wrong.
I live in Washington State, and grew up all over the Western United States, including Alaska. My dad, John Rolland Stritzel, was in the Army. His father, Albert Stritzel, was born in Austria, as was his mother, Marie Mauser. My mother and my maternal aunts said our ancestors were fur traders of both French and Native American ancestry (Metis, Mohawk, Cree), but I had no proof of my Native American ancestry until participating in the Cherokee DNA Project. I am now sixty-six and one of my earliest memories as a very young child is trying to do broom dancing to fiddle music. Recently, I have built on the base of family oral history I heard as a child concerning my American Indian heritage. I have taken DNA ancestry tests and started following a beginning paper trail. I have also begun making pipes with the permission of a sixth-generation Lakota Nation Pipe Maker. At his request, I spent part of the summer with him and learned a lot about carving pipes. In the picture, I am carving a Deer pipe from Minnesota red pipestone. I also carve animals and natural scenes using soapstone, alabaster, sandstone, and limestone.
My mother was Kathleen Ena Walsh (her birth name). She was born in 1926 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her mother was Eunice Mabel Ahearn (born 1896/97 or 98) per Eunice’s 1917 New York wedding license, and my maternal great grandmother was Anna Elizabeth. My family’s oral history was that Eunice was adopted and either full or at least half Native American, with Metis, Mohawk, Cree/French and Cherokee further back. Until I did DNA testing with the project, this was as far as I could get on the paper trail, as New York is a closed adoption record state. However, I found a proven relation from DNA testing that seems to confirm our oral history of her. Our oral history of this line is Metis in the fur trade, and this relation is not far from where I thought my great-grandmother was from in Montague, Massachusetts, so I now believe I have her name down and have found her line to either Tighe or Terry. Moreover, I am now starting to verify this with a paper trail as well.
In sum, my family’s oral history of the line has been confirmed as Native American through mitochondrial testing and some close matches. My Native American DNA Ancestry Test from DNA Consultants shows that my maternal line is a unique J with no exact matches in Mitosearch though my mutations did closely match someone else in the Cherokee DNA Project. My mtdna haplotype J is unmatched in the world according to Dr. Yates. Despite it generally being viewed as a type reflecting Jewish lineage, my particular line, according to his company’s analysis, is Native American. The closest match to my mother’s J line was a lady in Australia that I have emailed, but we found no common ancestors. I believe Dr. Yates said the match may be of ancient origin.
The company report says my maternal line is American Indian despite being an unaccepted mitochondrial type:
- Although not one of the classic Native American lineages (A, B, C, D, and X), J has been discovered in the Cherokee Indians (Schurr, Bolnick, and Smith). Most investigators attribute this to recent European admixture. But J haplotyes without Old World exact matches and with only New World exact matches or unique occurrences could just as well be considered Native American. Since this does appear to be the case with the subject’s type, it probably is Native American.
I am continuing to learn more about my family history and would be interested in comparing the autosomal results of members of the Cherokee Study to each other on gedmatch.com. If anyone has uploaded their autosomal results there my gedmatch number is F301307.
DNA Consultants was also able to show I had Native American markers (I and II) which led me to further explore DNA testing. I further corroborated my Native American ancestry after Dr. Yates kindly referred me to the (now retired) Family Tree’s Acadian Amerindian study. There I matched autosomally with people of Metis, Mohawk, and French ancestry from near the Montreal area and possibly with Cree as well. This led to a beginning paper trail, and I now have the strength of knowledge of not only my family’s oral history, but DNA and genealogies. I now have some actual names.
Thanks to DNA Consultants I possess a strong base to find more ancestors. I believe there is a lot of resistance to admitting Native American haplotypes can go beyond the standard A, B, C, D and X haplotypes because a lot of professional people have their careers staked on perpetuating this dogma. However, it runs deeper than this. If you want to conquer a people, you’ve got to make them other than you, not as civilized as you; otherwise, you cannot call them savages and yourself superior. What the study has done for me is this: through it, I have found my people on Mother Earth. I am thankful to all concerned for that.