Monday, October 3, 2016

Admixture Centrifuge: Cherokee DNA

(Read about Admixture Centrifuge blog series and Submission Requirements here.)
Bijon Levels Hughes (left) and highway marker showing his 6th-great-grandfather Chief Drowning Bear Yonaguska (1759–1839), first chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee during Indian Removals aka Trail of Tears. Highway marker is located on US 19 northeast of Bryson City, North Carolina.
Osiyo ("hello"). If I had an Indian Head cent or buffalo nickel for every person claiming a connection to the Cherokee tribe, I'd be filthy rich. It's more sought after than even the ubiquitous lust for any Native American heritage at all. Of course I see nothing wrong with it if you honestly believe you have Cherokee heritage. And with over 300,000 members the federally recognized Cherokee Nation certainly seems plausible for many seekers. However, the majority of people just can't find that connection to the Cherokee or any other tribe (and you can read my blog Native American Is Not That Into You to explore reasons why). There's also no shortage of dissenters ready to lynch you for daring to make such claims  I call dissenters belonging to Amerindian tribes members of the collective Ku Klux clan and non-Amerindian ones the Radical Anti-Indian Terrorists. Luckily there are instances when someone is unequivocally Cherokee by "blood." 

I came across such a bona fide Cherokee descendant in my Facebook group Native American Ancestry Explorer. This person was not interested in joining the Cherokee tribe (he was already a member) nor trying to prove if he was Native American (he already knew). So for my inaugural Admixture Centrifuge series, this allowed me the perfect opportunity to examine how the Cherokee's Native American component breaks down on ethnicity admixture calculators.  I also wanted to know if my client's admixture results could tell us anything about the Cherokee's ancient origins vis a vis did they migrate from Great Lakes region of US/Canada or had they been in the American Southeast for millenniums?

Meet Bijon Levels Hughes (aka "client"). First I'd like to bid an immense Wado ("thank you") to  my client for agreeing to participate. Bijon gave me expressed permission to publish all of the information provided in this blog. My client  is Cherokee and African-American. To note Bijon does not descend from  Cherokee Freedman but is a progeny of Cherokee chiefdom. However since claiming Cherokee roots is so controversial I decided to preface my client's analysis with brief genealogical records of his claim but this blog focuses more on genetic admixture. 

"My 6th-great-grandfather is Chief Yonaguska aka Drowning Bear (1759–1839). He was the first chief of the Eastern Band Cherokee during the trail of tears when the Cherokees where sent into Oklahoma. He led a band of Cherokees to stay in there homeland in present-day North Carolina. He refused to leave. I am 1/4 Eastern Band Cherokee. I received 20 plus percent of Native American DNA on my AncestryDNA results which wasn't a surprise being that my grandmother was 15/16 and 1/16 European. I have family records through the Baker Rolls where it kept blood quantum of Native Americans. My mother is African-American but we have a mix of European and a lot of mulatto ancestors." 
Client submissions: AncestryDNA results; Gedmatch results (DodeCad World9 with chromosome painting, MDLP World22, MDLP K23, Eurogenes K13, Eurogene K36, HarappaWorld); DNA.Land results, and selected genealogical records.

Since my client has living Cherokee-descended relatives, I will not mention their names or other identifying information. For brevity purposes I will only concentrate on his direct Cherokee ancestors through his 6th-great-grandfather Chief Yonaguska aka Drowning Bear.

  •  My client's paternal grandmother was Mary Katherine Sherrill (1940 -2000), who was 15/16 Cherokee by Blood Quantum. Mary's mother (and my client's great-grandmother) was Dinah Sherrill (1915-1947). And Dinah's mother (and my client's 2nd-great-grandmother) was Mollie Ma-lih Tramper (1882-1942); she was fully Cherokee by Blood Quantum. Ma-lih's husband (and my client's 2nd-great-grandfather) was John Ute G Sherrill; he was 3/4 Native American and 1/4 European by Blood Quantum (not shown: John's father and my client's 3rd-great-grandfather was Andy Nute Oo-Ha-Sih Sherrill):
  • Mollie Ma-lih Tramper's (1882-1942)  mother (and my client's 3rd-great-grandmother) was Aggie G. Littlejohn (1854-1884). Aggie's parents (and my clients 4th-great-grandparents) were Kai Lo n k Littlejohn (1826-1881) and Eliza Bird (1841-1883). Kai's parents (and my client's 5th-great-grandparents) were Littlejohn (1806-1882; full name unknown) and Jinney Drowning Bear (1808-1882). Eliza's parents (and my client's 5th-great-grandparents) were C. Walkingstick (1815-UNK) and A-no-hi (1845-1883): 

  • Jinney Drowning Bear's parents (and my client's 6th-great-grandparents) was Chief Drowning Bear Yonaguska (1759-1839) and Ni-Gu-Da-Yi (1766 -1884). Chief Yonaguska's parents  (and my client's 7th-great-grandparents) were Chief Yon A Big Bear (1740-UNK) and Jency (1730-UNK; full name unknown). Ni-Gu-Da-Yi's parents (and my client's 7th-great-grandparents) were Chief Doublehead (1744-1807) and Creat Priber (1737-1807):
  • Chief Doublehead's father (and my client's 8th-great-grandfather) was Willenawah Corntassel (1702-1788) but Chief Doublehead's mother is not identified. Willenawah's father (and my client's 9th-great-grandfather) was K Corntassel (1670-UNK) but Willenawah's mother is unknown. Creat Priber's parents (and my client's 8th-great-grandparents) were Christian G. Priber (1696-1745) and Clogoittah Motoy (1706-1790). And Clogoittah Motoy's parents  (and my client's 9th-great-grandparents) were Agonuisti-Rainmaker (1687-17610) and Aganunitsi A G Quatie (1686-1730):

  • Here's my client's 2nd-grandparents John Ute Sherrill and  Mollie Tramper's  Cherokee enrollment documentation:
  • Here's the 1924 Baker Roll for my client's great-grandmother Dinah Sherrill and his 2nd-grandparents John Ute Sherrill and Mollie Tramper. They lived in Paint Town, Jackson Co, NC, site of the Eastern Cherokee Reservation. Notice how the Baker Roll includes Blood Quantum amounts (ie 3/4, 7/8):
  • A User Home Page Book showing the descendants of Chief Drowning Bear Yonaguska. Notice my clients's descendants are listed on both the Miller and Hester rolls. My client's great-great grandparents Molly Tramper and John Ute Sherrill among others, are also listed here:
  • Here's a document showing my client's 7th-great-grandfather Chief Big Bear:
  • Here's a photo of my client's 4th-great-granduncle Falling Blossom. He's also the uncle of my client's 3rd-great-grandfather John Ute Sherrill:

  • Chapman Roll record showing the parentage of my client's 4th-great-grandfathe Andy Nute Oo-Ha-Sih Sherrill, who was the brother of Falling Blossom:

[Be sure to check out the NOTES ON MY ADMIXTURE INTERPRETATION section immediately following my analysis]


AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate of Bijon Levels Huges
Now on to your impressive story and DNA results. You told us your 6th-great-grandfather was Chief Yonaguska aka Drowning Bear (1759–1839), “who was first chief of the Eastern Band Cherokee during the Trail of Tears. When the Cherokees where sent into Oklahoma he led a band of Cherokees to stay in there homeland in present-day North Carolina. He refused to leave.” You also told us your grandmother, a descendant of Chief Drowning Bear, was 15/16 Cherokee by Blood Quantum. Well based on your AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimates (pictured above), I would believe your family story. This is because you show up to 23%(+/-) Native American DNA on your AncestryDNA results, This fits perfectly with YOU having at least one “full-blooded” Native American grandparent. In other words one of your grandparents had significant amounts of Native American DNA and we know the source Mollie Tramper. In many instances we can have Native American admixture from multiple events and from both parents so it's very possible your African-American mother AND your African-American paternal grandfather to have contributed Native American admixture to your bloodline as well. 

Add to your Native American admixture total the Asia Central @ 2%(+/-). To note I've often observed Central Asian admixture in AncestryDNA results from people claiming Cherokee and other Eastern US Amerindian ancestry. The small Asia East @ < 1% may be related to your Native American too, or it could  some sort of separate Asian event (like from Madagascar).

Your robust African DNA is 67%(+/-), indicating at least one of your parents is more African-American and the other Afro-Amerindian. Your African affinity seems to manifest in several of AncestryDNA's subcontinental ethnicity categories, but I will call your attention to  your African Southeastern Bantu @ 5%(+/-) and Polynesian @ < 1%(+). I believe this admixture could be a sign of Malagasy ancestry that is completely separate from your Native American admixture. In addition, the small Austronesian, Papuan, and Southeast Asian showing on various Gedmatch calculators is probably related to your proposed Malagasy ancestry from one of your parent's African ancestors. I would also speculate your higher balance of African admixture and much lower European is somewhat characteristic of some African-Americans from the South. 

Your European percentage @ 9% indeed is lower than the typical African-Americans; they usually average about 17% to 24%  European (see 23andMe study), and this is why I suspect your African ancestors had much less contact with Europeans even if they were from different regions. Most surprisingly there is very little to no Iberian and Italian affinity on your DNA test results so I’m even more inclined to believe you have Cherokee ancestry vs. Latin Amerindian. Some people would look at your AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate and automatically think you must be Latino or Hispanic based on your 23%(+/-) Native American percentage; they would blame it on the unreliability of the test or under-reported history of Europeans in Latin American regions. Yet your AncestryDNA ethnicity admixture estimates paint an entirely different picture.  It is not Hispanic or Latin American in origin. Further your European admixture seems to cluster closer to the British Isles, with Ireland affinity at the top. We know the Irish and British mixed extensively with the Cherokee although the British Isles affinity may also represent continental European ancestors as well. As you suggested, your European is likely to come from both parents and included some mulatto ancestors but not many based on your overall European percentage. The African is much more prevalent. 
  • Below is your Gedmatch Dodecad World9 chromosome painting so we can see your admixture distributed on your chromosomes; at this time AncestryDNA does not provide one. A chromosome painting displays your genetic admixture locations on your chromosomes 1 through 22 and X-chromosome. (Note the X-chromosome is not utilized by the Gedmatch paintings.) Your Amerindian segments (red color) is found on all of your chromosomes, sometimes in large unbroken segments. This represents a close direct relative with significant amounts of Native American DNA like your paternal grandmother. The Native American segments are adjacent to African (brown color) segments indicating recent ancestors of African descent who mixed with recent Amerindian ancestors. To note this is unlike many typical Hispanic and Latin American profiles with similar Native American percentages, as their segments are usually more choppy and widespread, which indicates very old and continuous gene-flow from Native American ancestors. 
Gedmatch Dodecad World9 chromosome painting
I also took a closer look at your Gedmatch results specifically to see how your Native American DNA of Cherokee origins would play out on the admixture calculators. Well the my recommended calculators (MDLP World 22, Dodecad World9, MDLP K23b, Eurogenes K13, Eurogene K36, & HarappaWorld) consistently show you have percentages in all of Native American categories per calculator, especially from the Mesoamerican region (when used as a category). Your next highest, but very distant, Native American-related ethnicity admixture component is Siberian, and you have very low affinity to East Asia. For example on the MDLP World-22 calculator with respect to Native American categories, your strongest similarity is to Mesoamerican @ 10%, followed by North Amerindian @ 7.30%, South Amerindian @ 2.63%, and  Arctic American @ 0.44%. And then your Siberian affinities are East Siberian @ 1.27%, North Siberian @ 0.37%, and Paleo Siberian @ 0.15%. Your showing of strong Amerindian from Mesoamerica and North Amerindian with lower affinity to South Amerindian and Arctic Amerindian seems to be typical of American Indians from Eastern US, north of South Carolina. 

It's also clear based on your Gedmatch results that your Native American admixture is more similar to eastern Siberians vastly more than it is to East Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans). Scientific studies have demonstrated that all Native Americans share ancestral populations with Siberians but the Siberian component gets lower, sometimes to 0%, in tribes the further south you go from Arctic North America (see DNA Tribes digest article). In other words, this fits well with what you would expect with someone from the Cherokee tribe. 

I was also curious about what my client's DNA results could tell us about Cherokee's ancestral origins. Let me first warn here that my client's lone admixture results are grossly insufficient to form any conclusions. Yet his results could fit with one of the theories about the Cherokee's beginnings. According to Wikipedia there are two main theories of Cherokee origins:
  •  One is that the Cherokee, an Iroquoian-speaking people, are relative latecomers to Southern Appalachia, and may have migrated in late prehistoric times from northern areas, the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee nations and other Iroquoian-speaking peoples. 
  • Another theory is that the Cherokee had been in the Southeast for thousands of years. 
Based on your admixture results, and the high probability the Cherokee historically mixed with other tribes, it is inconclusive if they migrated from the North like other Iroquoian populations, noting they belong to the Iroquoian linguistic family, or if they have origins inthe South like other ancient Mississippian populations (ie Choctaw, Creek), who belong to Muskogean language family. Or both. This also means that on a more granular level tribes such as Cherokee may be very similar to tribes with ancestral roots in northwestern US (ie Tuscarora, Mohawk) and Southeast US (ie Catawba, Creek), but can be distinguished from say a tribe from South America (ie Karitiana) and Central America (ie Xinca). I will note again that people with Muskogean roots can show higher affinity to South Amerindians and Central Amerindians on ethnicity admixture tests. If I had to bet I would say the Cherokee have an older Great Lakes region origin and then later intermixed with Southeast US tribes. 

Here's a closer look at my client's Gedmatch calculators results:
  • Gedmatch MDLP World-22 (below) is my favorite calculator because of the Native American categories. However people with high amounts of Native American usually show percentages in all of the Native American and related categories. Sometimes a higher showing in South-Americ_Amerind than say North_Amerind may indicate your Native Americans origins may be from Latin American source. Here your Native American is Mesoamerican @ 10%, Arctic-Amerind @ 0.44%, South-America-Amerind 2.63%, North-Amerind @ 7.30%. To a lesser extent your Native American is picked up in related admixture North-Siberian @ 1.27%, East Siberian @ 1.27%, and Paleo-Siberian @ 0.15%.  
    Gedmatch MDLP World-22

  • Gedmatch Dodecad World9 (below).  According to chemist/geneticist Dr. Doug McDonald this calculator is one of the best for picking up continental-level admixture and is on par with Ancestry Composition, the gold standard for detecting Native American admixture. To an extent,continental-level admixture is more reliable than sub-continental admixture, which tends to get convoluted. Here my client's Native American shows @ 18.76% and related Siberian @ 3.43%. The East Asian and Australasian is most likely separate.

Gedmatch Dodecad World9
  • Gedmatch MDLP Kb23 (below). The calculator seems to measure both current and ancient admixture. Here the Amerindian is similarly 18.36% and add in the East Siberian @ 0.17% and possibly the Tungus Altaic @ 1.66% and Ancestral Altaic @ 1.90%, with the latter two being roughly equivalent to his Central Asian seen on my client's AncestryDNA results. Notably there is no Paleo-Siberian but this is often seen in higher amounts n people with Arctic or North American roots (think Inuit). Then the Australoid @ 0.11%, Austronesian @ 0.52%, might be related to separate Malagasy admixture, especially if we add the East African @ 1.48% . 
Gedmatch MDLP K23
  • Gedmatch Eurogenes K13 (below). The calculator creator David F. Severski says this one gets it right for most multi-ethnic people and is usually very generous with Amerindian admixture percentages, which consistently shows here @ 18.33%. Add to this the Siberian @ 3.09% and small East Asian possibly at 0.78%. 
Gedmatch Eurogenes K13
  • Gedmatch HarappaWorld (below). This calculator is usually geared toward people of  South Asian descent. Here the Amerindian is @ 17.87%, but the Beringian (Arctic and North Amerindian) is 1.92%, Siberian 1.67% and lower Northeast Asian (ie Yakut, Koryak) @ 0.50% ... The small Southeast Asian @ 0.52% and Papuan @ 0.77% may represent a Malagasy ancestor from one the client's African-American grandparents. 
Gedmatch HarappaWorld
  • Gedmatch Eurogenes K36 (below). The calculator creator David F. Severski says this one is more unreliable due to using 36 reference population clusters so the results become more convoluted and wonky because there are too many overlapping categories for the algorithm to make proper distinctions. As a result, I use this calculator as a sort of conservative view of admixture results. As you can see the Amerindian percentage is lower here at 16.65%, with the rest being picked up as Siberian 3.34% and East-Central Asian @ 1.49%.  
Gedmatch Eurogens K36
  • On DNA.Land (below), a free DNA utility aimed at crowdsourcing genomic data, you are assigned 21% Native American and most likely includes the Siberian @ 2.4% and possibly all of the East Asian @ 3.9% (Siberian + Ambiguous 1.4%). This puts your Native American affinity from a more northern source (ie Carolinas and due north and west to Great Lakes region). People who claim Muskogean and Latin Amerindian ancestry usually show more Amazonian. Note: This utility utilizes a large amount of imputed data so may not be as consistent with other admixture tools.
DNA.Land Admixture Estimate
In the near future, I hope you are able to take a full mitochondrial sequence and Y-DNA tests  to learn more about your haplogroup assignments. I recommend testing at 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA, as well as testing your parents. I also look forward to learning more about your genetic relatives who also may be Cherokee. Again thank you for sharing your results and Cherokee story with me. U ne la nv hi u da do li s di (Blessing of God)


(1) You can't use your ethnicity admixture results for tribal enrollment or recognition, to obtain a tribal card or make any beneficiary claims to a Native American ethnic group or tribe
In fact Native Americans in the US and Canada have never used genealogical DNA tests for enrollment criteria or ethnic identity. Even the Bureau of Indian Affairs does not use genealogical DNA testing for its federal recognition process. Instead Native American tribes rely on genealogical paper trails and with US-government recognized tribes, valid documentation and their own "adoption" procedures. Sometimes organized tribes will use traditional paternity tests if the issue of parentage comes up with a child who may belong to a tribal member. However one useful way to use genealogical DNA testing is to search for genetic relative matches with proven ties to a specific Native American tribe and with whom you share Native American admixture. You may be able to trace your Native American ancestry through these genetic relatives. However you would still have to provide reasonable documentation, and other genealogical or acceptable  proof. Of course this doesn't help if tribal enrollment is closed or if you don't meet certain Blood Quantum laws or other enrollment requirements, including ancestral, ethnic, cultural, genealogical linguistic, national and social ties. 

(2) Your ethnicity admixture results can’t identify a specific tribe or ethnic group from which you descend or originate. Your ethnicity admixture results are just estimates of your genomic similarity to specially chosen reference populations. These estimates are  derived by comparing your selected Ancestry Informative Markers (known as SNPs) to those found in the specially chosen reference populations. DNA testing companies essentially organize these reference populations into clusters and assign them an ethnicity label, which may not fully reflect how the reference population identifies ethnically. Furthermore your Native American percentages may be affected by the admixture calculator's Native American categories and reference samples utilized (or lack thereof) for those categories. Since most major DNA companies use only a handful of available Amerindian populations — mostly from Central and South America — to represent their Native American admixture categories, there is no way possible for the DNA test to show what tribe you actually descend from based on such limited data. Some populations also share ancestry with neighboring populations too. As such your genetic similarity to these reference populations is determined by looking at very small amounts of SNPs that could be prevalent in most Native American and other ethnic groups, and thus making it difficult to identify the specific common genetic ancestor, ancestral couple or ethnic group.

(3) Native American admixture won't be represented by Middle Eastern, Jewish, West Asian, South Asian, African or European admixture on a reputable admixture test with an adequate reference population dataset and genomic maker coverage. Harvard chemist Dr. Doug McDonald says, "If people see that they have this Middle Eastern percentage they are sometimes trying to find explanations in their recent ancestry. They think that the Middle Eastern component might represent Jewish ancestry, Native American ancestry, Moorish ancestry, etc, whereas in reality this is mostly not the case at all, if the rest is Orcadian/Irish." Dr. McDonald continues, "Native American is listed as just that. It is quite uncommon for it to be listed in error … except for genuine people from Siberia and Saami. Mideast won’t represent American! But it does mean something!"… But it certainly won't be an indication of a Native American ancestor. Since these DNA tests only look back about 500 years, if your test shows similarity to Middle Eastern, Jewish, West Asian, South Asian, African or European  admixture it most likely comes from a post-Christopher Columbus event. 

(4) Blood Quantum laws do not statistically correspond to inherited DNA from our direct ancestors. Because of random genetic recombination, we inherit about 50% of our DNA from each parent. But you don’t inherit each parent’s genetic admixture evenly —  for example, if your mother has 10% Native American DNA, this does not mean you will receive 5%; you and your siblings could get anywhere from 0% to 10%. And with your grandparents and preceding generations, the DNA you inherit from them [via your parents] is uneven so you most likely will not receive 25% of DNA equally from all four grandparents as suggested by Blood Quantum laws. In other words, you may get 30% of any part of grandparent #1 ...  20% of any part of grandparent #2 ... 23% of any part of grandparent #3 ... and 27% of any part of grandparent #4. So if your paternal grandmother is 1/4 Cherokee by Blood Quantum this does not mean she will show 25% Native American admixture if she were to test. And even then she may only pass 10% of her Native American admixture to your parent even if she was 30% by admixture. This also means if 1/4 Cherokee grandma has other admixture — ie African or European   then she may pass more or less of the African or European to your parent.

(5) You probably share
 NO genetic relationship with ancient or modern Native American reference populations utilized by DNA companies, Gedmatch's admixture calculators and accompanying Oracles population-fitting programs. So if you see "Miwok" or "Lumbee" showing for you on Gedmatch Oracles, it doesn’t mean you are related to the Miwok or Lumbee tribes in any way unless purely coincidental. This also includes ancient DNA samples like Anzik Clovis child and Kennewick Man (see Estes Ancient DNA Matches -- what do they mean). And even if you were by rare chance related to the reference population sample, the matching ancestry markers may be too small to conclude a genetic relationship without additional proof. (I will note some DNA companies are exploring using our genetic relatives for reference populations but this is not in wide use yet.) In most cases certain Native American reference samples (usually academic) utilized on that particular test could be the most similar to your Native American ancestry even if not directly related. Another example, if you get a Native American percentage on a DNA test and see that "Mayan" is used as reference population, it does NOT mean that  you or your ancestors are Mayan or from southern Mexico and Central America. In fact Mayan is often used as an umbrella term to describe indigenous populations from Mexico and Central America, and in terms of ethnicity admixture tests as a generic proxy for all Native Americans. Dr. Doug McDonald says, “Mayan is the usual listing for any Native American north of Panama, through all of Mexico, and east of the Rockies in the USA and Canada." As a final related point, just because you match someone with a significant amount of Native American admixture, or that has a Native American haplogroup or whom identifies with a tribe does NOT mean you share Native American ancestors with them even if they are from the same region as your ancestors or have similar genealogical information (see my blog  Ethnicity Chromosome Mapping).

(6) On ethnicity admixture calculators with sub-regional Native American categories (ie Mesoamerican, North Amerindian, South Amerindian), your DNA percentages may show in some or all of those sub-regional categories depending on the admixture test, reference population samples and methodologies utilized. Of course this may not indicate where your specific Native American origins are from. The reason why you might show percentages to several Native American sub-categories, including such related categories as Siberian or Asian, is because on a macro-level indigenous peoples of the Americas are generally more similar to each other than to non-indigenous populations (ie Europeans, Africans). To note when comparing Amerindians to Siberians, the North Amerindians tend to show higher similarity to Siberians than Central/South Amerindians. In most cases a showing of Native American DNA percentages in these more specific or related Native American sub-categories means there is good possibility of a Native American ancestor in your past. Nothing more.

(7) The reason why a DNA test using only minimum Native American reference samples can pick up your Native American admixture is because Amerindian populations show a lower genetic diversity to each other than populations from other continental regions. In other words on a continental level,
 Native American populations are (a) more alike to each other than to non-Native American populations, and (b) are distinctive enough to be identified as a indigenous American from non-Native American populations. This is probably best explained with ancient genomes of the Kennewick Man and Clovis Anzik-1 (aka Clovis child), both of which purports to have more "ethnic purity" than modern Native populations.  According to Rasmussen et al,“When we compare Kennewick Man with the worldwide panel of populations, a clear genetic similarity to Native Americans is observed both in principal components analysis (PCA) and using f3-outgroup statistics....In particular, we can reject the hypothesis that Kennewick Man is more closely related to Ainu or Polynesians than he is to Native Americans....Model-based clustering using ADMIXTURE24 shows that Kennewick Man has ancestry proportions most similar to those of other Northern Native Americans, especially the Colville, Ojibwa, and Algonquin. Considering the Americas only, f3-outgroup and D-statistic based analyses show that Kennewick Man, like the Anzick-1 child, shares a high degree of ancestry with Native Americans from Central and South America, and that Kennewick Man also groups with geographically close tribes including the Colville ...".

(8) However just because Native Americans are similar to each other on a continental or genome-wide level does not mean that all Native Americans are genetically alike on more granular genomic level. Per Rasmussen et al: “Despite this similarity, Anzick-1 and Kennewick Man have dissimilar genetic affinities to contemporary Native Americans. In particular, we find that Anzick-1 is more closely related to Central/Southern Native Americans than is Kennewick Man....The pattern observed in Kennewick Man is mirrored in the Colville, who also show a high affinity with Southern populations...but are most closely related to a neighbouring population in the data set.... This is in contrast to other populations such as the Chipewyan, who are more closely related to Northern Native Americans rather than to Central/Southern Native Americans in all comparisons.” With modern indigenous American populations, according to Bolnik et al, 
"Although populations from the same geographic region usually exhibit similar haplogroup frequency distributions ... those from the Southeast instead exhibit haplogroup frequency distributions that differ significantly from one another. Such divergent haplogroup frequency distributions are unexpected for the Muskogean-speaking southeastern populations, which share many sociocultural traits, speak closely related languages, and have experienced extensive admixture both with each other and with other eastern North American populations. Independent origins, genetic isolation from other Native American populations due to matrilocality, differential admixture, or a genetic bottleneck could be responsible for this heterogeneous distribution of haplogroup frequencies." Also see the composition range of ancestral population components in Native Americans in this DNA Tribes study.

(9) Modern Native American populations from different ethnic groups can be admixed with each other, as well as with modern Europeans, Africans and Asians. Prior to Christopher Columbus's arrival some Native American tribes were nomadic and may have moved around because of climate, environment and the availability of food and shelter. Native American tribes also had conflicts with each other, captured and enslaved each other (though not to extent of chattel slavery introduced by Europeans), as well as cohabitated and married outside of the tribe like most other humans. There were also large cities like Cahokia, which was located in present-day Missouri. According to Wikipedia, it was the largest and most influential urban settlement of the Mississippian culture which existed more than 1000 years before European contact. Since Cohokia was described as a cosmopolitan city, we can reason it was a melting pot of Native American diversity and most likely they mixed with each other. After European colonizers arrived, Native Americans were forced from their lands and killed off, often causing different tribes to absorb other tribes, in addition to mixing with Europeans and Africans. Rasmussen et al explains: “Due to high levels of recent admixture in many Native American populations, we masked European ancestry from the Native Americans.  No masking was done on the Kennewick Man [because there was no need to]."

(10) Admixture percentages below 2% should NOT be dismissed outright as statistical noise. Notably the thresholds created for admixture percentages below 2% are essentially someone’s opinion based on what percentage is high enough to be genetically relevant. Of course, smaller admixture percentages invariably means your Native American ancestry is very distant or virtually washed out by your generation. Scientific studies certainly discuss admixture percentages below 2%. For example a Bryc et al study using 23andMe customer data finds that African-Americans have an average of 0.8% Native American admixture and “more than 5% of African Americans are estimated to carry at least 2% Native American ancestry genome-wide … With a lower threshold of 1% Native American ancestry, we estimate that about 22% of African Americans carry some Native American ancestry ….” The point here is the lower percentages of Native American admixture discussed in the study are legitimate, and in this instance influenced by historic events (ie Indian Removals, which disrupted continuous gene-flow between Native Americans and African-Americans). In other instances a small admixture percentage may indicate one single DNA segment of your chromosome, which could be quite lengthy depending on location and chromosome. For example my 23andMe Ancestry Composition shows 0.6%(+/-) ethnicity similarity to Ashkenazi Jewish — this admixture is represented by one long segment on my chromosome 9. Yet I will warn that smaller admixture percentages should not be accepted lightly as legitimate, and therefore you MUST apply additional tests to determine legitimacy. This is because such trace admixture has a higher chance of being incorrectly assigned or misattributed an ethnicity label; OR it’s the closest fit for a population missing from the reference population samples offered by the test, OR it shows because you have ancestry from a population sharing genetic ancestral linkages with another population. As a general precaution you must make sure your trace Native American percentage shows in a consistent range — and at most conservative confidence levels — with a number of reliable personal genome services (ie 23andMeAncestryDNAFamilyTreeDNA) and admixture utilities (Gedmatch.comDNA.Land). One legitimacy test is TRIANGULATION  — comparing yourself, your parent(s), other close relatives’ DNA segment(s) assigned “Native American” TO other genetic matches and their parents DNA segments assigned “Native American” —  if ALL OF YOU match each other on that particular Native American segment(s) then it’s likely you all share a common Native American ancestor /ancestral couple, and thus making it more likely the Native American admixture is real. [See Blaine Bettinger's Triangulation Intervention and Visual Phasing]. Another legitimacy test is PHASING — if you and your parent(s) take a DNA test (preferably with the same service), then you’ll be able confirm whether you inherited Native American ancestry from one or both parents, which also increases the odds your trace admixture is legit [see Roberta Estes's Parental Phasing].  Furthermore, testing your grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc. may reveal higher amounts of Native American admixture and uncover Haplogroups exclusively found in indigenous populations, all of which may help legitimize your trace amount of Native American admixture. If you were expecting admixture that wasn't there, you may have to accept the fact that it is absence (see my blog Native American Admixture Is Just Not Into You). Ultimately only you can decide if your trace ancestries are worthy of pursuit.



  1. A very interesting article TL Dixon, enjoyed reading it.

  2. I Love It~~~Fantastic Work~~~You did real good by your client~~Wish you were working with me~~~

  3. Great read. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and understanding of such complex subjects. I think you are on point about the Cherokee originating in the north and then mixing with southeastern tribes with Mesoamerican origins. I only show small percentages of Native American, but with an affinity to larger amounts from all over Asia and Siberia. I'm guessing the Siberian and North Asian combined with Clovis affinity may suggest a small and distant input from the north. I have no paper trail. I take the Southern Asian to be linked to Rom migration. Lovely how history and science can come together, huh? Much is still pulling it all together and recognizing patterns. You have a knack for that.

  4. Great read. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and understanding of such complex subjects. I think you are on point about the Cherokee originating in the north and then mixing with southeastern tribes with Mesoamerican origins. I only show small percentages of Native American, but with an affinity to larger amounts from all over Asia and Siberia. I'm guessing the Siberian and North Asian combined with Clovis affinity may suggest a small and distant input from the north. I have no paper trail. I take the Southern Asian to be linked to Rom migration. Lovely how history and science can come together, huh? Much is still pulling it all together and recognizing patterns. You have a knack for that.

  5. How interesting. My dad's results have scored fairly significant native american percentages (between 26 to 41%). I'd always assumed that was basically all latin american. But maybe there was a bit more range in that section of his tree then I'd thought. Hm... :)

  6. Hi TL, thank you so much for putting this together for all of us with the need to get a clearer understanding of our GEDmatch results for Native American ancestry. Although you did give me a lot of info in our discussions, I was not able to put it all togerther clearly in my head. Now I have this site to refer back to as I am reviewing my Gedmatch results. You have done a great service to us that have a need to know the truth.

  7. My aunt has known distant Powhatan ancestry and she got 2% Central Asian, but no Native American. Is the Central Asian Native American?

  8. Very interesting. I have the Sherrill surname in my family tree, specifically my Melungeon line. Mary Sherrill(1693-1772) wife of Richard Perkins. Are his Sherrills connected to any Melungeons?

  9. Chief Yonaguska adopted a little white orphan, William Holland Thomas,Wil-Usdi or Little Will.He became a White Chief of the Cherokee, and helped in raising funds to buy land back to create the Eastern Cherokee Qualla Boundary Reservation. He was also a Confederate leader, commanding Thomas legion of Cherokees and White mountaineers. They fired the last shot of the Civil War.

  10. Thank you, this has been beyond helpful ♡ - Kea Atir

  11. Your client and I are distant cousins. We share similar ancestors. Chief Doublehead, Rainmaker, etc. Cool read thanks for sharing. Do mine next to see if your client and I are related and if our dna markers are similar.