Tell Me a Story: Genomics vs. Indigenous Origin Narratives

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Religion, United States on 2013-10-12 02:45Z by Steven

Tell Me a Story: Genomics vs. Indigenous Origin Narratives

GeneWatch
Council for Responsible Genetics
Volume 26, Number 4, Religion & Genetics (Aug-Oct 2013)
pages 11-13

Kim TallBear, Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas, Austin

On April 13, 2005 the Indigenous Peoples’ Council on Biocolonialism issued a press release opposing the Genographic Project, which aimed to sample 100,000 indigenous and other traditional peoples to “trace the migratory history of the human species” and “map how the Earth was populated.” IPCB critiques Genographic, and the Human Genome Diversity Project before it, as the contemporary continuation of colonial, extractive research. The analysis is also a fundamental historical examination of Western science. IPCB foregrounds the intellectual and institutional authority that science, a powerful tool of colonizing states, has to appropriate indigenous bodies – both dead and living – material cultural artifacts, and indigenous cultural narratives in the service of academic knowledge production.

Critics point out that such knowledge rarely serves indigenous peoples’ interests and can actively harm them. In the 19th and early 20th centuries massacre sites and graves were plundered for body parts to be used in scientific investigations that inform today’s anthropological and biological research on Native Americans. Throughout the 20th century, indigenous peoples around the world witnessed the too common practice of “helicopter research” – quick sampling without return of results or benefit to subjects. Indigenous DNA samples and data taken in earlier decades when ethics standards were lax continue to be used and cited in contemporary investigations, bringing those injustices into the 21st century. And new, more ethical research still takes time from other pressing projects and needs. Informed community review and collaboration with researchers will increase community benefit, but informed participation has costs. It takes resources to build capacity to sit at the table as equals instead of as vulnerable subjects – as simply the raw materials for science…

Read the entire article here.

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Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2013-09-27 04:02Z by Steven

Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science

University of Minnesota Press
September 2013
256 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8166-6586-0
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8166-6585-3

Kim TallBear, Associate Professor of Anthropology
University of Texas, Austin

Who is a Native American? And who gets to decide? From genealogists searching online for their ancestors to fortune hunters hoping for a slice of casino profits from wealthy tribes, the answers to these seemingly straightforward questions have profound ramifications. The rise of DNA testing has further complicated the issues and raised the stakes.

In Native American DNA, Kim TallBear shows how DNA testing is a powerful—and problematic—scientific process that is useful in determining close biological relatives. But tribal membership is a legal category that has developed in dependence on certain social understandings and historical contexts, a set of concepts that entangles genetic information in a web of family relations, reservation histories, tribal rules, and government regulations. At a larger level, TallBear asserts, the “markers” that are identified and applied to specific groups such as Native American tribes bear the imprints of the cultural, racial, ethnic, national, and even tribal misinterpretations of the humans who study them.

TallBear notes that ideas about racial science, which informed white definitions of tribes in the nineteenth century, are unfortunately being revived in twenty-first-century laboratories. Because today’s science seems so compelling, increasing numbers of Native Americans have begun to believe their own metaphors: “in our blood” is giving way to “in our DNA.” This rhetorical drift, she argues, has significant consequences, and ultimately she shows how Native American claims to land, resources, and sovereignty that have taken generations to ratify may be seriously—and permanently—undermined.

Table of Contents

  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: An Indigenous, Feminist Approach to DNA Politics
  • 1. Racial Science, Blood, and DNA
  • 2. The DNA Dot-com: Selling Ancestry
  • 3. Genetic Genealogy Online
  • 4. The Genographic Project: The Business of Research and Representation
  • Conclusion: Indigenous and Genetic Governance and Knowledge
  • Notes
  • Index
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The Myth of Native American Blood

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2012-06-04 19:26Z by Steven

The Myth of Native American Blood

The Hyphenated Life
The Boston Globe
2012-06-01

Francie Latour

The African-American grandmother of a friend of mine once summed up the laws that govern black identity in this country. “If you ever want to know if someone’s black or not,” she would say, “go ask their white neighbor.”

That succinct, small-town Georgia wisdom essentially outlines the rule of hypodescent, also known as the one-drop rule. The one-drop rule emerged during slavery and hardened in Reconstruction, automatically classifying as black anyone with any trace of African ancestry. It is the reason why, in the 1800s, the extremely light-skinned offspring of white fathers and black mothers were deemed slaves. It’s also the reason why, in 2011, the actress Halle Berry, who is biracial but identifies as black, became a lightning rod of controversy for maintaining that her own daughter, with white Canadian actor Gabriel Aubry, is also black.

The fact that Americans with vastly different complexions know they are black by the number of cab drivers who don’t stop for them as much as by any internal measure is a dilemma on many levels. But for Kim Tallbear, an enrolled member of South Dakota’s Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe and a UC Berkeley professor who studies race, genomics and Native American identity, the tyranny of the one-drop rule poses a specific problem in the ongoing controversy surrounding US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and her shifting, dubious claims of Native American identity…

…“If you want to understand Native American identity,” Tallbear said, “you need to get outside of that binary, one-drop framework. Native Americans do not fit in that binary. We have been racialized very differently in relationship to whites.”

How do we know Native Americans are racialized differently, Tallbear said? Because a white person—say, Elizabeth Warren, for example—can absorb a Native American ancestor and still maintain an identity as white. If Warren had a black ancestor, that fact would threaten her white identity…

Read the entire essay here.

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