Bioarchaeology, DNA, and Indigeneity

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How is genetic information being used to define—or redefine—identity, ancestry, and diversity? What are the ensuing social, ethical, and practical implications of DNA research for descendent communities, First Nations peoples, and other stakeholders? What are the intersections of genetic and cultural identities? What can research examples such as that of the Kwäday Dän Ts'ìnchi man (Long Ago Person Found) or the Clovis period child from the Anzick site teach us about moving forward with genetic studies through collaborative research?

As archaeologists and anthropologists increasingly turn to genetic information to provide insights into the past, there are important implications for Indigenous peoples today. From genetic ancestry tests that purport to identify “Native American ancestry,” to the potential application of ancient DNA analysis to assist with the repatriation of human remains, DNA is changing the way in which identity is constructed—both for ancient and present-day peoples.

Partnerships with First Nations of British Columbia on Studies that include DNA Analysis - DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Over the past decade, we have partnered with First Nations of British Columbia on projects that include DNA analysis of both living community members and ancestors, the latter through the analysis of ancient skeletal remains. These partnerships, based on mutual respect and communication, were created in the wake of antagonistic relationships elsewhere between scientific researchers and indigenous peoples that impeded genomic knowledge among Native American community members. These conversations are facilitated through talks in First Nation communities and a one-week “hands on” workshop for indigenous community members called the Summer Internship for Native Americans in Genomics (SING). This lecture explores how First Nations are using genomics as a tool to further their interests, while employing safeguards to minimize any potential risks.   Dr. Ripan Malhi is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Indigenous Identity at the Intersection of Medical Genetics Discourses- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Beginning in the early twenty-first century, the genomic age has seen academic interests expand beyond Indigenous global migrations to more medically-driven population genetic research. In this environment, scientific narratives tend to privilege race-based biological explanations for physical and mental health phenomena. Similarly, academic frameworks for individual and group identity are increasingly described through a lens of genetic-derived logic over the cultural, political, historical, and societal conditions that shape social beings. Propelled by the promise of using genetic information to address health disparities, indigenous people once again must weigh the benefits of participation in genetic research with potential risks. This presentation explores how indigenous people construct identity at the intersection of medical genetics discourses.

 

Dr. Rosalina James is Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington. 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Science and Whiteness- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

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Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

During the 19th century, the American School of Anthropology enfolded Native peoples into their histories, claiming knowledge about and artifacts of these cultures as their rightful inheritance and property. Highlighting several cases, this talk describes how similar enfoldments continue today—despite most contemporary scientists’ explicit rejection of hierarchical ideas of race. This talk highlights extra-legal strategies that can address tensions between indigenous peoples and genome scientists and their facilitators—ethicists, lawyers, and policy makers. Dr. Kimberly TallBear is an Associate Professor at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Native Studies. She is an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota, descended from the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, and raised on the Flandreau Santee Sioux reservation in South Dakota and in St. Paul. 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Provenancing Indigenous Human Remains for Repatriation- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

In Australia, DNA research has yet to be used for the purposes of repatriating Indigenous ancestral remains, but it is beginning to be discussed, particularly in relation to those remains with no, or little, provenance information available within archival sources. This presentation considers the use of "biological" markers of identity in repatriation to illuminate perceptions of Indigenous identity, the need for greater sophistication in research translation, and the implications (both real and potential) if greater understanding is not achieved and communicated. Dr. Cressida Fforde is Deputy Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at Australian National University. 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Repatriation and the Limits of Genetic Identity- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

In the United States, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History repatriates human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony to federally-recognized tribes. Documenting the ties between existing tribes and ancient peoples can utilize biological constructions of identity, but there are limits to this type of analysis given that tribes are political entities as well as cultural ones. This presentation will use case studies to show how difficult repatriation would be if it only relied on genetic constructions of identity. Dorothy Lippert works in the Repatriation Office of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and is an IPinCH research team member.  

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Genetics, Identity, and Justice- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Drawing on some recent cases from Newfoundland and Labrador (e.g. repatriation of Beothuk remains; membership in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq ‘landless’ tribe), this presentation explores differing notions of identity (e.g. genetic, cultural, and otherwise) as well as various conceptions of justice (distributive, compensatory, retributive, restorative) relating them to issues of repatriation, tribal identity, and land claims. Dr. Daryl Pullman is Professor of Medical Ethics at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and an IPinCH research team member. 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Cautionary Notes on Using Biology to Infer Identity and Ancestry- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

While it is typically understood that identities are multiple and fluid, the same instability and fluidity applies to human biology. The instability of biology makes the use of “racial categories” particularly problematic and shows that the notion of closed and isolated groups is typically a myth. This presentation highlights the implications of using biology to suggest the identity and ancestry of ancient ones, specifically Spirit Cave and Kennewick Man. Dr. Alan Goodman is Professor of Biological Anthropology at Hampshire College, and an IPinCH research team member.  

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Inferring Relatedness, Identity, and Cultural Affiliation from Ancient DNA- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

Recent advances in genomic technologies have made it increasingly feasible to collect genetic data from ancient human remains. This presentation will consider: 1) the benefits and risks of using ancient DNA to establish cultural affiliation and substantiate repatriation or land claims; and 2) the importance of grounding such claims in what we know more generally about human genetic diversity. This presentation will explore a key question: What do—and don’t—genetic analyses tell us about relatedness, identity, and shared culture?  Dr. Deborah Bolnick is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Document type: 
Conference presentation

Bringing the Ancient One Home- DNA and Indigeneity Symposium

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

The final resting place of Kennewick Man, or the Ancient One, remains a highly debated question. This presentation will tell the story of Kennewick Man from the perspective of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and make the case for his repatriation.  Armand Minthorn is a Religious Leader and member on the Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. 

Document type: 
Lecture / Talk

The Journey Home- Guiding Intangible Knowledge Production in the Analysis of Ancestral Remains (Final Report)

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015
Abstract: 

This study, co-developed by David Schaepe, Director, Stó:lo Research and Resource Management Centreand Susan Rowley, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, stems from the Journey Home Project, a repatriation of ancestral remains from the UBC Lab of Archaeology (LOA) to the Stó:lo Nation of southwestern B.C. 

 

For the Stó:lo, knowing as much as possible about these ancestors informs their process. How can scientific research address Stó:lo questions and aid this repatriation? Opportunity recently arose for scientific study, stimulating a Stó:lo-LOA dialogue touching on multiple issues of scientific process, knowledge production and intellectual property. What types of anthropological research and scientific analyses can be applied to answer community-based questions? What are the details and cultural implications of analyses — both destructive and non-destructive? Who decides which questions to ask and which means of research to implement? Who interprets the results? Who owns those data? How do ‘scientific’ and ‘cultural’ ways of knowing relate? Who is allowed to share in and benefit from this knowledge? These questions are central to the Stó:lo ’s relationship with both their ancestors and LOA.

 

This study aims to provide guidelines for generating knowledge within a mutually acceptable framework of authority, control, and use. These critical issues are at the forefront of our conversations as we work together to complete The Journey Home.

Document type: 
Report