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DNA tests being used to bolster Indian heritage claims

The Los Angeles Times and Wired Magazine are running stories about the use of DNA tests to confirm Indian ancestry.

Both stories focus on the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma. After the Civil War, the tribes signed treaties that required them to treat African-American descendants as citizens.

But Freedmen are finding that the treaties mean little today. Through the implementation of the Dawes Act, in which the tribal land base was broken up, "Black" Indians were placed on separate rolls. The Five Civilized Tribes use the Dawes rolls to establish membership so people whose ancestors weren't on the list can't get enrolled.

To bolster their claims, the Freedmen took DNA tests offered by African Ancestry Inc., a Washington, D.C., company. The tests showed that many had Indian blood but the percentages weren't as high as expected. Still, some say it is proof that they have Indian ancestors

The Freedmen aren't the only ones in Indian Country turning to DNA either. The Meskwaki Tribe of Iowa requires DNA to prove paternity. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation of Connecticut seeks genetic testing of newborns.

Get the Story:
Ancestry in a Drop of Blood (The Los Angeles Times 8/30)
Blood Feud (September 2005)

Relevant Links:
Freedmen Conference -

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