Thursday, February 13, 2014

Genes And Early Americans

An article by Morten Rasmussen et al., published in the February 13, 2014, issue of the journal Nature  suggests that all Native Americans are descended from the same small group of ancestors.  Entitled The genome of a Late Pleistocene human from a Clovis burial site in western Montana, the article describes the results of sequencing DNA from an infant boy ("Anzick-1") who was buried in Wyoming more than10,000 years ago.  As the article explains,
The Anzick-1 data...serves to unify the genetic and archaeological records of early North America, it is consistent with a human occupation of the Americas a few thousand years before Clovis, and demonstrates that contemporary Native Americans are descendants of the first people to settle successfully in the Americas. [Footnotes omitted.]
Because the remains of Anzick-1 were found on private land, the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act ("NAGPRA") was not triggered.  The NAGPRA requires that ancient human remains found on federal property be returned to whichever Native American tribe has the closest "cultural affiliation" with those remains.  Section 2(2) of NAGPRA defines "cultural affiliation" as
a relationship of shared group identity which can be reasonably traced historically or prehistorically between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group.
A number of Native American tribes in Wyoming have expressed cultural affiliation with Anzick-1.  Having shed remarkable light on Native American origins, he should be reburied with respect and honor.