Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has taken a DNA test and released the results. Her test results suggest that there is evidence of Native American in her family, however, there are a few things to know about the results and you may want to buckle your seatbelt.
Warren’s test was conducted by an independent, a professor from Stanford University named Carlos D. Bustamante. He’s an expert in this field “who won a 2010 MacArthur fellowship, also known as a genius grant, for his work on tracking population migration via DNA analysis.”
Sounds like he’s well educated and does a great job working with DNA. Let’s dig in some more.
Boston Globe filled us in on some details. “Bustamante calculated that Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears in her family tree “in the range of 6-10 generations ago.” That timing fits Warren’s family lore, passed down during her Oklahoma upbringing, that her great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least partially Native American.”
This is big because if Elizabeth Warren tries to say that she is Native American, then it’s not exactly true. If someone in her family 6-10 generations ago possibly had a dash of Native American in their blood, that does not mean that Elizabeth Warren is even remotely close to being considered Native American. She may have ancestors who MAY have some Native American in them, but she is not exactly handing out wampum or setting smoke signals.
Then there’s another tidbit of information that Warren’s DNA test revealed. Her great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, identified as white as found in historical documents. Warren’s own family members who were more likely to have more Native American in them were identifying as white back in the 1700’s.
Bustamante’s report discussed, in Warren’s six-page DNA report, that if “her great-great-great-grandmother was Native American, that puts her at 1/32nd American Indian. But the report includes the possibility that she’s just 1/1024th Native American if the ancestor is 10 generations back.”
That’s interesting if Warren is 1/1024th Native American, because that’s basically nothing. In fact, any of us could have 1/1024th of anything in us.
Further information reveals another discrepancy. Bustamante did not test Warren’s DNA against real Native American DNA. The reason for this is because Native Americans do not typically participate in DNA testing or genetic databases.
“The tribes have felt they have been exploited,” explained Lawrence Brody, a senior investigator with the Medical Genomics and Metabolic Genetics Branch at the National Institutes of Health. “The amount of genetic data that is available from Native Americans is sparse.”
So what did Bustamante do? How did he compare Elizabeth Warren’s DNA to Native American DNA if there was no Native American DNA to compare it to?
“To make up for the dearth of Native American DNA, Bustamante used samples from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia to stand in for Native American. That’s because scientists believe that the groups Americans refer to as Native American came to this land via the Bering Strait about 12,000 years ago and settled in what’s now America but also migrated further south. His report explained that the use of reference populations whose genetic material has been fully sequenced was designed “for maximal accuracy.”
Even though Bustamante is an expert in DNA work, it doesn’t make much sense for Elizabeth Warren’s DNA to be analyzed to see if she’s part Native American, when there’s no true Native American DNA to compare it to.
Warren posted on Twitter about her DNA test. She clearly misleads people in her message because the report by Bustamante shows further details that work against her, proving that she basically is not Native American.
The responses to Elizabeth Warren’s misleading message called her out.
Lol 6-10 generations back doesn’t remotely qualify her at Native American lol
— Live Monitor (@amlivemon) October 15, 2018
Politfact has a huge article on it… pic.twitter.com/bRwl3pnq3e
— Live Monitor (@amlivemon) October 15, 2018
From that same Politifact article — which will likely be updated with this new info: pic.twitter.com/k61Lm8Mejt
— Mike Saunders (@mikesaunders) October 15, 2018
Fake News pic.twitter.com/6jGSjrHoeF
— Comfortably Smug (@ComfortablySmug) October 15, 2018
That’s like using segments of German or French DNA to prove someone has a European ancestor… it’s legitimate science since U.S., Mexico, Peru, etc. are part of the same connected landmass. Look into it before you decide it’s not true.
— Patrick J (@PJOBoston5) October 15, 2018
The standard is 1/8 for membership in the Cherokee Nation, for instance. I am 1/16 as a direct descendant of my great great grandmother on my mother’s side, but I would never consider applying for special privileges at Harvard, for instance. I do not qualify, and neither do you.
— Randall Adams (@randalladams) October 15, 2018
President Donald Trump had the best response, saying “who cares.”
Trump on Elizabeth Warren's DNA test… "Who cares?" 😂 pic.twitter.com/2079kJKOOW
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) October 15, 2018