The researcher who examined Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) DNA test used DNA samples from “Mexico, Peru and Colombia” to “stand in” for Native American DNA in North America, according to the Boston Globe.

According to the newspaper:

Detecting DNA for Native Americans is particularly tricky because there is an absence of Native American DNA available for comparison. This is in part because Native American leaders have asked tribal members not to participate in genetic databases.

[…]

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.”

It’s unclear how this methodology directly corroborates Warren’s claim of part Cherokee descent.

Interestingly, the Boston Globe later issued this correction at the bottom of its report:

Correction: Due to a math error, a story about Elizabeth Warren misstated the ancestry percentage of a potential 6th to 10th generation relative. The generational range based on the ancestor that the report identified suggests she’s between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American.

In addition, there’s no evidence that Warren would be eligible to join one of the big three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes.

To be recognized Cherokee by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, the senator would have to be at least 1/16 Cherokee as calculated by an ancestor on the 1924 Baker Roll, and Warren’s results don’t meet that threshold.

“No DNA/blood testing is performed or acceptable for this calculation,” its site states.

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee has an even stricter threshold: a minimum blood quantum requirement of one quarter (1/4) degree Keetoowah Cherokee blood, which is ostensibly also calculated by an ancestor on a particular census roll.

And to join the Cherokee Nation, Warren would need to provide documentation of her direct ancestor listed on the Dawes Rolls of the tribe, which she hasn’t.


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