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Saturday, October 15, 2011

DNA Research (We Are Not Extinct!)

This article (erroneously) says the Taino are extinct.On average, the genomes of Puerto Ricans contain 10 to 15% Native American DNA, which is largely Taíno, says Bustamante.
*  Comments from many of my friends, Robert, Licy, and Vanessa are on the bottom.

As a result of the feedback from community members, thetitle of the article in question has been changed from "Breathing life into an extinct ethnicity' to "Rebuilding the genome of a hidden ethnicity". All references to "extinction" have been removed. At the end of the article there is now a corrective statement that reads:

"Corrected: This article originally stated that the Taíno were extinct, which is incorrect. Nature apologizes for the offence caused, and has corrected the text to better explain the research project described."

The original article appeared on Oct. 14, 2011 and was corrected on Oct. 17, 2011. It took three days from the time of the first post to not only receive apologies from one of the scientists leading the project but also from the magazine itself.

While it is still not a "perfect article", I have left a message on the site to thank the editor Brian Owens and Professor Bustamante for the public apology and the corrections. I felt it was the Taino thing to do…

In achieving these corrections and apologies, I feel we accomplished something historic. Think about the alternative if we did nothing at all. 

This article demonstrates the sad consequences of DNA testing
People interviewed for this story, whether they are for or against the use of DNA testing, agree there is already a litmus test—for you to be considered Indian any of the following statements are true:
A) Your family/people experienced a traumatic history with disease, displacement and death;
B) Your family/people endured generations of intense poverty and disenfranchisement;
C) That you are alive means your family/people survived repeated attempts by various governments to exterminate them—physically, culturally, spiritually.
“Really, the measure of being Indian should be a pain index,” Alexie says. “You know, how many funerals have you gone to?”

DNA results that reveal unpleasant surprises about parentage are a frequent occurrence in Indian country, where grandmothers or aunties often care for infants born into bad domestic situations. “That’s one of the things about DNA testing—it is letting all of the skeletons out of the closet,” says James Mills, president of Creating Stronger Nations, a consulting firm that works with tribes to create policy documents on a range of governance issues, including enrollment. “The moment you draw a line in the sand on enrollment, the moment you have rules, there is going to be some unfairness. There is no perfect system. There just isn’t one.”

But even that test is subjective. “It comes down to who is a tribal member,” says Mills, pointing to the authority granted by Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, a landmark 1978 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that notes sovereign Indian nations determine their own membership. “Tribes have rules about membership and for many years, many tribes were very lax about their rules. [But now], if you are a successful per-capita tribe, people will come out of the woodwork,” clamoring to be members. “Tribes began to get stricter about the enforcement of their rules…and thus you have this disenrollment phenomenon.”

This site has some information on Native American DNA testing.
Over the past few weeks a number of agencies have contacted one or more editors of the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink ( with news and details concerning DNA testing services for those interested in verifying or documenting their Taino or other Amerindian biological parentage.

And this site talks about cultural survival - The Taino of the Caribbean: the People Who are Not Supposed to Exist

Here is another article, The Perils of Human Genomics (with a lot of sarcasm in the comments), about reclaiming/identifying as Taino.  Scroll down to read these two comments:

16.   Kolibri Carrillo Says:

The more I read about this topic, the more I am compelled to address this issue of the so called Taino extinction. I am Taino by blood and culture. I do not need a DNA test nor recognition from any faction political or cultural. I am not from a poor or disadvantage life, I am educated and do not need any financial assistance from government as reparation. I am retired from a government agency in NYC and on full pension. I pay taxes like everyone else. Why do I identify myself to the indigenous culture of my home island called Boriken (Puerto Rico)? My mother’s birth certificate says so. Why do I claim to be of both indigenous culture of the Caribbean? I am Taino and Carib because my Mother told me so. I do not need the Smithsonian study or the speculations of scientist to tell me who I am. I do not need a card from my country’s government to tell me who I am. I am Taino and Caribe mixed with Spanish. Thus I am mestizo like my own Mother. My post here does not come from a need to have some form of identity, I am an American; born and raised in the United States of America. That is my citizenship. I am a Taino and Carib woman, that is my identity. I am not looking for any social or economic advantage at claiming my identity as Taino. I do not need anyone’s approval to know who I am. Mr. Onur whoever you are, I am not a Taino identity activist. I am Kolibri Carrillo daughter of a Taino/Carib woman. I am entitled to self identity.

17.   Maurice Travers Says:

I am one of those so called “taino ” activists whose lies onur goes on about . I am a white anglo / saxon british male who is blessed to be friends with many of these “extinct ” people . Dr Bustamente and the authour of the article graciously admitted that they had made an error of Judgement when presented with facts that dispelled the Columbian myth of extinction . For the information of onur a study carried out over a wide spectrum of inhabitants of Boriken (Puerto Rico ) in a sample of 700 61% showed Mitrochrondial DNA indicating Amerindian (Taino ) decendency The reasearch was carried out by prof Vasesquez of the university there as to the fact that he claims greek origin he should read his history the Greeks are extinct as is every other race in this world .There is no pure anyone left today. I am minded to remind Everyone here of a greeting used by the Lakota soiux Tribe of North america .
Miyakuye Oyasin WE ARE ALL RELATED
Blessings to all

Rejoinder to Roberto Mucaro
Mr. Borrero is correct in pointing out that the number of people in Puerto Rico who self-identify as “Indian” has increased 49 percent from 13,336 in the year 2000 to 19,510 in 2010. But this is still only less than 1 percent of the total Island population of 3.7 million.

There are other NeoTaíno organizations and subgroups that are sometimes in conflict with each other, such as the Jatibonicu Taíno Tribal Nation of Boriken, the Taíno Turabo Aymaco Tribe of Puerto Rico, and the Consejo General de Taínos Borincanos, with the issue of purity coming up in statements on occasion. For example, the “Tribal Charter” of the Taíno Turabo Aymaco Tribe of Boriken states that their tribe “is made-up of: documented and non-documented, pure blood, and non-pure blood descendants of the Taíno Turabo and Aymaco Tribes,” and “pure and non-pure blood descendants of other various Taíno Tribes from the entire Caribbean.”

A little more to think about here: Advocates for Taíno people say their culture is passed down through oral traditions, not solely DNA. Taíno supporters have a problem with academic scholar Dr. Gabriel Haslip-Viera’s recent paper where he says Taíno advocates are using a DNA study to claim “a pure indigenous pedigree.”

They say they never made that claim and have challenged Haslip-Viera to prove it. According to the United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP) the concept of a “degree of Indian blood” was not set by them, but by those whose ultimate goal is to eliminate indigenous tribes. Taíno advocates say Haslip-Viera omits any reference to oral tradition as a form of community and national history.

Roberto “Múkaro” Borrero, president of UCTP said in a statement:
“It should be further noted that Taíno descendants do not require the approval of Dr. Haslip-Viera or others to be Taíno. This position is also affirmed by the world community as per the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Should your ancestry be based on how you see yourself or how much DNA you have of that ethnicity?

This article shows why There is no DNA test to prove you're Native American;postID=6841055636249105922

DNA testing is changing how Native Americans think about tribal membership. Yet anthropologist Kim Tallbear warns that genetic tests are a blunt tool. She tells Linda Geddes why tribal identity is not just a matter of blood ties

New Discoveries

Single Ancestral Group:
For two decades, researchers have been using a growing volume of genetic data to debate whether ancestors of Native Americans emigrated to the New World in one wave or successive waves, or from one ancestral Asian population or a number of different populations.

Risks to Tribes (Who Owns Native Culture?):

What do Mormons think about our DNA?

Smart New Ways to Trace Your Native Ancestry
Taino DNA isn't accounted for in "land-based" studies… 

DNA evidence is immperfect
It cannot determine blood quantum or cultural knowledge, among other things.