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    The Challenges Of Identifying Native American Ancestry

    american native

    Have you grown up hearing stories in your family about a connection to Native American ancestry? Many individuals are turning to DNA testing to confirm family histories and learn more about their heritage. While this can be a fruitful and exciting experience, it’s important to understand a few critical factors about DNA tests and their ability to prove Native American ancestry. 

    Why It's So Difficult To Test For Native American DNA

    It can be difficult for individuals seeking to confirm Native American identity to find a solution through DNA testing. A genetic test will typically test a broad range of indigenous peoples in America and around the world. This allows DNA test-takers to access global populations and even understand the migration patterns of their ancestors. 

    However, Native American ancestry is much more difficult to narrow in on. There are four main categories of indigenous peoples in the Americas that the tests tend to search for. These are Amazonian, Mesoamerica, Indigenous North America, and Indigenous South American. These four categories are rather broad and may not provide the specific information you’re hoping to learn. 

    It’s important to remember that if you get a result that states you’re broadly Native American, it can include many peoples across different regions. For example, people from Canada and Latin America would be included in that definition. 

    If your family history claims a specific tribal affiliation, that too can be difficult to pin down. In most cases, a DNA testing kit will confirm a percentage of your ethnicity is broadly Native American. Some might further define that to northern, central, or southern Native Americans. If you want to confirm that your grandfather’s claim of Cherokee ancestry is true, you won’t receive that level of detail from a genetic test.

    What This Means For Tribal Affiliation 

    A DNA test can’t confirm specific ancestry as it relates to tribal affiliation. It’s important to remember that tribes themselves have their own methods of confirming ancestry. For many tribes, membership isn’t necessarily determined by blood. 

    Membership can span based on various factors such as language, culture, adoption, kinship, and so forth. Each tribe sets its standards for membership and each is likely different from the next. This makes it very difficult to determine a sure-fire method to prove tribal affiliation through something like a DNA testing kit.

    If you’re looking to legally prove a tribal affiliation, you’ll need the tribe's approval. According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the only way to get legal confirmation as a member of the tribe is to be recognized by the federally-recognized tribe itself. Once you get official status, you’ll be eligible for certain rights and services awarded to tribes.

    What Can A DNA Test Reveal About Your Linkage To Native Americans 

    You shouldn’t be discouraged about trying to find a connection to Native American ancestors through genetics. There’s another way DNA kits can help you learn more about your ethnicity and ancestry. Many use these tests as a way to trace migration patterns of family, gain access to names and histories of ancestors, and connect with living relatives. 

    Building your family tree through the help of a DNA test can be an extremely valuable and fruitful process. Many testing companies help you to build your tree by alerting you to possible connections within their database. It might take some investigative work and research, but you’ll most likely be able to build a storyline and understand your ancestors on a more intimate level. 

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    The answer to the question of whether or not a DNA test proves Native American history is both yes and no. A DNA test can confirm broadly that a percentage of your ancestry stems from indigenous peoples. However, its inability to link you to a more specific region and tribal affiliation can be insufficient for many. 

    Think of a DNA test as the first step in understanding your Native American heritage. It can confirm some linkage to this demographic. Afterward, you’ll need to use the tools at hand to begin building your family tree. Additionally, speak with relatives to gain more specific insights into your family’s history.