The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian DNA, Race, and Native Rights By Aviva Chomsky

Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land Posted by Aviva Chomsky at 8:12am, November 29, 2018.
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[This is a kinda-sorta reblog, though it really is simply a copy and paste from the Tomgram website. I’ve done this before as I find no way to re-post this otherwise except with the posting of a link which, in my opinion for what it’s worth, isn’t good enough. I think that if I’m hoping someone will read something I find worth reading, I should offer the article, not just the link. Still, the link is there if you prefer reading it on their website, and it is an amazing website at that!  This article is about how “America” – the Hegemon – treats the defeated original inhabitants of these lands (Canada where I reside does NO BETTER, let me make that perfectly clear.]

Begin Tomgram article:  In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching Hollywood westerns. They were, of course, filled with Indians, and in those films, we — and I don’t mean the 12-year-old Tom Engelhardt, but the blue coats, the stage coach drivers and their passengers, the cowboys, and the pioneers I identified with — were regularly ambushed by those Indians. In the end, with rare exceptions, the natives predictably fell as they circled the wagon train or stagecoach or attacked those cavalrymen, whooping and shooting their arrows. They went down, naturally enough, before the implacable power of “our” weaponry, “our” marksmanship. And here’s the thing: they deserved it. After all, they were attacking us. We never ambushed them. They, that is, were “the invaders” and we, invariably, the aggressed upon.

All of this came to my mind when, in the midst of the 2018 midterm election campaign, Donald Trump labeled as “invaders” a caravan of desperate refugees, including women and small children fleeing their violent, impoverished lands (which the U.S. had a significant hand in making so) for asylum or refuge in this country. And then, of course, he sent almost 6,000 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us (and twiddle their thumbs).

I was reminded then of that celluloid past because Donald Trump, who is only a couple of years younger than me and undoubtedly grew up in the same movie world, felt — I suspect — so comfortable lambasting those refugees as invaders exactly because the term fit perfectly the “history” we had learned in our mutual childhoods. His claim was, in fact, a twenty-first-century version of the way, in our youth, the history of this country was regularly turned on its head, making the desperate and invaded into the nefarious and invasive. And, in truth, even without the helping hand of Donald Trump, that version of our history has never really ended, as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky shows today. Native Americans are still being treated as if they were the invaders in what was once their own land and, like that caravan from Latin America, slapped down for it. Let her tell you how what she calls the DNA industry and various parts of our government, local and national, have been working overtime to recreate, after a fashion, the movie world of my childhood. Tom

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian
DNA, Race, and Native Rights
By Aviva Chomsky

Amid the barrage of racist, anti-immigrant, and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren, egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand with moves to undermine Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North Dakota.

Profiting by Recreating Race

Let’s start by looking at how the ancestry industry contributes to, and profits from, a twenty-first-century reformulation of race. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe lure customers into donating their DNA and a hefty sum of money in exchange for detailed reports claiming to reveal the exact geographical origins of their ancestors going back multiple generations. “Who do you think you are?” asks Ancestry.com, typically enough. The answer, the company promises, lies in your genes.

Such businesses eschew the actual term “race” in their literature. They claim instead that DNA reveals “ancestry composition” and “ethnicity.” In the process, however, they turn ethnicity, a term once explicitly meant to describe culture and identity, into something that can be measured in the genes. They conflate ethnicity with geography, and geography with genetic markers. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that the “ethnicities” they identify bear an eerie resemblance to the “races” identified by European scientific racist thinking a century ago. They then produce scientific-looking “reports” that contain purportedly exact percentages linking consumers to places as specific as “Sardinia” or as broad as “East Asia.”

At their most benign, these reports have become the equivalent of a contemporary parlor game, especially for white Americans who make up the vast majority of the participants. But there is a sinister undertone to it all, reviving as it does a long-discredited pseudoscientific basis for racism: the notion that race, ethnicity, and ancestry are revealed in the genes and the blood, and passed down inexorably, even if invisibly, from generation to generation. Behind this lies the assumption that those genes (or variations) originate within clearly defined national or geographic borders and that they reveal something meaningful about who we are — something otherwise invisible. In this way, race and ethnicity are separated from and elevated above experience, culture, and history.

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Although all humans share 99.9% of our DNA, there are some markers that exhibit variations. It’s these markers that the testers study, relying on the fact that certain variations are more (or less) common in different geographical areas. As law and sociology professor Dorothy Roberts puts it, “No sooner had the Human Genome Project determined that human beings are 99.9% alike than many scientists shifted their focus from human genetic commonality to the 0.1% of human genetic difference. This difference is increasingly seen as encompassing race.”

Ancestry tests rely on a fundamental — and racialized — misunderstanding of how ancestry works. The popular assumption is that each of us contains discrete and measurable percentages of the “blood” and DNA of our two biological parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on, and that this ancestral line can be traced back hundreds of years in a meaningful way. It can’t. As science journalist Carl Zimmer explains, “DNA is not a liquid that can be broken down into microscopic drops… We inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average… If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50% that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.”

In reality, such testing does not tell us much about our ancestors. That’s partly because of the way DNA is passed down through the generations and partly because there exists no database of ancestral DNA. Instead, the companies compare your DNA to that of other contemporary humans who have paid them to take the test. Then they compare your particular variations to patterns of geographical and ethnic distribution of such variations in today’s world — and use secret algorithms to assign purportedly precise ancestral percentages to them.

So is there really a Sardinian or East Asian gene or genetic variation? Of course not. If there is one fact that we know about human history, it’s that ours is a history of migrations. We all originated in East Africa and populated the planet through ongoing migrations and interactions. None of this has ended (and, in fact, thanks to climate change, it will only increase). Cultures, ethnicities, and settlements can’t be frozen in time. The only thing that is constant is change. The peoples who reside in today’s Sardinia or East Asia are a snapshot that captures only a moment in a history of motion. The DNA industry’s claims about ancestry award that moment a false sense of permanence.

While whites of European ancestry seem enthralled with the implications of this new racial science, few Native Americans have chosen to donate to such databases. Centuries of abuse at the hands of colonial researchers who made their careers on Native ancestral remains, cultural artifacts, and languages have generated a widespread skepticism toward the notion of offering genetic material for the good of “science.” In fact, when it comes to one DNA testing outfit, 23andMe, all of the countries included in its lists of the geographical origins of those who have contributed to its “Native American” database are in Latin America and the Caribbean. “In North America,” the company blandly explains, “Native American ancestry tends to be five or more generations back, so that little DNA evidence of this heritage remains.” In other words, 23andMe claims DNA as conclusive proof of Native American identity, then uses it to write Native North Americans off the map altogether.

The Ancestry Industry and the Disappearing Indian

The ancestry industry, even while celebrating diverse origins and multiculturalism, has revived long-held ideas about purity and authenticity. For much of U.S. history, white colonizers argued that Native Americans would “vanish,” at least in part through biological dilution. New England’s native peoples were, for instance, systematically denied land rights and tribal status in the nineteenth century on the grounds that they were too racially mixed to be “authentic” Indians.

As historian Jean O’Brien has explained, “Insistence on ‘blood purity’ as a central criterion of ‘authentic’ Indianness reflected the scientific racism that prevailed in the nineteenth century. New England Indians had intermarried, including with African Americans, for many decades, and their failure to comply with non-Indian ideas about Indian phenotype strained the credence for their Indianness in New England minds.” The supposed “disappearance” of such Indians then justified the elimination of any rights that they might have had to land or sovereignty, the elimination of which, in a form of circular reasoning, only confirmed their nonexistence as a people.

However, it was never phenotype or distant ancestry but, as O’Brien points out, “complex regional kinship networks that remained at the core of Indian identity in New England, despite the nearly complete Indian dispossession that English colonists accomplished… Even as Indians continued to reckon membership in their communities through the time-honored system of kinship, New Englanders invoked the myth of blood purity as identity in denying Indian persistence.”

Such antiquated understandings of race as a biological or scientific category allowed whites to deny Indian existence — and now allow them to make biological claims about “Indian” identity. Until recently, such claims, as in Senator Warren’s case, rested on the murkiness of family tales. Today, the supposed ability of DNA companies to find genetic “proof” of such a background reinforces the idea that Indian identity is something measurable in the blood and sidesteps the historical basis for the legal recognition or protection of Indian rights.

The ancestry industry assumes that there is something meaningful about the supposed racial identity of one of hundreds or even thousands of an individual’s ancestors. It’s an idea that plays directly into the hands of right-wingers who are intent on attacking what they call “identity politics” — and the notion that “minorities” are becoming unduly privileged.

Indeed, white resentment flared at the suggestion that Senator Warren might have received some professional benefit from her claim to Native status. Despite an exhaustive investigation by the Boston Globe showing conclusively that she did not, the myth persists and has become an implicit part of Donald Trump’s mockery of her. In fact, any quick scan of statistics will confirm the ludicrousness of such a position. It should be obvious that being Native American (or Black, or Latino) in the United States confers far more risks than benefits. Native Americans suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, and low birth weight, as well as lower educational levels and shorter life spans than do whites. These statistics are the result of hundreds of years of genocide, exclusion, and discrimination — not the presence or absence of specific genetic variations.

Reviving Race to Undermine Native Rights

Native rights, from sovereignty to acknowledgment of the conditions created by 500 years of colonial misrule, rest on an acceptance that race and identity are, in fact, the products of history. “Native Americans” came into being not through genes but through the historical processes of conquest and colonial rule, along with grudging and fragile acknowledgement of Native sovereignty. Native American nations are political and cultural entities, the products of history, not genes, and white people’sassertions about Native American ancestry and the DNA industry’s claim to be able to reveal such ancestry tend to run roughshod over this history.

Let’s look at three developments that have, over the past year, undermined the rights of Native Americans: the reversal of reservation status for Mashpee tribal lands in Massachusetts, the striking down of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Republican attempts to suppress Native American votes in North Dakota. Each of these acts came from a different part of the government: the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, the courts, and North Dakota’s Republican-dominated state legislature. But all three rely on notions of identity that place race firmly in our genes rather than in our history. In the process, they deny the histories that turned the sovereign and autonomous peoples of North America before European colonists arrived in “the New World” into “Native Americans,” and imply that Native American historical rights are meaningless.

The Mashpee of Massachusetts finally achieved federal recognition and a grant of reservation land only in 2007, based on the fact that they “had existed as a distinct community since the 1620s.” In other words, federal recognition was based on a historical, not a racialized, understanding of ethnicity and identity. However, the tribe’s drive to build a casino on its newly acquired reservation in Taunton, Massachusetts, would promptly be challenged by local property-owners. Their lawsuit relied on a technicality: that, as they argued in court, reservation land could only be granted to tribes that had been federally recognized as of 1934. In fact, the Mashpee struggle for recognition had been repeatedly stymied by long-held notions that the Indians of Massachusetts were not “real” or “authentic” because of centuries of racial mixing. There was nothing new in this. The state’s nineteenth-century legislature prefigured just such a twenty-first-century backlash against recognition when it boasted that real Indians no longer existed in Massachusetts and that the state was poised to wipe out all such “distinctions of race and caste.”

In September 2018, the Department of the Interior (to which the court assigned the ultimate decision) ruled against the Mashpees. Recently appointed Assistant Director of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, the first Native American to hold that position, “paved the way for a reservation to be taken out of trust for the first time since the termination era,” a 20-year period from the 1940s to the 1960s when the federal government attempted to “terminate” Native sovereignty entirely by dismantling reservations and removing Indians to urban areas to “assimilate” them. The new ruling could affect far more than the Mashpees. Some fear that, in the Trump years, the decision portends “a new termination era,” or even a possible “extermination era,” for the country’s Native Americans.

Meanwhile, on October 4th, a U.S. District Court struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. This is a potentially devastating development as Congress passed that Act in 1978 to end the then-still-common practice of breaking up Native families by removing Indian children for adoption into white families. Such acts of removal date back to the earliest days of white settlement and over the centuries included various kinds of servitude and the founding of residential boarding schools for Indian children that were aimed at eliminating Native languages, cultures, and identities, while promoting “assimilation.” Indian child removal continued into the late twentieth century through a federally sponsored “Indian Adoption Project,” as well as the sending of a remarkable number of such children into the foster care system.

According to the ICWA, “An alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.” States, it added, “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.” The Act gave tribes primary jurisdiction over all child custody issues including foster placements and the termination of parental rights, requiring for the first time that priority be placed on keeping Native children with their parents, kin, or at least within the tribe.

The ICWA said nothing about race or ancestry. Instead, it recognized “Indian” as a political status, while acknowledging semi-sovereign collective rights. It was based on the Constitution’s implicit acknowledgement of Indian sovereignty and land rights and the assignment to the Federal government of relations with Indian tribes. The District Court’s ICWA decision trampled on the collective political rights of Indian tribes by maintaining that the act discriminated against non-Native families in limiting their right to foster or adopt Native children. That rationale, like the rationale behindthe Mashpee decision, directly attacks the cultural and historical acknowledgement of Native sovereignty.

Superficially, the assault on Native voting rights may appear conceptually unrelated to the Mashpee and ICWA decisions. North Dakota is one of many primarily Republican-controlled states to take advantage of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminating key protections of the Voting Rights Act to make registration and voting more difficult, especially for likely Democratic voters including the poor and people of color. After numerous challenges, a North Dakota law requiring prospective voters to provide a street address was finally upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in October 2018. The problem is this: thousands of rural Native Americans, on or off that state’s reservations, lack street addresses because their streets have no names, their homes no numbers. Native Americans are also disproportionately homeless.

In the North Dakota case, Native Americans are fighting for a right of American citizens — the right to vote — whereas the Mashpee and ICWA cases involve fights to defend Native sovereignty. The new voting law invoked equality and individual rights, even as it actually focused on restricting the rights of Native Americans. Underpinning such restrictions was a convenient denial by those Republicans that the country’s history had, in fact, created conditions that were decidedly unequal. (Thanks to a massive and expensive local effort to defend their right to vote, however, North Dakota’s Native Americans showed up in record numbers in the 2018 midterm election.)

These three political developments downplay Native American identity, sovereignty, and rights, while denying, implicitly or explicitly, that history created today’s realities of racial inequality. The use of DNA tests to claim “Native American” genes or blood trivializes this same history.

The recognition of tribal sovereignty at least acknowledges that the existence of the United States is predicated on its imposition of an unwanted, foreign political entity on Native lands. The concept of tribal sovereignty has given Native Americans a legal and collective basis for fighting for a different way of thinking about history, rights, and nationhood. Attempts to reduce Native American identity to a race that can be identified by a gene (or a genetic variation) do violence to our history and justify ongoing violations of Native rights.

Senator Elizabeth Warren had every right to set the record straight regarding false accusations about her employment history. She should, however, rethink the implications of letting either Donald Trump or the ancestry industry define what it means to be Native American.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Aviva Chomsky


43 thoughts on “The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian DNA, Race, and Native Rights By Aviva Chomsky

    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks for commenting (so quickly!) George. As much as I despise Donald Trump for everything he is, and represents (and until I meet him face to face, I cannot find an iota of redeeming value in the character) he has accomplished one positive thing: he has made more Americans aware that America was never great and if it is ever to become so, it’s going to have to do it from scratch, beginning with self awareness, repentance and humility. Look at it this way: that would be a first in the history of all Earthian nations! A BIG first.

      Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Disturbing… yes it really is. The things I could append here, but you already know it. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
      1. jim-

        Sha’Tara I am actually speechless and disgusted. We were just looking into having this done. My wife is curious about her Latina, Filipino heritage. I think any honest answer would be an interesting adventure, but not some whitewash (literally) version of forced conformity. Really great post. I was feeling pretty happy til I read it. Now that I have, I can thoroughly see between the lives of the examples we looked at. All Pacific Islanders, latinos, native Americans, Filipinos and Chinese were all joined 6-12thousand years ago and everyone is given a token percentage of original heritage.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Well there you go: you know a lot more about this than I do, or ever could. I was just looking at the injustice of using “science” simply to deny people their basic human rights. Thanks for your additional comment and insight here.

      3. jim-

        And here I am today posting about restoring shamanistic practices and being all positive, while even more rug is being yanked out from under it. Good to see you friend. Thanks for posting this.

      4. Sha'Tara Post author

        They’re just trying to hide a massive crime of colonialism which took place world wide, under the proverbial rock, and that rock is a pebble, not much good for hiding anything. That pebble is their DNA pseudo science. Crimes of gargantuan proportions were committed by all Western empires, including the Catholic Church. These crimes must be admitted, repented of, and to whatever possible extent, redressed. The costs would be astronomically high for the descendants of the invaders, but the upside is, paying them would make them human. Ignoring them or continuing to inflict them makes them psychopathic, sociopathic and… pathetic losers. He who dies with the most toys is NOT the winner.

  1. rawgod

    ORIGINAL AMERICANS! That is who we are, and that only because we had no name for our continental lands. We were separate nations, even as were the English, French, German, and other peoples of Europe. Even as were the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Indian peoples of Asia, and the sub-continent of India.
    And please notice, Indians are from India. We, the Original Peoples of the Americas, are not Indians. We are Dene, Inuit, Mohawk, Commanche, Apache, Mayan, Aztec, and many other peoples, WE ARE NOT INDIANS. Nor are we Aboriginees, or natives. Are English not natives of England. Are Egyptians not natives of Egypt? Are Indians not natives of India? Everyone is a native of somewhere, an aboriginee of somewhere. These words describe no one because they describe everyone!
    But the whites call us these words as derogatory insults, implying we are savages, wild beasts, uncivilized by the standards of European civilizations. So stop insulting us!
    If anyone is an American, we are. All the copper-coloured people who lived in these lands before any white person came to our shores. We are the Original Peoples of the Americas. We are the ORIGINAL AMERICANS!

    Reply
    1. jim-

      While there was no one, universal name, many of the North American tribes called america Anowarakowa. The Kuna of Central America called it Abya Yala. They traded with other tribes and criss crossed the continents with trade and exploration. It was the land, and it was not owned for a price.

      Reply
      1. rawgod

        And it was the only land, because in our experience there was no other land but where we could walk to. Europeans call the land Terra, or the earth, or however that is said in each language. Each nation of people had their own word for the world, same as the Europeans, but no, we did not have a name our land masses,” because we had no concept of other land masses. Anowarakowa and Abya Yala would translate to the world, the earth, not to the Americas.
        But none of this is really important. I myself am willing to be called an Original American, even though I was born in Canada. And that is why I am promoting this name. One, to remind people the land was stolen from us. Two, to lay claim to that land that was stolen from us. The past cannot be changed, or rectified. We do not ever expect our land to be returned to us. But we do not want our history to be forgotten. We own this land, everyone else is here through use of force.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        Ethnically and morally, YES you own this land… not just parts of it, but all of it. If there is ever any real justice, you will be administering these lands and “we” will be living in reservations. Or, we can always return to where we came from, eh?

      3. rawgod

        Actually, all I want is the piece of land given to my great-grandfather as a result of the Riel Rebellion. But unfortunately, the day the deeds were given out a meeting was called at the local pub, and all the new landowners, after a few drinks, were offered a bottle of whiskey in exchange for their deeds. I don’t know in total how much land was stolen from my people that day, but the story goes the trader had to send out for more whiskey. My great-grandfather never even got to live on his land, but we have traced it back to a strip property starting on the Red River, and stretching 20 miles or so to the west, prime property in the Winnipeg of today. An attempted class action suit was started at one point, but the judge threw it out. The deeds all had Xs on them. It did not matter than many of them looked exactly the same.
        As far as France is concerned, my French name suggests my family came out of the marshes, Desmarais. I have no idea where there might be marshes in France.
        Where my mother was born in Poland of today, there is a roadsign on a highway. The town was bombed out of existence by the allies in WWII, no matter that it was an unimportant dreary farming town. No one has ever tried to rebuild the town. I guess all the inhabitants who were left there were all killed by the bombs. None of my mother’s siblings are still alive.

      4. Sha'Tara Post author

        You know what, rawgod? “We” are one sad bunch of (fill in the blanks, my comments here would turn red!)

      5. rawgod

        …excuses for human beings. I know. It is why I must be willing to carry the guilt on my shoulders. I am Metis! I am victim, and victimizer. My blood fights with itself every day of my life. But I am also acceptance, and peace personified. I must love myself, and all my facets, so that one being can live as all. And all beings can live as one. I am hope! I refuse to be despair!

      6. Sha'Tara Post author

        “I refuse to be despair.” That’s the spirit. I too refuse to consider despair as a way any longer. I have faced death in this life and I can do tough, I can do harsh. Now I do compassion (at least to the best of my growing ability) so there is no longer any room to even consider despair. Compassion creates empathy and that is difficult in such a world as this – so much injustice resulting in pain and death. I’m thankful to the teachers for helping me discover and understand how the experience of sorrow made it possible to open to empathy. Sorrow is not personal pain or loss, it’s me included with all of us. The twin of sorrow is joy and being the bridge means one can experience both joy and sorrow with equanimity through detachment.

      7. rawgod

        Why be detached? Experience the sorrow and the joy. They are both worth experiencing. They are all part of being alive…

      8. Sha'Tara Post author

        Quote: “Why be detached? Experience the sorrow and the joy. They are both worth experiencing. They are all part of being alive…”

        Why be detached? It’s absolutely essential to living the compassionate life. Attachments means selfishness and controlling. Detachment means I can engage an otherwise emotion-charged situation without having to control it and without losing my own power in the exchange. As to experiencing joy and sorrow, that also only happens through complete detachment. Where there is attachment to the condition, the experience will be emotional. Joy and sorrow exist outside of our limiting and confusing emotions.
        Explaining this properly is a very long story.

      9. rawgod

        It is not a long story at all. It is how I presently live, detached from my emotions. I would prefer to have them back.
        Attachment can mean all those things, S’T, but they are not sure or mandatory. You are woman, I am male, so I know we have different takes on this, even as we have different takes on your dancer story. But there are men who do not need power, and there are women who are not controllable. It takes work, but equality is possible. I know why I am detached, and that works as far as it goes. I have had at least 5 great loves in my life, and I know the joys and sorrows. I hope I can find them at least one more time in this lifetime. Without them I am only me.

    2. Sha'Tara Post author

      Well said. It’s not a “DNA thing” at all, it’s a social and historical “thing” no different than if the same was put to people of France or the British Isle to prove their claims to those lands. How many of them would pass a DNA test, and the winner is???? What a disgusting joke being played upon your people.

      Reply
      1. rawgod

        It has been a joke since Columbus landed here and called us Indians. With that word he stole our land from us, because it was okay to throw us off a land that did not belong to us. Indians could not own the Americas, because they already owned India. What bullshit!
        Thanks for the blog reprint.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        You have to give Columbus the typical benefit of European ignorance: he did believe he had landed in India after all even if everything he saw contradicted what he knew about India. Fools will be fools, and if he returned to his queen without the fabled stolen riches of India, there was a barbecue gridiron or a noose waiting, at best a life-long meditation in an underground dungeon. Conveniently the locals had dark enough skin they could pass for Indians, so fake news and massive plunder it has to be… the rest is history. By the way I don’t feel particularly proud to be a descendant of that institutionalized ignorance and bottomless violence committed in these lands. My people, the Bretons, exercised their sociopathy in the east, particularly against the now extinct inhabitants of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Beothuks who were enslaved and hunted down for sport. That was all in the name of exporting Christian values and virtues, praise the Lord…

      3. rawgod

        Well, that is also part of my history. My ancestors came across with Cartier. They took Original American wives everywhere they went, and helped build the Metis race that opened up the west for the white rulers. After which they were abandoned to settlements (read reservations) for their efforts. I actually have more European blood in me, thanks to my mother who was born in Poland before the First World War. But I feel Original, even though I was brought up white.

  2. franklparker

    I confess I did not read all of this long post Sha’tara. I did, however, read enough to discover what to me were contradictions. He’s right t dismiss the “DNA Industry” on grounds that we are all intermingled after generations of migration and inter-breeding. But if that’s the case you cannot then claim special “rights” for one group that is supposedly different. We are all “equal” in terms of our DNA (that 99.9% he talks about) and should be treated as such. No special treatment based on skin colour or any other characteristic. No special treatment on grounds of the length of time a “people” have occupied a particular location (look where that has got us in Israel/Palestine).

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      I understand what you are saying, however the argument in the article is that DNA testing cannot be used in a just and legal way to determine who has any right to any land. Occupancy and history have to come first. The problems in Palestine (and many other places on earth) were exacerbated by colonialism. In the case of Israel, that artificial nation was instituted by something called the Balfour Declaration (no time now to read up on it but I remember the name) to give the Jews a home (and hopefully getting rid of them in Europe?) Based on occupancy and subsequent conquest, the claims of the original conquered inhabitants of the “Americas” are legitimate, even if they lead to quite an impasse.

      Reply
  3. gserpent

    Great post. I’ve been doing more research on this subject lately, so this was perfect timing. Thanks for sharing this information that is mostly hidden.

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thanks. Glad you got something solid from it. Writers at Tomgram are pretty solid investigators from what I gather.

      Reply
      1. colettebytes

        Hi Sha’Tara,
        I admittedly overview read this, rather than in detail, and I agree that DNA gathering for ‘proof’ of one thing or another has serious connotations beyond innocent intentions.

        It is interesting that ‘Ancestry’ is mentioned. I am constantly bombarded with emails from them to have my DNA collected.
        Last year, after ignoring the numerous emails, they sent a question…. “What would I want to happen that would encourage me to have my DNA sampled. I blithely sent back that it would have to be priced at below £50. This was at a time when the average offer was well over £100. The next day, I received an offer to participate for just £49. I found this highly suspicious, so I did some research. It turns out that the DNA test is far more encompassing than just a simple racial profile (and I think it is a bit more accurate than the article here would indicate). The sample collects data about health aspects (I. E. What you are likely to die from), and quite specific data that Ancestry does not share, (citing that the information is too personal to be on an open platform like Ancestry). Also, you can request that your genetic profile is not shared on Ancestry Web pages, but you cannot request that information held by Ancestry, or its laboratory affiliates, be destroyed. They (in the small print) reserve the right to retain all data.

        On my own genealogy tree, I have not named living people, nor put their correct details in, simply because of privacy, not only from other members, but from Ancestry itself.

        Ancestry is a world wide platform that is slowly building a demographic of the entire population both living and dead. Couple that with DNA profiling, and in the wrong hands, you suddenly have a weapon.

        If certain populations are predisposed to certain disease states through the consumption of certain items, or exposure to others (chemicals), you can see the ramifications of being targeted, separated, and eliminated through subtle means.

        In good hands, it could make the targets for healthier, happier populations… But I really don’t think that is in anyone’s mind.

        Information is conned out of people who are just curious. Believe me, you can pretty much guess what your ethnic make up might be. We are all a mix of migrating peoples and clues can be seen in skin, hair and eye colour, as well as bone structure. You do not need Ancestry to tell you… And they do not need your critical information.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        That “Ancestry” outfit seems like a massive scam. You wrote: You do not need Ancestry to tell you… And they do not need your critical information.”
        I think they do need my critical information in order to build up their nefarious business. So far they don’t know I exist and that I possess DNA from the planet Tiamat which no longer exists, the Pleiades (which still do!) and a world no one but me has ever heard of called “Roccar” on the far side of this universe. Am I being serious or Sirius? I’ll let you decide that.

  4. Hyperion

    I can definitely see the commercialism of DNA testing pushing an agenda. That is how everything is done these days. Truth and facts are quickly disposed of for the popular lie. The only lie that matters is the lie of the group in power. Change power. Change lies. We can’t turn back 150,000 years but we can definitely ruin our chances for another 150,000 years.

    Reply
  5. selizabryangmailcom

    Definitely a shameful topic that most do NOT want to discuss.
    I can’t BELIEVE they want to continue the practice of removing children from their homes to raise with white families! Why?! That topic is especially touchy for me, since something very similar happened to me. It’s incredible!

    And I never thought of the DNA industry as undermining any progress that’s been made with Native Americans. The horrific treatment of them, along with others by the colonizers, has never stopped. First they were fought against, genocided, conveniently wiped out by disease. NOW they’re “too mixed and diluted” to claim anything as “Native Americans” ?

    Fascinating that someone above glommed on to “We are all “equal” in terms of our DNA (that 99.9% he talks about) and should be treated as such. No special treatment based on skin colour or any other characteristic.”

    If that were true in any sense other than a lofty, theoretical idea which has NEVER, in the history of the United States, been true, this country would have been a different place. A paradise, actually. If we actually lived by that idea. And didn’t live by, and subject anyone to who was “other”, the complete opposite idea. Which, unfortunately and tragically, involves inequality, racism, elitism, and oppression based solely on skin color and/or appearance and/or “where” you’re from or “who” your family is.

    There SHOULD be special treatment for LOTS of people after the horrors they and their ancestors have gone through. There have to be repercussions for actions, reparations for harm done. It’s easy to say “no special treatment” when nothing has been done to you or yours for generations, or maybe never.

    Pretending something never happened is not dealing with it. Erasing the board, now, after all has been said and done, and conveniently stating, “There should be no special treatment,” is a nice way to say, “Let’s just act like nothing bad happened.” Or, “It happened a long time ago. Let’s just start over.”
    But we can’t just start over. The inequality, the baked-in racism and bigotry, the oppression and hatred is too much a part of everyday life, stlll, and badly affecting those who are its target.

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      I’ve had to re-read the article to see if it was me who misread it and got the wrong impression or if it was simply too long for a blog post and Aviva Chomsky’s point was somehow lost along the way. She isn’t saying that nothing should be done, just that DNA testing is not the way to recognize tribal rights of Native Americans; that historical facts should be used by the justice system. At least that’s how I read it.

      Reply
      1. selizabryangmailcom

        Oh, yeah, no, you’re right. Sorry to be unclear. I was actually responding to the person who was saying — “We are all “equal” in terms of our DNA (that 99.9% he talks about) and should be treated as such. No special treatment based on skin colour or any other characteristic. No special treatment on grounds of the length of time a “people” have occupied a particular location.”
        I understand where he’s coming from, but I think his conclusions are too simplistic.

      2. Sha'Tara Post author

        It may be her conclusions are simplistic, I don’t know – all I know is, it is a very complex problem with mostly negative history. What sort of justice would do the current mess justice? The things that “keep the peace” such as it is are extreme force and intimidation from the conquerors and systematic dis-empowerment through disenfranchisement. My own people, the Celtic Bretons of France went through a similar process of conquest, forced assimilation. Our language and customs were made illegal; we were not allowed to have our own schools until Charles deGaulle became president of France circa 1958 but no French effort was made to fund Celtic-speaking schools, etc. Same old, same old. I can’t speak my own language and a dwindling number of Bretons speak their kind of Celtic. In case you wonder, Breton is closely linked to Welsh. Apparently the two peoples can communicate verbally.

  6. selizabryangmailcom

    Hear, hear. The pattern has occurred all over the world, hasn’t it? What was done to your people, Hawaiians forbidden to surf and engage in other traditional activities, the Pope intimidated by the French Cathar beliefs and ultimately exterminating them, Australian Aborigine children and Native American children forbidden to speak their native languages, the Crusades….

    It seems that differences aren’t celebrated by some; they’re scorned and dismissed. Alternate, interesting mindsets and ways of thinking are seen as a threat, something to be destroyed, instead of a vein of wisdom and knowledge to be (gently) mined and disseminated among others.

    Oh, and sorry, again, for the lack of clarity. To be specific, most of my rant was directed toward a guest of yours above, franklparker, not against the article’s author. Again, I understand where franklparker is coming from, but it’s not that simple, in my opinion.

    Sorry you had to re-read the article. It IS a REALLY long article!! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Thank you for the clarification, and it was good to re-read because there is so much relevant information in there. Like yourself, I think I understand Frank’s comment, but unfortunately it is easy for those who have not walked in an oppressed race’s shoes to say, ‘no special treatment.’ I think that when they were conquered, enslaved, oppressed, crushed, denied basic rights that THAT counts as the conquerors/enslavers giving themselves special treatment. The flip side of the historical coin.

      Reply
  7. Phil Huston

    Until they commercially market the thorough DNA that is available to science it’s all bullshit. My mother was half Cherokee. After several revisions from whatever DNA process we used, there is no mention of Native American. They have fixed the fact that everyone Caucasian was from Scandinavia or northern Italy. Finally. I say good luck with the kits and all the genetic tomfoolery. Sheetlet will believe what “science” tells them. On the same order as organized religion…

    Reply
    1. Sha'Tara Post author

      Ah, so well said, once again! The “sheetlet” indeed. If they believe anything shown commercially on TV, they’ll believe the moon is swiss cheese and DNA is Daddy’s Noodly Appendage…

      Reply

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