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Minnesota Gene Pool Blog

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The Genographic Project: What are the concerns and expectations of native peoples?

The Genographic Project is sponsored by the Natonal Geographic Society and its goal is to use DNA methods to reconstruct the migrations of humankind from its origins in Africa to the rest of the earth. The Project is especially interested in sampling the DNA of indigenous peoples because they have stayed in their ancestral homelands longer than most other peoples and will provide more useful information to track humankind's movements over the millenia. It is likely that this information will help to shed light on the migrations of many other populations who have tended to move greater distances over time.

However, indigenous peoples tend to be distrustful of these efforts, partly because of their past experience with government and scientific researchers. They have learned to look for the benefits and risks from their own perspectives and to consider the types of unintended consequences--both good and bad-- that might not be obvious from the perspectives of others. Some people do not see that participating will benefit them directly and might hurt them, so they are disinclined to participate. Others see this as an opportunity to "prove" their ancient ties and claims to the lands they inhabit. Others feel that this information might threaten their claims to their lands. Still others hope that they will learn more about their relationship between peoples with similar cultural practices and that this would be a positive outcome. In any case, it is clear that the issues, expectations and concerns of the participants need to be addressed.

To learn more about this, Amy Harmon reports on many of these issues in the December 10, 2006 New York Times in a piece titled "DNA Gatherers Hit Snag: Tribes Don't Trust Them"

Posted by Kristin Oehlke on December 11, 2006 9:08 PM |