“We don’t need a swab in our mouth to prove who we are”: Identity, resistance, and adaptation of genetic ancestry testing among Native American Communities


Journal Article

© 2019 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved. Genetic ancestry testing (GAT) provides a specific type of knowledge about ancestry not previously available to the general public, prompting questions about the conditions whereby genetic articulations of ancestry present opportunities to forge new identities and social ties but also new challenges to the maintenance of existing social structures and cultural identities. The opportunities and challenges posed by GAT are particularly significant for many indigenous communities—whose histories are shaped by traumatic interactions with colonial powers and Western science—and for whom new applications of GAT may undermine or usurp long-standing community values, systems of governance, and forms of relationality. We conducted 13 focus groups with 128 participants and six in-depth, semistructured interviews with a variety of community leaders examining the perceptions of GAT within indigenous communities across Oklahoma. Our interviews and focus groups suggest that participants— through the articulation of indigeneity as experiential and relational in nature and inherently distinct from genetic notions of ancestry—resist much of the challenge presented by GAT in usurping traditional forms of identity while at the same time recognizing the utility of the technology for tracing unknown ancestry and identifying health risks in the community.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Blanchard, JW; Outram, S; Tallbull, G; Royal, CDM

Published Date

  • October 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 60 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 637 - 655

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0011-3204

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1086/705483

Citation Source

  • Scopus