Monday, October 29, 2012

DNA Testing Tainted by Haplogroup Hybridization

With the advent of DNA testing proponents of European Ancestry adamantly deny that European haplogroups could be an admixture of the 16th century Aboriginal gene pool(1). Numerous websites advocate DNA testing of living individuals as a foolproof device to determine and “prove” ancestral origin. The problem with this view is that it cannot consider any proposal that the early indigenous DNA gene pool was tainted(2) with multiple European Haplogroups,  pointing only to European origins without any sign of Native markers. The “tainting effect” in hybrid reproduction provides DNA tests with a less than accurate result when applied to genealogical studies. This anomaly may only be significant in Canada due to the large number of people seeking Metis status. Since the Metis people are entrenched in the Constitution of Canada and given preference in the charter of rights a new formidable hybrid class is emerging.

The “tainting effect” paradigm begins with the very first social contact between two genetically distinct groups. The first people of North America developed gene mutations in isolation over thousands of years that are now uniquely identified. Those markers exist today and are scientifically accepted as “proof” that at least one ancestor can be indigenous but that is only half the story. If a European marker is found, the test results are often misread as “European origin”. Though technically correct the marker does not identify if the haplogroup is European or hybrid(3) (European and Native).

The “tainting effect” is created as follows: If “Ba”(4) represents all (plural) aboriginal male haplogroups(5) and “A” represents all (plural) aboriginal female haplogroups, then all aboriginals before European contact would have “Ba” for males and “A” for females(6). Similarly, if “H” represents all (plural) European male haplogroups and “U” represents all (plural) European female haplogroups, then Europeans would be categorized as “Hu” for males and “U” for females. There are, of course many more haplogroups of which this is an example. The Pre-Columbian reproduction unit (man and women) in any native village or nomadic camp would result in Ba^A. The European reproduction unit would be Hu^U. When Europeans and Aboriginals interacted for the first time the  paradigm would look like this: Ba^A<>Hu^U . This assumes that there were both males and  females available to inter-marry in each group at the same time.

Historically, the first Europeans making contact with aboriginal peoples were the Vikings. There is a great deal of controversy concerning Viking influence on the aboriginal gene pool(7). The fact still remains, however, that contact was made with the Viking families estimated to be during a period spanning 300 years, approximately 500 years before Columbus(8).  Through the centuries there were many encounters with aboriginal people living on the upper St Lawrence, the Maritimes, Baffin Island and Greenland(9).

The next major European group to encounter Aboriginal populations in North America were the Basque fishermen of Spain, though other European ships were present. They began their excursions to the maritime shores (of Canada) as early as the 13th century(10). These yearly fishing junkets eventually involved several thousand men in hundreds of ships who built a great number of coastal villages to process their catches(11). If accounts are accurate concerning Basque ships an estimated 3000 men (and very likely a number of women and children) lived 6 months, or more, on and off shore-----each and every year for two centuries! The Aboriginal gene pool was significantly affected and all hybrid combinations must have occurred regularly, though some historians seem to think that young Basque men did not have time for indigenous women(12).

The last major group were the French in Acadia and New France(13) in the 16th and 17th century. The tainting effect would have also occurred and produced an array of hybrid combinations.

Historical evidence suggests that the paradigm “Ba^A<>Hu^U” is valid(14). What this means is that every possible combination probably now exists somewhere in present day populations in the Americas. Expanding this paradigm using the DNA inheritance rules the aboriginal population and the European population would have each added four hybrids to their predominate haplogroups, namely, “Au”, “U” “Ba” and “A”. But present DNA testing can only “partly” detect the origins of  these new hybrids.

Expanded, the result would be:
1. “Bu” a son from an aboriginal male and European female.
2. “U” a daughter from an aboriginal male and European female.
3. “Ha” a son from an aboriginal female and European male.
4. “A” a daughter from an aboriginal female and European male.

The tainting effect begins with lineage #2 “U” and lineage #3 “Ha”. Though #2 is a hybrid, she will only show haplogroup “U” European in a modern DNA test. If hybrid #3 marries a European female their children will only show a European haplotype(15). Essentially half of the combinations will not support aboriginal origin, yet aboriginal origin is certainly intrinsic.

Proponents of European ancestry might argue that intercourse between a European women and an aboriginal man did not occur. Maybe, but lets look at the next generation of Basque (or French) hybrids: See the chart below illustrating the “tainting effect”.

#3 is a hybrid male. He speaks a European language as well as his mother’s Native tongue. While in Spain with his father he meets and marries a European girl. They both return to his people while still retaining kinship ties on shore each year when the Basque fleet returns. DNA testing of this couple’s living, direct descendants would only point to European ancestry despite family oral tradition that did (or not) suggest aboriginal roots. A daughter from this couple who marries, for example, hybrid #3 will have offsprings pointing to European ancestry as well----despite the fact that they are both hybrids. The same result would occur with the union of #2 and #3.

These scenarios are certainly true in all eras of European excursion and migrations into the Americas. Unfortunately the “tainting effect” of the Native gene pool might forever disqualify both men and women today from registering as  a “hybrid  person”(16) in Canadian (and US) communities. Many women in Acadia and New France without documented origins are identified as “proven European” using DNA to support genealogical research, despite circumstantial evidence pointing to Native ancestry(17).

This article is intended to bring to light the inadequacies of DNA testing applied to  genealogical research. Based on the “tainting affect”, Acadia and New France also had a substantial number of aboriginal hybrids called “Indians” who would have been unable to prove that they belonged to their aboriginal communities----if present DNA testing was a requirement. To get an Amerindian view of DNA testing in genealogy go to: .

As DNA science improves and full genome(18) testing becomes available, it is possible that DNA testing might “prove” a great deal more about the historical haplotype mixtures and migration of ancestors. At present DNA testing to “prove” or even “suggest” European origin is scientifically invalid and prejudicial.

June 27, 2013.
I have  been following with interest DNA Companies who are attempting to isolate Native markers through an autosomal evaluation.  This involves genes from parents and grandparents. While no company will admit that this is proof of aboriginal ancestry it is a brave new approach to expand the science to include indirect native ancestry!

November 30, 2013
The autosomal DNA test uses thousands of snp markers, some of which are attributed to Native ancestry. Companies will give you a percentage. Some will only provide this result if markers are over 2%, though others will provide any percentage however small. This can only improve over time! Having said this, the result must be considered a personal one. DNA results of any kind used to determine membership is legally and socially unacceptable!

© Roland E. Belanger BA BEd      2012

See also:

Can DNA Tell What “Race” You Are?