As President Trump and other Republicans have been trolling her to do for years now, Senator Elizabeth Warren released the results of a DNA test showing her American Indian ancestry. The data, while satisfying for Warren and her fans, was predictably mocked and maligned by the same Republicans who’ve been literally betting her to do it.
The test showed that Warren, whose family is originally from Oklahoma, does in fact have American Indian ancestry, though it dates back between 6 and 10 generations in the past. The Stanford professor who studied the data estimate that Warren is between 1/32 (8%) and 1/1024 (0.09%) American Indian.
I’ve done DNA tests from both 23 & Me and Ancestry, because I was curious about my genetic makeup as well. The results were wildly divergent, especially with Ancestry’s recent updates to their data pool. But the amount of African and Jewish genetic material was surprising.
23 & Me suggests I am 0.3% Jewish and 0.2% African, Ancestry DNA’s older model suggests a full 3% Jewish and less than 1% African, while Ancestry’s updated model has removed the Jewish and African components altogether. The possibility that I’m more than twice as black (0.2%) as Elizabeth Warren is American Indian (0.09%, the lower estimate) is fascinating, on many levels.
But I’m jealous of Warren. My family has no genealogical record or oral history to match the far end of my DNA results, that I have found. She grew up in Oklahoma, surrounded by American Indian culture, and her family passed down for generations the proud history of their own First Nations heritage, no matter how far back it might have been.
I grew up in suburban Louisiana. Yes, we were surrounded by black, creole, and mixed race people, but the possibility that my family was even tangentially among them was just never even considered or discussed.
Upon doing further genealogical research on Ancestry earlier this year, I discovered to my horror that my 6th great grandfather owned at least one slave, and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one. I can only assume that this is the source of my African blood, which 23 & Me estimated to be at least 4 generations old.
Apparently some of my older relatives were aware of this, but again it was never discussed. That’s why I’m jealous of Senator Warren and her family’s oral history of its even minuscule American Indian roots. My immediate family has a proud mixture of Cajun and Italian heritage, with stories, mementos, and photos passed down for generations. But we also have a secret shame somewhere in our distant past. Exposing and sharing those stories too would give us a fuller understanding of who we are, where we came from, and how far we’ve come.
I wish someone in my family knew who our African descendant was, whether they be slave or free, so that we could properly honor them as a member of that family. My search goes on.