Thursday, December 14, 2006

new news

A new member!   Michael Beery's, #69, (distant?) cousin, Richard George Beery, #82, has just joined the Project with a Y-DNA37 order!   You may remember that Michael was our only Hap G participant.   I would expect that now we'll have two.

And don't say that I didn't warn you!  --   Both of the FTDNA Xmas Specials for the Y-DNA37 kits have now been used.   We still have two $20 coupons for use with Y-DNA25 orders and the two $15 coupons for use with mtDNA orders.   Please don't delay  -   don't decide after they're all gone!

and now, the news . . . . . . .

DNA project to track migrations of indigenous tribes put on hold
New York Times News Service 12/10/2006

SOUTH NAKNEK, Alaska  -  The National Geographic Society's multimillion-dollar research project to collect DNA from indigenous groups around the world in the hopes of reconstructing humanity's ancient migrations has come to a standstill on its home turf in North America.

Billed as the "moon shot of anthropology," the Genographic Project intends to collect 100,000 indigenous DNA samples.    But for four months, the project has been on hold here as it scrambles to address questions raised by a group that oversees research involving Alaska natives.

At issue is whether scientists who need DNA from aboriginal populations to fashion a window on the past are underselling the risks to present-day donors.    Geographic origin stories told by DNA can clash with long-held beliefs, threatening a world view some indigenous leaders see as vital to preserving their culture.

They argue that genetic ancestry information could also jeopardize land rights and other benefits that are based on the notion that their people have lived in a place since the beginning of time.

"What if it turns out you're really Siberian and then, oops, your health care is gone?" said Dr. David Barrett, a co-chairman of the Alaska Area Institutional Review Board, which is sponsored by the Indian Health Service, a federal agency.    "Did anyone explain that to them?"

Such situations have not come up, and officials with the Genographic Project discount them as unlikely.    Dr. Spencer Wells, the population geneticist who directs the project, says it is paternalistic to imply that indigenous groups need to be kept from the knowledge that genetics might offer.

"I don't think humans at their core are ostriches," Wells said. "Everyone has an interest in where they came from, and indigenous people have more of an interest in their ancestry because it is so important to them."

But indigenous leaders point to centuries of broken promises to explain why they believe their fears are not far-fetched.    Scientific evidence that American Indians or other aboriginal groups came from elsewhere, they say, could undermine their moral basis for sovereignty and chip away at their collective legal claims.

"It's a benefit to science, probably," said Dr. Mic LaRoque, the Alaska board's other co-chairman and a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota.    "But I'm not convinced it's a benefit to the tribes."

The pursuit of indigenous DNA is driven by a desire to shed light on questions for which the archeological evidence is scant.    How did descendants of the hunter-gatherers who first left humanity's birthplace in East Africa some 65,000 years ago come to inhabit every corner of the Earth?    What routes did they take?    Who got where, and when?

As early humans split off in different directions, distinct mutations accumulated in the DNA of each population.    All non-Africans share a mutation that arose in the ancestors of the first people to leave the continent, for instance.    But the descendants of those who headed north and lingered in the Middle East carry a different marker from those who went southeast toward Asia.

The first large effort to collect indigenous DNA since federal financing was withdrawn from a similar proposal amid indigenous opposition in the mid-1990s, the Genographic Project has drawn quiet applause from many geneticists for resurrecting scientific ambitions that have grown more pressing.    As indigenous groups intermarry and disperse at an ever-accelerating pace, many scientists believe the chance to capture human history is fast disappearing.

"Everyone else had given up," said Mark Stoneking, a professor at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.    "If they get even a fraction of what they are trying for, it will be very useful."

From Lawrence Mayka on the GENEALOGY-DNA list  --  "This reporter needs to go back to journalism school.    There is literally a world of difference between American bureaucracy and a truly global project.    The Genographic Project has certainly *not* "come to a standstill."    In the worst case, Genographic might simply give up on Alaska -- a very small part of the world as a whole.    Alaska has about 1% of the world's land mass and about 0.01% of the world's population."

And finally  --  I do an internet Christmas card each year.    It's much too early now, but here's a tease . . . .


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