Manataka™ American Indian Council





Manataka receives hundreds of letters each month. Space does not allow us to publish all letters but we make a concerted effort to print letters that are representative of a majority. Let us know if there is a topic you feel needs to be addressed.  The opinions expressed below and all information provided is for informational purposes only. We make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of the opinions express below and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis. Manataka does not necessarily endorse or support the opinions expressed below. 


Letters to the Editor


Baby Veronica and DNA...

Dear Editors:

This comment is off the main focus of the excellent article on Cherokee Baby Veronica,  but I noticed that the author shared a common misconception about DNA testing that many people have.  Several tribes are going to get themselves into a mess, if the go through with plans to associate tribal membership with DNA profiles.  There is no DNA test for being "Native American."   What reputable genetics labs will give people is a chart showing various DNA test markers from around the world; none of which will say Native American.   

Native Americans have been mixing with Europeans, Middle Easterners and Africans for 500 years.  Mixed race offspring had a much higher rate of survival when European plagues struck tribes. Approximately 95% of the "pure blood" indigenous peoples died off in those plagues.  Mixed heritage descendants also tended to thrive more socioeconomically over those centuries and therefore have multiple wives and more offspring.  Particularly, among the Southwestern tribes and those who originated east of the Mississippi, it is virtually impossible to find a "full blooded Native American" no matter what their BIA card says.

Native American descendants tend to have more DNA markers from Siberia, but typically even a "full blooded" Native American will share many DNA test markers with Scandinavians and people from southwestern Asia. My heritage is mixed Scottish, Scandinavian (Vikings settled in Scotland), Muskogean-Itza Maya. When I was working in Sweden, virtually everybody thought I was Sammi (Lapplander.)  The pure Sammi carry many of the same Asiatic genes as American Indians. Agnetha Fältskog (ABBA) looked like a blond Native American when she was 20.  She told me then that she had always been aware that she looked different than most Swedes, but no one in her family knew where the Asiatic features came from.   
Agnetha even had a Native American personality that was starkly different than most Swedes. It eventually caused ABBA's breakup. Yes, I had a crush on Agnetha before she was the A in ABBA. <wink>.

When mixed-heritage people share the same DNA markers, it is very difficult to pinpoint ethnicity.  Did the early peoples of North American and northern Europe mix and mingle.  Could be.   This fact makes it almost impossible to determine if the northern European-Asiatic DNA is from a northern Scandinavian, Finn or Russian, who immigrated to America in the 1700s, or an ancient ancestor, who married the guy across the iceberg. 

This situation of not being able to identify the DNA profile of most tribes is not going to change soon.   Geneticists require the complete DNA profiles of a large number of pre-European contact individuals.  That means finding enough human remains still containing full DNA strands to create a statistically reliable DNA profile of their descendants.  NAGPRA prohibits those tests even in the relatively few cases where skeletal remains contain complete DNA.

There is even a bigger problem.  The individual tribes moved around a lot.  Just because you find a Native American skeleton in South Dakota does not mean that the person was either Dakota, Nakota or Lakota. It could be from an entirely different tribe that is extinct or moved hundreds of miles away by the 1800s.  The situation is far worse in the Southeast because the damp, acidic soil generally has consumed pre-Contact skeletons . . . even if a geneticists were able to study them.

Getting back to Baby Veronica . . . By far the most complex genetic situation will be the Cherokees.  We have just completed a 5 year long historical study of the Southern Highlands that will be published soon in Access Genealogy.  We found multiple English, Spanish and French 17th century eyewitness accounts of Sephardic Jewish,  Moorish, Spanish, African, English and even Dutch colonists living in the supposed heartland of the Cherokees prior to any Cherokees. The Cherokees in NE Georgia before the Revolution usually had Spanish, Hebrew, Portuguese, Turkish, French, Dutch or Arabic names - but no names that have meaning in modern Cherokee.   The famous horse owned by a leading Georgia Cherokee warrior in 1770 was "Al Baraq" which is Arabic for "lightning"  It is also the president's first name.  In the Southeast, though, Cherokee DNA seems to vary by county.  One cluster of Cherokees will be Quechua, another will have DNA profiles similar to the Iroquois, while another cluster will be more Jewish than the typical American Jew and another will appear to be persons from Turkey..   I honestly do not know how the geneticists are going to sort things out.

Whatever Baby Veronica's  DNA profile,  the fact is that she will have the appearance of a mixed heritage Native American when she enters the terrifying world of being a teenager.  As a Southeastern Native American she will most likely be intolerant of ciliac in wheat and possibly the ethanol in alcoholic beverages. She will need to eat a diet higher in roughage than typical of Caucasian teenagers in order to be healthy.  Would she be better off in a high school where her features makes her stand out, or where she is just one of the crowd?   I am not going to answer that question, but will point out that virtually everybody concerned in the Baby Veronica controversy argued about laws, not what was best for Veronica.

Richard Thornton
The People of One Fire  



English teacher Appreciation

I am an English teacher. I am not Native American, but I do NA Literature in my American lit class. More than one week. I feel it is one way to remember, to keep a people alive. I am telling you this because I find your site to be an invaluable resource. I am concerned about "getting it right." So I come here. Thank you! ~Regina Keels



Crazy Horse Memorial

Dear Manataka:

I was at the Crazy Horse Memorial the third week of August, 2013.  I was so impressed and just in awe of this magnificent sight!  I am back home now in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. My husband, my cousin and his wife from Denver, Colorado and myself drove from Denver to see the monument. We are going to try and visit in two more years. I believe this monument will be more impressive than Mt. Rushmore! The story in itself of the family is just absolutely outstanding. I have been telling all my friends and grandchildren about it. I wish all the family God speed in their work. I will pray for their safety as well. ~MarthaJane Battaglia


Women on the Drum...

Dear Manataka,

I am a woman, Seneca and Creek/Cherokee and belong to a state recognized tribe.  I drum and refuse to be told that I cannot.  Drumming is sacred and spiritual and owned by no one but Creator and the mother- the earth.  I concur 100% with everything you have said.  It is the intent and spirit of the people drumming that make it special, not their gender.  I have yet to find anyone in the powwow circuit that can back up the "women can't drum" belief.  It is always a very nebulous and unverified response.  If Creator gave women the drum to give to the people, why then should she not be able to drum? That makes no sense.  Apparently, Creator gave the drum to woman as "he or she" trusted woman to respect the drum in the spirit it was gifted. -- Jan Frantz

Grandmother Nupa Maka

Hello Manataka,

The Legacy by Grandmother L.Cota Nupa MakaI just finished this article and was impressed with the author. I too understand the value we have learned from our family members. I want to express my gratitude to Grandmother L. Cota Nupa Maka for her story we need to hear more stories like this to remember were we have come from and our purpose.  -- Sincerely, Dennis Nagel


IBEM Medicine Wheel Society

Dear Manataka American Indian Council

I have forwarded the September 2013 issue of the  Manataka Smoke Signal News to a number of students of IBEM as well as members of the Medicine Wheel Society of First Nations with the encouragement of having those who receive it to consider joining Manataka.  ~Dr.Edward Sullivan


Cherokee Blood

I am of Cherokee decent myself; which has not been proved yet. My Mom said her grandmother (Davies-Hedrich-Crider?) was 100% Cherokee. I have done some genealogy in the past,  and have surnames on the Davies side dating back to 1800s. I just don't see where any of the ancestors listed their Indian heritage.  I know nothing about the tradions or rituals of our tribe either.  I went to a church in East Peoria IL for a while that prided itself on being Native American which followed many (Tribal) traditions. They had a website that described the history of the organization; and how they settled at that building, and remodeled that to suite the needs of the council. They had email but it was not working properly...I had many questions that I had asked by email.  I had signed in when I started attending, and was encouraged to leave my email address. I was never contacted; and I quit going.  There was a man with last name of Hakey who researched or was a member of a council who lived in Pekin IL.  I haven't contacted him,  and don't know if he is alive. Thank you for this Site..I am so glad you are able to publish again. Now,  I live near a town that used to be Potawatami by name. What does that mean?  Regards,  Lin




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