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DNA and Indigenous Peoples


Bernard Gui

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An interesting article on DNA testing of indigenous peoples that attempts to

determine their origins...

Attention Tom Murphy and former Bishop Sutherlund

http://www.ipcb.org/

The Human Genome Diversity Project and Its Implications For Indigenous Peoples

Debra Harry

Northern Paiute Nation, Nevada

The Human Genome Diversity (HGD) Project is an international

consortium of scientists, universities, governments and other

interests in North America and Europe organized to take blood, tissue

samples (cheek scrapings or saliva), and hair roots from hundreds of

so called "endangered" indigenous communities around the world.

On the assumption that indigenous peoples are inevitably going to

disappear and some populations are facing extinction sooner than

later, scientists are gathering DNA samples from the living peoples

before they disappear. The HGD Project refers to indigenous

populations as "isolates of historic interest (IHIs)" and expresses a

sense of urgency in collecting the DNA samples of indigenous peoples

in order to "avoid the irreversible loss of precious genetic

information" due to the danger of physical extinction.

The blood samples taken by the HGD Project will be "immortalized"

for future study utilizing a technique of cell conservation which

keeps certain cells of an organism alive and capable of multiplying,

thus generating unlimited amounts of the organism's DNA. The

immortalized cell lines will be stored at various gene banks, located

mostly in the US.

Research teams are going into indigenous communities to collect

samples from 50 persons from each of 722 identified populations.

When asked about the scientific rationale for selecting 50 persons

per group, Dr. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, a principal founder of the project,

stated "One person can bleed 50 people and get on the airplane in

one day." 1

Indigenous Communities Targeted for DNA Collection

Africa 165 South America 114

Asia 212 North America 107

Oceania 101 Europe 23

TOTAL 722

Source: RAFI-Canada 2

Known in some places as the "Vampire Project," the HGD Project was

formally adopted by the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) in

January 1994. HUGO is a multi-national, multi-billion dollar initiative

by scientists which seeks to sequence the DNA in the entire human

genetic structure. The HGD Project seeks to map the variance, that is,

the genetic differences of groups that differ from the monotype

genome that will be identified by the HUGO effort.

The HGD Project states that it will make the genetic samples available

to "the public." This policy of open access will make the data and

materials available to any one requesting it, in perpetuity. However,

there will be minimal control of access to the genetic materials once

they are stored in the gene banks. Scientists will need only to

demonstrate the validity of their scientific research in order to gain

access to the samples.

Prior Informed Consent and the Right to Refuse

Anthropologists, linguists or other individuals trusted by the

targeted group help provide entree to the targeted communities.

Although the HGD Project will seek the consent of the individuals and

populations to be sampled, what constitutes "prior informed

consent?" Who is authorized to give consent? Should consent be

required only by the individual being sampled, or also include the

governing body of that particular indigenous nation? Can consent be

granted by government officials of the nation-state in which the

indigenous nation is located? How will the project be explained in

the local language? Will the full scope of the project and the short

and long term implications and potential uses of the samples be fully

disclosed? Will potential donors be fully informed of the potential

for profits that may be made from their genetic samples? And

finally, will a decision not to consent be respected in full?

The HGD Project North American Committee has secured a grant from

the J.D. and C.T. MacArthur Foundation to develop a model protocol

(rules) for the collection of genetic samples from indigenous groups.

Project organizers plan to meet with indigenous people to explain the

project. This process will help project organizers to identify key

concerns of indigenous people, but will primarily be used to seek

their cooperation in the project.

Creation and Evolution

The HGD Project states that the research will help reconstruct the

history of the world's populations, address questions about the

history of human evolution and migration patterns, and identify the

origins of existing populations.

While the HGD Project is looking for answers about human evolution,

indigenous peoples already possess strong beliefs and knowledge

regarding their creation and histories.

The cosmologies of indigenous people are environmentally and

culturally specific and are not congruent with popular Western

theories, such as the Bering Strait migration theory or Darwin's

theory of evolution. The assumptions posed by the HGD Project that

the origins and/or migrations of indigenous populations can be

'discovered' and scientifically 'answered' is insulting to groups who

already have strong cultural beliefs regarding their origins.

Questions arise concerning the impact of the findings on indigenous

communities. For example, will theories of migration be used to

challenge aboriginal territorial claims or rights to land?

Medical and Military Science

The project will also gather information of potential or actual medical

interest, possibly leading to medical applications. In terms of

reciprocal benefits to donor groups, the HGD Project will offer token

benefits such as providing medicines, or treating easily diagnosable

medical problems.

While medical application may stem from the eventual research,

manipulation, and commercialization of the genetic materials by

scientists and developers, it is likely that only those who can afford

expensive therapies will benefit.3 The proposition that medical

applications will be developed to treat diseases is an overstated

claim by the HGD Project, designed to seduce the participation of

subjects based upon the false hope for medical miracles. The HGD

Project is not mandated to develop medical applications of the data.

The mandate of the project is simply to collect, database, and

maintain the genetic samples and data.

Comments?

Bernard

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While the HGD Project is looking for answers about human evolution, indigenous peoples already possess strong beliefs and knowledge regarding their creation and histories.

They do indeed posess strong beliefs, but I wouldn't call it "knowledge" in the scientific sense.

The assumptions posed by the HGD Project that the origins and/or migrations of indigenous populations can be 'discovered' and scientifically 'answered' is insulting to groups who already have strong cultural beliefs regarding their origins.

I find this a silly statement, although I am sure that there will be people with "strong cultural beliefs" in this project who will be insulted when these beliefs are challenged by science and reason. What else is new.

If we paid attention to those people, we'd still think the earth is flat, wouldn't we?

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While the HGD Project is looking for answers about human evolution, indigenous peoples already possess strong beliefs and knowledge regarding their creation and histories.

They do indeed posess strong beliefs, but I wouldn't call it "knowledge" in the scientific sense.

The assumptions posed by the HGD Project that the origins and/or migrations of indigenous populations can be 'discovered' and scientifically 'answered' is insulting to groups who already have strong cultural beliefs regarding their origins.

I find this a silly statement, although I am sure that there will be people with "strong cultural beliefs" in this project who will be insulted when these beliefs are challenged by science and reason. What else is new.

If we paid attention to those people, we'd still think the earth is flat, wouldn't we?

I find this kind of condescending attitude that technologically advanced cultures are superior to less "scientifically" advanced cultures to be arrogant and. . . . stupid. The worth of a culture or people is not determined by how many computers the average citizen owns. "Those people?"

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I find this kind of condescending attitude that technologically advanced cultures are superior to less "scientifically" advanced cultures to be arrogant and. . . . stupid. The worth of a culture or people is not determined by how many computers the average citizen owns. "Those people?"

Who said anything about technology and computers, or even the value of a culture? The premise in the OP's article is that it is insulting for scientists to study the origins of certain populations if these groups already have strong cultural beliefs. It's not the indigenous peoples that I think are silly, but this premise. With "those people" I meant the people who feel insulted when their beliefs are challenged, not the populations studied as a whole.

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Who said anything about technology and computers, or even the value of a culture? The premise in the OP's article is that it is insulting for scientists to study the origins of certain populations if these groups already have strong cultural beliefs. It's not the indigenous peoples that I think are silly, but this premise. With "those people" I meant the people who feel insulted when their beliefs are challenged, not the populations studied as a whole.

Okay. I apologize for thinking you were being condescending.

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An interesting article on DNA testing of indigenous peoples that attempts to determine their origins...

Sounds like virtual colonization for scientific purposes. Would it be bigoted to use this data to prevent the extinction of a bloodline simply because of the uniqueness of its DNA? Or not to use this data to prevent its extinction?

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While the HGD Project is looking for answers about human evolution, indigenous peoples already possess strong beliefs and knowledge regarding their creation and histories.

They do indeed posess strong beliefs, but I wouldn't call it "knowledge" in the scientific sense.

The assumptions posed by the HGD Project that the origins and/or migrations of indigenous populations can be 'discovered' and scientifically 'answered' is insulting to groups who already have strong cultural beliefs regarding their origins.

I find this a silly statement, although I am sure that there will be people with "strong cultural beliefs" in this project who will be insulted when these beliefs are challenged by science and reason. What else is new.

If we paid attention to those people, we'd still think the earth is flat, wouldn't we?

A very elitist and arrogant attitude you have there. Care to back up and show some respect for those who might think differently than you?

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Heard nothing here in Hawaii about such. Don't seem to find a link who they have on the endangered list. I wonder if some of my Hawaiian ohana has been contacted?

Drop them a note and ask. Are native Hawaiians included in the genome project?

Do they have their own story of their origins? Is it important to them?

Bernard

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While the HGD Project is looking for answers about human evolution, indigenous peoples already possess strong beliefs and knowledge regarding their creation and histories.

They do indeed posess strong beliefs, but I wouldn't call it "knowledge" in the scientific sense.

And by destroying those "strong beliefs" with "scientific knowledge" they are benefitted how? Who decides

which beliefs to attack? What are their motives?

The assumptions posed by the HGD Project that the origins and/or migrations of indigenous populations can be 'discovered' and scientifically 'answered' is insulting to groups who already have strong cultural beliefs regarding their origins.

I find this a silly statement, although I am sure that there will be people with "strong cultural beliefs" in this project who will be insulted when these beliefs are challenged by science and reason. What else is new.

As the OP pointed out, this is the reaction of some of those who are the "subjects" of such studies. But who cares? They're

obviously ignorant and need to be confronted by the realities of modern science.

If we paid attention to those people, we'd still think the earth is flat, wouldn't we?

Yes, I agree that we should ignore the feelings and beliefs of the "subjects" of scientific inquiry.

Indigenous societies need to be absorbed into the collective. It is for their own good, right?

Bernard

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Sounds like virtual colonization for scientific purposes. Would it be bigoted to use this data to prevent the extinction of a bloodline simply because of the uniqueness of its DNA? Or not to use this data to prevent its extinction?

The article raises those very questions. One can understand their anxiety about collecting such data, given

the results of previous Western intrusions into indigenous cultures.

Bernard

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The uncompromising cult of multiculturalism looms large in any such endeavor. The Kennewick Man fiasco is the object lesson of the way in which certain fashionable noble savages beloved of certain elements of our culture and government can and will stymie archeological and anthropological scientific study in the name of pc.

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A well-respected Native American scholar on Western attempts to replace tribal knowledge

with "scientific" knowledge...

Indian students today are confronted with the monolith of Western science when they leave the reservation

to attend college. In most introductory courses their culture and traditions are derided as mere remnants of

a superstitious, stone-age mentality that could not understand or distinguish between the simplest of

propositions. Additionally, they are taught that science is an objective and precise task performed by

specialists who carefully weigh the propositions that come before them. Nothing could be further from

the truth...

Indian students are further misled by outrageous claims made by science, which suggests that

the various fields of inquiry, if taken together, represent the sum total of human knowledge...

One of the most painful experiences for American Indian students is to come into conflict with the teachings of science

that purport to explain phenomena already explained by tribal knowledge and tradition. The assumption

of the Western educational system is that the information dispensed by colleges is always correct, and

that the beliefs and teachings of the tribe are always wrong...

While specific answers are required within the context of Western science, we should remember that these

answers are only a temporary statement that is subject to rejection or further refinement at any time...

Power and Place: Indian Education in America. Vine Deloria, Jr. American Indian Gruaduate Center, 2001.

Bernard

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The uncompromising cult of multiculturalism looms large in any such endeavor. The Kennewick Man fiasco is the object lesson of the way in which certain fashionable noble savages beloved of certain elements of our culture and government can and will stymie archeological and anthropological scientific study in the name of pc.

When I was a boy

World was better spot.

What was so was so,

What was not was not.

Now I am a man;

World have changed a lot.

Some things nearly so,

Others nearly not.

There are times I almost think

I am not sure of what I absolutely know.

Very often find confusion

In conclusion I concluded long ago

In my head are many facts

That, as a student, I have studied to procure,

In my head are many facts...

Of which I wish I was more certain I was sure!

When my father was a king

He was a king who knew exactly what he knew,

And his brain was not a thing

Forever swinging to and fro and fro and to.

Shall I, then be like my father

And be willfully unmovable and strong?

Or is it better to be right?...

Or am I right when I believe I may be wrong?

Shall I join with other nations in alliance?

If allies are weak, am I not best alone?

If allies are strong with power to protect me,

Might they not protect me out of all I own?

Is a danger to be trusting one another,

One will seldom want to do what other wishes;

But unless someday somebody trust somebody

There'll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes!

There are times I almost think

Nobody sure of what he absolutely know.

Everybody find confusion

In conclusion he concluded long ago

And it puzzle me to learn

That tho' a man may be in doubt of what he know,

Very quickly he will fight...

He'll fight to prove that what he does not know is so!

Oh! Sometimes I think that people going mad!

Ah! Sometimes I think that people not so bad!

But not matter what I think I must go on living life.

As leader of my kingdom I must go forth,

Be father to my children and husband to each wife

Etcetera, etcetera, and so forth.

If my Lord in Heaven Buddha, show the way!

Everyday I try to live another day. If my Lord in Heaven Buddha, show the way!

Everyday I do my best for one-more day!

But...Is a puzzlement!

The King of Siam

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This reminds me a bit of the "prime directive", with the scientists reluctant to enlighted the superstitious indigenes with their superior knowledge in case it disrupts and even destroys that culture.

Indeed!

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm

After they've seen Paree'

How ya gonna keep 'em away from Broadway

Jazzin around and paintin' the town

How ya gonna keep 'em away from harm, that's a mystery

They'll never want to see a rake or plow

And who the deuce can parleyvous a cow?

How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm

After they've seen Paree'

Bernard

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The question, as I understand it, is about whether or not scientific evidence, ala DNA comparisons, could or should trump indigenous traditions about their origins. Supposedly, according to some, DNA comparisons of native Americans with other world cultures shows a relationship to Asiatic people but not Middle-Eastern people. Therefore, the theory goes, the Book of Mormon cannot possibly relate the story of the migration of people from the Middle East to the Americas. Yet, traditions among many South American tribes suggest a migration that the DNA supposedly refutes.

It is a curious fact that the ancient Itza
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I think the organizers of the Human Genome Project grossly underestimated the challenges they would face from these isolated cultures. I think they have not done enough to reassure these people that the results would not be used for "nefarious" purposes. And it is a crying shame because, in spite of having the technology to do so, we will now probably never have a complete picture of major human migration.

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I think the organizers of the Human Genome Project grossly underestimated the challenges they would face from these isolated cultures. I think they have not done enough to reassure these people that the results would not be used for "nefarious" purposes. And it is a crying shame because, in spite of having the technology to do so, we will now probably never have a complete picture of major human migration.

As an aside (not too far off though) I came across this today re: DNa and migration studies

http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/02/12/rush.greenland.oldest.human.itn?hpt=C2

So there still may be hope.

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And by destroying those "strong beliefs" with "scientific knowledge" they are benefitted how? Who decides which beliefs to attack? What are their motives?

Your premise seems to be that scientific investigation in itself constitutes an attack on traditional beliefs. I don't see it that way. However, if scientific knowledge trumps traditional beliefs, I see no harm in the traditional beliefs disappearing.

When I'm ill, I'm glad I can go see a doctor and not a medicine man. I would not want to deny "indigenous peoples" the same privilige just because I think their quaint little traditional beliefs should be preserved just because ... , mmm, well, why actually?

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