Sanders on Genomic Research in Indian Country

Marren Sanders has posted “Genomic Research in Indian Country: The New Road to Termination?” on SSRN.

The abstract:

Genomic science has generated controversy in the social, legal, and ethical arenas for decades, and indigenous populations continue to be a subject of great interest in this area. This article looks at the recent concept of population genomics, a biotechnology used to help scientists understand how genetic variation relates to human health and evolutionary history. Parts II and III examine the debate among scientists as to the migration of the “first Americans” into North America, a debate that is quickly being influenced by the DNA markers found in the human genome. Part IV surveys the history of scientific research involving indigenous peoples – a history predominantly colored by ignorance and bias – as science was presented as conclusive proof of their savage nature and inferiority as a race. Scientists today proffer evidence that the ancestors of Native Americans were, in reality, colonists who immigrated from Africa, Europe, and/or Asia, and Part V analyzes a number of indicators that point to the possibility of genomic research providing justification for another termination of the special status and rights of Native Americans. Part VI looks at a number of tools that tribes may wish to consider using to help protect the genetic information of their members as they are faced with the seemingly endless need of researchers for Native American DNA. The article concludes that while suppositions of geneticists are in actuality just theories of historic migration, these theories have gained acceptance as fact in mainstream society. Given current indicators, Congress and/or the courts may very well use genomic science to justify another termination of the federal/tribal trust relationship.

More Impacts of Prop. 2 — Financial Aid

As the news about the 2007-2008 academic year comes out, we will be following the impact of Prop. 2 on minority students and communities in Michigan, with an emphasis on American Indian students.

Details from the Detroit News: “A record number of new freshmen flocked to Michigan public universities this fall, but some scholarship opportunities for the 40,674 students have dried up in light of Proposal 2.

“The constitutional amendment passed by voters last November not only banned preferences based on race and gender in public university admissions, but also shut down financial aid programs geared toward those targeted groups.

“Scholarships for women in engineering, single mothers, Hispanic scholars and high-achieving black students are among the programs that have been eliminated or altered at some of the state’s 15 public universities. In general, university leaders said they didn’t take away scholarships they promised students before Proposal 2 took effect Dec. 23, but the challenge has been how to help incoming classes without violating the law.”


“The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan decided this fall to establish race- and gender-based scholarships after assurances from lawyers that doing so wouldn’t violate the law, leaders said.

“The board set aside $650,000 in seed money and anticipates awarding the first scholarships for incoming students in 2008.

“We wanted to be able to make it possible for alumni and others who want to provide support to do so,” said alumni association president Steve Grafton. “They can’t do that with the university and we can provide that opportunity for them.

“And we are really interested in helping to maintain and build the diversity at the university. This is a recruiting tool that will help the university recruit the very brightest students of color, women in engineering and men in nursing,” he said.

“Much of the debate over Proposal 2 has focused on the University of Michigan, the only state university that admittedly used affirmative action in undergraduate admissions. But the impact of the new constitutional amendment can be felt around the state, as scholarships for students based, in part, on race, gender or ethnicity were not uncommon.

“Universities initiated reviews of all of their scholarship programs. Central Michigan University found four scholarships that involved preferences. CMU didn’t change two slated for Native Americans because they believe those scholarships are based on sovereignty status, not on race.

Maillard: “The Pocahontas Exception”

Kevin Noble Maillard (Syracuse Law) has posted an abstract to his wonderful paper, “The Pocahontas Exception: American Indians and Exceptionalism in Anti-miscegenation Law,” published in the Michigan Journal of Race & Law.

Kevin’s commentary in Indian Country Today, “Black and White,” can be accessed here. And his blog entry on is here.

From the abstract:

This article addresses the treatment of Native American ancestry as a curious exception to the threat of racial impurity. Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 aimed to prevent all interracial marriages in the state between white and nonwhite persons. This anti-miscegenation statute sought to eradicate stealth intrusions of tainted blood into the white race, which proponents believed to be threatened by the quagmire of mongrelization. Exempted from this racial policing regime were those influential whites, the First Families of Virginia, who proudly claimed Native American ancestry from Pocahontas. For a statue with racial purity as its obsession and mantra, how does this exceptionalism hold? Why would Native American ancestry, as opposed to others, pass as acceptable nonwhite blood and good law? Even in our contemporary era, why do claims of the Cherokee Princess Grandmother not invoke multi-raciality? This disparity calls for a critical inquiry of the miscegenistic exceptionalism accorded to American Indians. With increasing numbers of Americans freely and lately claiming Native ancestry, we may ask why such affirmations do not meet the triumvirate of resistance, shame, and secrecy that regularly accompanies findings of partial African ancestry. This paper contends that anti-miscegenation laws relegate Indians to existence only in a distant past, creating a temporal dis-juncture to free Indians from a contemporary discourse of racial politics. I argue that such exemptions assess Indians as abstractions rather than practicalities. These practices bifurcate treatments of Indian blood, either essentializing a pre-modern and a historical culture, or trivializing this ancestry as inconsequential ethnicity.

Michigan Affirmative Action Symposium

The Michigan Journal of Race & Law is hosting a symposium on affirmative action in Michigan after Prop. 2.

The symposium announcement is here.

For materials on Prop. 2 and its potential impact on American Indian students, please go here and here. For a pdf copy of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission report on Prop. 2, go here. Attachment no. 4 of the report concerns the impact of Prop. 2 on American Indian tuition waiver and is here.

From the symposium announcement….

From Proposition 209 to Proposal 2:
Examining the Effects of Anti-Affirmative Action Voter Initiatives

The diversity of perspectives that is cherished and celebrated by the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and the University of Michigan community is threatened with the passage of ballot initiatives like Michigan’s Proposal 2, which bans the use of race and gender in school admissions. These issues are both timely and critically important in a society that is becoming increasingly segregated by race and ethnicity, both residentially and socially. With the recent passing of Proposal 2 as well as the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding the use of race in public schools, we believe it is crucial to maintain an open and positive dialogue regarding race and education. To that end, our Symposium endeavors to address the variety of policy and legal questions arising out of the anti-affirmative action movement. Our Symposium will explore a broad range of issues including: the current effects of Proposition 209 in California and the potential effects of Proposal 2 on public university education and leadership within the state of Michigan, potential legal alternatives to affirmative action, and existing and emerging efforts to remedy K-12 educational disparities. Most notably, we present this symposium with the hope of preserving the University of Michigan’s longstanding commitment to diversity and as an answer to University of Michigan President Coleman’s request to “Show others what a U-M education looks like”.