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.

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 blackprof.com 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.