Who is my tribe? That question has long fascinated me. Family history research only takes me so far. Now there is another tool in my search. DNA testing.
Ancestry.com recently offered its members a DNA test for a cost of $99. In the blink of an eye, I paid my money and received a packet in the mail to begin the process. My saliva sample was sent back to Ancestry.com by return mail. I now wait approximately 6 weeks. Then I will see whether a DNA test will actually help unlock the secrets of my heritage.
I have some experience with the power of DNA evidence. Experts tell us they can determine from a saliva specimen, or blood or sweat, the one person in history who could have committed a crime down the block last Saturday night. Seriously. But can such a test tell me about my own past? Can it tell me when my Mesle ancestors left France? I don’t know? Can it tell me whether I have Jewish ancestors? I will see.
Can it tell me whether I am descended from the Lumbee tribe in the North Carolina? Yes. I think so. Why do I believe I can learn whether I am part Lumbee and what that really means? Simple. If I am part Lumbee, through Morris Teeter, my DNA should include markers distinctively associated with a Lumbee heritage.
But what is a Lumbee heritage? I first heard of the Lumbees less than a year ago while researching my mother’s family line. The tribal origins are unclear. Lumbees are recognized as a Native American tribe by North Carolina but not by the federal government. They are not primarily descended from European stock–like all of my other known ancestors. My Lumbee markers would almost certainly include evidence of Native American ancestors. But my DNA could also provide some evidence as to whether the Lumbee tribe is pure Native American blood, or whether their ancestors–and mine–are from a mix of races who created their own unique culture and ethnicity hundreds of years ago.
So, who is my tribe? Does it matter? Does it make me any difference to an understanding of who I am? What about the Lumbee? I don’t know. But, maybe it does. I will let you know when I figure it out.
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According to Wikipedia, the above photograph of members of the Lumbee tribe is in the public domain.