Ancestry: built on graves

I’ve come to the painfully obvious conclusion that most people don’t understand how DNA & ancestry work. The way you inherit genes can’t be expressed by fractions or percentages. That’s just not how your genes work.

For a brief breakdown check out these links

If you want a better understanding of the subject more broadly

I would recommend reading these books

Here’s the reason I have this on my mind

Because it’s currently a hot topic, I’d like to talk about Native American ancestry

My family genealogy records a First Nation ancestor born in the Mohawk Valley 8 generations ago. She married a Scottish immigrant on the Canadian side of my family. The side that were Imperial Loyalists during the Revolutionary War.

This small part of my family history gives me these specific takeaways:

First; I would never call myself Native American. Since this First Nation ancestor and Scottish ancestor had children they passed down a Scottish/British identity. Combine all my other European ancestry and you forge the identity I was raised with, which is thoroughly Euro-American. The experiences that Native Americans have struggled with affected that woman generations ago to some degree I’m sure. But not so much for her descendants. Definitely not for me.

Second; this ancestry isn’t meaningless. I’m glad I know about it and I should think about it. We should all think about where we came from and how we came to be in the circumstances we’re in.

And third; this part of my ancestry and the circumstances of my life have a dark connection. Thinking back on this woman and trying to imagine what she went through in her life is a powerful reminder that my comfortable and stable life is built on graves. All the advantages I’ve had as an American are the direct result of a long, slow ethnic cleansing.

My native ancestor should always motivate me to support the modern communities that my other ancestors oppressed

To support the communities still being devastated by the exploitations from which my stability derives

It’s true that my parents always worked hard for me and I appreciate that

Same with my grandparents

But I can never escape from the fact that all my advantages have an underlying foundation in exploitation.

I benefit from crimes against the First Nations of this continent

It’s important that I never forget that.

That none of us do.

Foot note: I will mention that my aunt, who is amazing, is primarily responsible for the research into that part of my family genealogy. I can’t say that I’ve done the research myself. I am relying on her efforts. I don’t know why she would lie and I believe. But for the sake of being transparent the facts of my family history are not something I can claim as being certain.

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