I was adopted, and a recent DNA test shows I’m Native. How do I find my tribe and begin reconnecting?

Thank you for your question. I am always glad to hear when someone wants to connect to their culture. The issues around DNA testing are complicated and controversial. The short answer is that there is no DNA test to prove ties to a specific tribe.

First off what do people mean by DNA testing? According to the National Congress of the American Indian (NCAI) “DNA testing has become an umbrella term that refers to many different kinds of genetic testing that provides information about an individual’s genes. Genetic information, or DNA, is found in nearly every cell in the human body. DNA testing technology is constantly changing, and so are the efforts to engage tribes in testing on an individual and group basis.” At the NCIA website you can find lots of helpful information about this.

Being Native means different things to each person. For some, it means that they are descendants of the original people of North America. For others it means a way of life or a way of being; a feeling, how one sees the world and one’s self; a way of interacting with nature, family, and Creator. Native culture in North America, is rich in tradition, history, spirituality, art, economics, and politics.

I suggest that people who are interested in learning more about their identity start by asking questions of their family and community, once you gathered more information and can start to narrow down your search, reach out to your tribe (most Tribal Nations have websites) to learn about your culture, the history of their tribe and traditions and start from a place of respect and curiosity.

Are your grandparents, parents, aunties/ uncles, cousins, other tribal members around? This might be a good place to start. You could say something like, “I’ve been thinking about where we come from and I want to find out more. Can you tell me anything? Do you have any stories or know of someone who does?” You might get something, you might not. It may be just a matter of finding the right person. So don’t give up, just keep the conversation going.

Good luck,

Auntie Manda


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