Just How Black or Native American are You? The Statistics Might Surprise You

Written by Jae Jones

An article recently published by Henry Gates Jr. on the The Root explains that you actually might be more African-American than you think. If you think you are “half Indian,” you might want to think again, or at least have an admixture test done so you will know the truth.  Regardless of your straight hair, light brown-toned skin or high cheek bones, your biological make-up is most likely predominantly African-American. Here’s why according to geneticists Joanna Mountain and Kasia Bryc at 23and Me: The average person is 73 percent sub-Saharan, 24 percent European and only 0.7 percent . So, for those who have been claiming Native American roots, you might not want to speak so fast. It would appear by the statistics that it is highly likely you are African-American possibly mixed with European blood.


This is not to say that all African-Americans who are claiming Native American part of their blood line is lying. There are actually a significant amount of Black people who do have Native American ancestors. However, the truth is that more African-American people have been mixed with European ancestry than any other ethnic group. Now, the results have been proven through DNA and statistics, and some African-American people will have trouble with it. It is difficult for a lot of people to embrace their full African-American heritage, or accept that somewhere back in history mixing with European Americans took place among their ancestors.

Here is a closer look at the statistics according to The Root: “Whereas virtually all African Americans have a considerable amount of European ancestry in their genomes, only 19 percent have at least 1 percent Native American ancestry, and only 5 percent of people carry more than 2 percent Native American ancestry. How do these percentages translate into ancestry? Well, if you have 5 percent Native American ancestry in your admixture result, that means you had one Native American ancestor four to five generations back (120 to 150 years ago). If you have 2 percent Native American ancestry, you had one such ancestor on your family tree five to nine generations’ back (150 to 270 years ago). One percent of Native American ancestry means that this ancestor entered your bloodline six to 10 generations back (180 to 300 years ago).”


One of the reasons why it is not likely that African-Americans are mixed with Native American ancestry is the two races would have had to be living close to one another to mix. According to Claudio Saunt a historian at the University of Georgia, many slaves and Native Americans did not even cross paths. Most Indians didn’t live nowhere near the slave states. However, the period and area they would have interacted would have been before 1715. It is believed that during this time one-third of slaves in South Carolina were all Indian. But, even then the numbers were extremely small. Indian during that period declined tremendously.


Also, according to Eric Foner of Columbia University mixing between Native Americans and African Americans could have certainly taken place during the Colonial era. It would have most likely occurred before the Indians were pushed inland. During this period slaves escaped to Indian locations.

Also it is important to look at this according to Eltis’ Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, “only about 29,800 Africans had disembarked from slave ships by 1714 (half before 1700 and half after)—a very small part of the 388,000 or so Africans who would eventually arrive here and from whom most of us are descended. The first of three large waves of Africans would surface in this country only after 1714. By 1750, for instance, some 145,970 had arrived. But most of these, as we can see, arrived after 1714. Therefore, for most of us, the odds of being descended from an African who arrived in North America before 1700 and mated with a Native American, although possible, are very small.” (The Root, 2015).


Many people have heard the stories in their family as to how they are part Native American. The stories seem to be passed on from generation to generation. People who take the admixture tests and discover there is no Native American ancestry in their line often wonder whether the DNA has disappeared becoming difficult to measure after so many years. It could be possible because most admixture tests are only reliable a few hundred years back. But according to the Root, if you had one Native American ancestor who joined your lineage about 300 years ago, again in or before 1714, there is a 54 percent chance you would not have inherited any of his or her DNA. So, again your straight hair and high cheekbones is most likely part of your African-American ancestors mixing with European Americans.Continue reading




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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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