Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

American Indian Demographic History and Cultural Affiliation: A Discussion on Certain Limitations of the Use of mtDNA and Y chromosome Data

By Peter N. Jones


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y chromosome studies have been used increasingly over the last 20 years by anthropological geneticists and others to reconstruct the peopling of the Americas as well as to infer American Indian cultural affiliation and demographic histories. While the promise of this method is great, there are several problems inherent in some of its current uses. These limitations are discussed concerning the following six currently accepted methods: interpretation of coalescent times as times of origin; 2) the current uses of haplogroups; 3) sample sizes; 4) use of language groups to define population groups; 5) use of contemporary American Indian reservations to infer prehistoric tribal history; and 6) a combination of these to determine American Indian population history, historic migrations, and demographic history. This paper concludes that caution must be exercised in claiming too much for the method. Instead, it is recommend that it be used in conjunction with other established sources of data such as oral history, ethnography, linguistics, and archaeology when attempting to reconstruct American Indian cultural history or in determining the cultural affiliation of groups

Topics: Evolution, Population Biology
Year: 2002
OAI identifier:
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • (external link)
  • (external link)
  • Suggested articles


    1. (1994). Founder Mitochondrial Haplotypes in Amerindian Populations.
    2. (1997). DNA Variation and Language Affinities.
    3. (1990). Speaking of Forked Tongues: The Feasibility of Reconciling Human Phylogeny and the History of Language. Current Anthropology,
    4. (1998). Why Y? The Y Chromosome
    5. (1994). Peopling of the Americas as Inferred Through The Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA.
    6. (1997). Origin of Amerindian Y-Chromosomes as Inferred by the Analysis of Six Polymorphic Markers.
    7. (1990). Haida: Traditional Culture.
    8. (1997). Diversity and Age of the Four Major mtDNA Haplogroups, and Their Implications for the Peopling of the New World.
    9. (1990). Demographic History, 1774-1874.
    10. (1999). The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence: Introduced Infectious Diseases and Population Decline among Northwest Coast Indians,
    11. (1997). Multilocus Genotypes, a Tree of Individuals, and Human Evolutionary History.
    12. (1997). The Spirit Cave Mummy: Coprolite Investigations.
    13. (1989). Genes and Tongues.
    14. (2000). Spatial and Temporal Stability of mtDNA Haplogroup Frequencies in Native North America. In Human Biology,
    15. (1983). The Apachean Culture Pattern and Its Origins.
    16. (1990). Reconciled Trees and Incongruent Gene and Species Trees.
    17. (1998). Relationships Between Gene Trees and Species Trees. Molecular Biological Evolution,
    18. (1997). A high observed substitution rate in the human mitochondrial control region.
    19. (1997). Human Genetic Affinities for Y-Chromosome P49a,f/TaqI Haplotypes Show Strong Correspondence with Linguistics.
    20. (1995). A perilous but necessary search: Archaeology and European Identities. In Nationalism and archaeology: Scottish Archaeological Forum. Edited by
    21. (1993). The “Eve” Hypotheses: A Genetic Critique and Reanalysis. doi
    22. (1990). Native American Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Indicates that the Amerind and Nadene Populations Were Founded by Two Independent Migrations.
    23. (1993). Asian Affinities and Continental Radiation of the Four Founding Native American mtDNAs.
    24. (1984). Exploration and Contact History of Western Alaska.
    25. (1972). The Emergent Native Americans.
    26. (1990). A Study of CRUIR Enrollment and Population. General Council and Board of Trustees of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
    27. (1997). Mitochondrial Footprints of Human Expansions in Africa. doi
    28. (1994). American Origins. doi

    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.