The Genographic Project: Anthropological Genetic Analyses of Indigenous Human Populations of North America - South Slave and DehCho

Regions: Dehcho Region, South Slave Region

Tags: anthropology, genetics, ancestry, dna, First Nations, Inuit

Principal Investigator: Schurr, Theodore G (9)
Licence Number: 14541
Organization: University of Pennsylvania
Licenced Year(s): 2011 2010 2009
Issued: Jun 26, 2009
Project Team: Sergey Zhadanov (Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania), Jill Bennett Gaieski (Project Administrator, University of Pennsylvania), Matthew Dulik (Graduate Fellow, University of Pennsylvania)

Objective(s): The researchers will explore the ancestry and history of the Aboriginal populations of the NWT through the analysis of genetic diversity in these communities. Through this DNA analysis, they will investigate the origin and diversity of NWT First Nations and assess their relationship to other Dene peoples of Canada and Alaska. They will also explore the origin and ancestry of Inuvialuit groups, and examine their relationships with other Inuit peoples of Alaska and Canada.

Project Description: In this project, the researchers will explore the ancestry and history of the Aboriginal populations of the NWT through the analysis of genetic diversity in these communities. Through this DNA analysis, they will investigate the origin and diversity of NWT First Nations and assess their relationship to other Dene peoples of Canada and Alaska. They will also explore the origin and ancestry of Inuvialuit groups, and examine their relationships with other Inuit peoples of Alaska and Canada. Overall, this approach will generate new insights into the human occupation of the circumpolar region of North America over the past 10,000 years, as well as provide broader insights into the origins and ancient dispersal of Native American populations through the Americas.

To better understand the results of the genetic analysis, the researchers will consult the written and oral tribal histories and genealogical data from participants in each community, and also review the ethnographic and linguistic data available in the published literature. They will also work closely with local organizations and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre to obtain relevant information about the Aboriginal communities of the region. This approach will provide them with the most extensive context in which to interpret the genetic data.

The researchers will conduct the study in three stages. Each stage will take about 20-30 minutes per person. The first is the informed consent process. If an individual chooses to join the study and gives consent, they will then conduct interviews about that person's family history. No one will ask any questions about an individual's health and medical history. This genealogical and family history information provides the context for interpreting the genetic results, and is essential for the project. All personal history information will remain confidential, and maintained on secure computers and locked file cabinets in the applicant's laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania.

The third part will involve the acquisition of a DNA sample. The researchers will show the participants how to swab the inside of their cheek with a cloth-tipped plastic scraper, or use a mouthwash kit, to provide them with a DNA sample for genetic analysis.

Whenever possible, the North American team will return to all participating communities following the completion of the genetic analysis to share the results with community members in person. All DNA test results, along with explanatory materials, will be sent to participants beforehand by the Penn research team. They expect that their involvement with the local communities of the NWT will continue well beyond their visit for sample and data collection, and result in long-term relationships that will benefit both members of the Aboriginal communities and the Penn researchers.

For those groups that do become involved in the project, once generating DNA test results, the researchers will also discuss the possibility of producing a summary of the genetic data for use by the community. They believe that this kind of engagement will broaden participants’ understanding of research methods and promote the value of scientific knowledge within participating communities.

Furthermore, they are willing to work with local educators to develop educational curricula for local schools, in English and local languages, with the aim of translating scientific data produced by the Genographic Project into teachable units in history, science, and cultural studies.

The research team will be available by telephone, fax and email to discuss the DNA test results or related issues with participants, both before and after the initial visit for sample and data collection.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from June 27 to December 31, 2009, within each community where the researchers are granted permission to work, in the South Slave and DehCho regions. The Deh Gah Got’ie Dene Council (in Fort Providence) decided NOT to participate in this study.