Elizabeth Warren carries Native American DNA – she’s running!

Since I’ve talked about this issue before, Warren releases results of DNA test:

There were five parts of Warren’s DNA that signaled she had a Native American ancestor, according to the report. The largest piece of Native American DNA was found on her 10th chromosome, according to the report. Each human has 23 pairs of chromosomes.

“It really stood out,” said Bustamante in an interview. “We found five segments, and that long segment was pretty significant. It tells us about one ancestor, and we can’t rule out more ancestors.”

He added: “We are confident it is not an error.”

The proportion of ancestry is not large. But it is clearly there. They compared to the Utah white and British European 1000 Genomes populations, which is a good standard for Old Stock Anglo-Americans. She’s clearly an outlier, with about an order of magnitude more “Native American” ancestry. So it’s unlikely to be some artifact.

There is some talk in the article about lack of reference populations. But remember, the key is to identify Native American ancestry, so all of this should coalesce back 10-15,000 years ago. Compared to the divergence from Northern Europeans, this is going to jump out against the genetic background.

So does Elizabeth Warren have Native American ancestry? 99% sure that that is a yes. Is she going to run? Well, I wouldn’t say 99%, but that seems likely too….

(I doubt she’ll do it, but it would be neat if she released her raw results)

Update: Here’s the technical report.

Update II: Some quick responses to comments. I’m going to address the genetic aspects. I’ll leave the cultural and political angles to others.

  • The analyst, who I know personally as well as by reputation, did exactly what I’d have expected he do with this data. So nothing atypical in terms of method/analytic pipeline. You can download and use the tools yourself!
  • The number of markers used in the analysis, 660,000, is a good number. Sufficient most definitely for the local ancestry analysis done here (and probably on some level necessary to gain a high level of confidence).
  • Some people wonder about the sample size of the reference population. Is the number sufficient? Yes, for the purposes of this analysis. For the scope of the questions asked. You aren’t looking for recent relatives, you are looking for a good representation of the genealogical networks from a given geography/ethnicity. The Utah whites are an industry standard sample set that is well known. The British data set in the 1000 Genomes is also pretty well known. Both seem representative of people of Northwest European heritage, a set of populations which are genetically very similar to each other.
  • People are asking about the robustness of this result. One thing you have to remember when comparing reference sets against an individual is that the genetic distance of the reference sets is important. Applying local ancestry to an individual of Dutch ancestry with training sets of Germans and English heritage is going to produce results, but the training sets themselves are going to overlap in some ways. Now, if you take someone with Dutch ancestry and do local ancestry for English vs. Javanese ancestry, then you’re going to get really clear results in comparison.
  • Some serious individuals are questioning the representativeness of the European panel and the Native American panel. As well as the lack of Siberian groups, who are closely related. But we know that Warren’s family background is such that a shift toward a Northeast Asian group is likely to be Native American. Not Chukchi. Further analysis could confirm, but the most likely hypothesis is that this is a woman of Northwest European ancestry with some Native American ancestry. Other models could fit these results. But those are not likely models in the first place (also, the PCA on Native American groups makes it likely that she is not Siberian, and she is not shifted to the northern groups).
  • A huge issue is that people are worried about the representativeness of the Native American groups. First, if you are looking for someone with indigenous North American ancestry, Mexican groups are sufficient. If anything this will reduce your power to detect, not produce false positives. Second, look at the plot, Warren’s haplotype is positioned between Canadian and Mexican natives: 
  • People are interpreting this local ancestry method, which assigns segments of the genome to particular populations with a probability, to the point estimates provided in most consumer genomics results. From what I can see, they assigned 0.4% of Warren’s genome as Native American. But 8% was not assigned. This is almost certainly mostly European, but some of it may be Native as well. Basically, the method here was less about assigning a specific proportion, and more about testing whether it was likely she had detectable indigenous American ancestry (she did), and, the range of periods in which that ancestry could have admixed into the Northern European genetic background. This is not comparable to the estimates you are getting from personal genomics tests.
  • One way you can try to assess whether these are artifactual is to compare an individual to populations of known ancestry and see the distribution of empirical results. Warren’s results are very atypical in comparison to Northern European reference sets. If this is a “false positive” due to the training sets, then you would expect the same type of problem to crop up when test out sample individuals.
  • Some are asking whether Warren is just a typical white American. You would need to do apples-to-apples comparisons. But my intuition is that she’s not. Most Old Stock white Americans probably have a genealogical relationship to Native Americans, but they may not have any segments of DNA because it is too far back. Warren is part of the minority of white Americans who have detectable Native American ancestry.

Basically, I think it is very likely that Warren has Native American ancestry. Follow-up analysis would probably just increase our confidence.

75 thoughts on “Elizabeth Warren carries Native American DNA – she’s running!

  1. So, how susceptible is this analysis to p-hacking?

    Let’s assume that Prof. Bustamante (as any consultant) is hired to effectively substantiate the client’s desired position.
    I’m a statistician, but not involved with genetics. I’ve done consulting and have played with data to get the result my client wanted. With this background, I have some questions.

    How does the selection of the specific 148 individuals affect this calculation? why not use a broader database?

    Why just those four categories (why not break up the Europeans to those with more or less ancestral Siberian ancestry)?

    How admixed were the Native American samples selected? I.e. the segment in question due to a European founder effect not true NA one?

    Did 23andMe’s base ancestral analysis show a different result (given they have more categories and individuals)?

    Point number 1) on Bustamante report: Is the correct way to interpret this is that there were 5 segments which were more likely to be NA only within the sample selected by the professor?

    Point number 2): Is PCA the right way to handle this analysis? Is the PCA just on the segment or the entire smaple? This is a real question: how does one think about p-values on a dimensionless PCA? What is the quantification of “strong association”?

    For what its worth, 23andMe assigned me to ethniciities which I could not possibly have within 6-8 generations. E.g. British and I’m a Soviet born Ashkenazi with all of my recent ancestors confined to the Pale. I just assumed it was a statistical artifact at those small levels.

    2+
  2. I hope she doesn’t run, but admittedly I lean somewhat more progressive than you. There’s too much focus on the Presidency as a source of political power, versus the much greater power of having effective majorities and leaders in Congress and the state governments.

    0
  3. Populations have almost certainly been included in Figure 2 that are not shown, as the origin (0, 0) is at the top right corner of the Figure.

    It would be extremely useful to know the complete list of populations used to produce that Figure.

    1+
  4. The situation also highlights the difference between genetic inheritance which is very happy to be small percentages, and cultural and identity inheritance which is chunkier (although not truly all or nothing). This was already an issue based upon the genealogy of the corroborated claim in the first place.

    0
  5. The main point is not how much Indian ancestry she does or does not have. The main point is how unfair it is for someone like her to trade off that tiny %.

    5+
  6. The main point is not how much Indian ancestry she does or does not have. The main point is how unfair it is for someone like her to trade off that tiny %.

    she’s not south asian. she doesn’t claim to be! 🙂

    2+
  7. Bullshit. It’s clear that she’s a crypto-Nigerian Muslim. I’ll believe in the ‘result’ when I see her tax returns. And not then either.

    2+
  8. BTW, since DNA is the arbiter now, shouldn’t people who claim to be Native American have to prove from which wave the bulk of their ancestry derives?

    0
  9. razib: Basically, the method here was less about assigning a specific proportion, and more about testing whether it was likely she had detectable indigenous American ancestry (she did)

    Though I don’t understand why they would not just do a simple point estimate. If the goal is to narrow down the kind of generations admixture time to a “full blooded” ancestor then a kind of “It looks 8 generations (0.4%) based on most of her genome, but we’re going to not call 8% of her genome” seems a bit weird when simpler methods can easily narrow that down. (Though anyway shouldn’t the null assumption be that the non-assigned is going to be more or less the same as assigned?). You’d think you could probably get something better than a wide interval of 6 generations (1.56%) to 10 generations (0.1%), using much simpler methods. Unless trying to obfuscate on what the point estimate is for whatever reason, I can’t see a rationale why not.

    0
  10. My own 23 & Me test confirmed my genealogical study showing an American Indian woman in the 1700s as an ancestor. Yet, I would be disgusted with myself if I used that to get a leg up on any job or in any university. I have nothing but contempt for Warren.

    4+
  11. Young, would you support the following idea?

    A global treaty where 7.7 billion humans give race based affirmative action to people with more than 60% Sub-Saharan Africa African DNA and give no race based affirmative action to any other group, including native Americans? Every recipient of affirmative action needs to submit a free DNA test. Every country would be free to give socio-economic condition based affirmative action or not based on their own criteria. All race based global affirmative action would be banned 100 years after implementation of said treaty.

    The world has a huge problem with African empowerment. There are far fewer African pockets of excellence, merit, capacity and competence than for any other part of humanity, including Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia and North America. The world needs to urgently address this.

    0
  12. Razib,
    Can you comment on what generation her ancestor likely is? If the % ancestry is divided between several segments, is it possible she multiple ancestors at a farther remove rather than 1 in the ~8th.

    0
  13. The main point is not how much Indian ancestry she does or does not have. The main point is how unfair it is for someone like her to trade off that tiny %.

    6 to 10 generations back… 1/32nd to 1/512nd Native American. That’s just pathetic. Grasping at straws comes to mind. And I’d feel exactly the same if some conservative pol claimed something similar. Talk about “flight from white.”

    Trump is going to have a field day with this. I can see a poster with one tiny red dot next to 511 white dots (with black outlines fr better visibility), with Warren’s picture underneath saying “I am this!” pointing to the tiny dot.

    2+
  14. Trump is going to have a field day with this

    He’s a political master. He manipulated her into this. She’s finished.

    3+
  15. This is worse for her than if it came back 0.0% Native American because now she looks ridiculous instead of merely a liar. The latter is hardly a liability in politics but the former is lethal. If she was smart (she’s not), she would have never gone through with this and just let the Fauxcahontas rep die over time by never speaking to it again. She goes through all this only to wind up the last 1/1024th of the Mohicans. What an absurd woman.

    1+
  16. The homeopathy of racial identity.

    Also its amusing that people who believe race is a social construct and also believe that a DNA test can discern minuscule components of one’s biogeographical heritage (which it clearly can), and even more alarmingly think that such a tiny genetic component might have moral, practical or political significance.

    2+
  17. “The world has a huge problem with African empowerment. There are far fewer African pockets of excellence, merit, capacity and competence than for any other part of humanity, including Latin America, Asia, Europe, Australia and North America. The world needs to urgently address this.”

    How do you think race-based affirmative action will change this situation? We have had race-based affirmative action here in the US for decades and as far as I can see it has achieved little other than to increase racial hostility in this country.

    1+
  18. such a tiny genetic component might have moral, practical or political significance.

    Started with the “one-drop rule” with blacks, perhaps?

    Now it’s the reverse. “One drop” of sub-Saharan African blood privileges you. I guess in this context ancestry matters more than genetic composition/similarity.

    0
  19. An An, I wouldn’t give affirmative action to anyone. For years we heard that the only things some minorities wanted was a level playing field, which seemed fair and reasonable, but then the demand was for a tilted playing field. We get less than qualified people in FAA control towers because of race-based hiring and diversity. Diversity is more important than air safety. On the other hand, diversity and affirmative action never operate for the NFL or the NBA or “historically black” colleges or black dorms or black graduation ceremonies and a multitude of similar programs. I want everyone to be treated as an individual and equally under the law rather than as a race token. So, no to affirmative action.

    1+
  20. When I read your post, I was immediately reminded of my own results. I had my whole genome sequenced for the Personal Genome Project, and after some difficulty, was able to run it in ADMIXTURE with the 1000 Genomes data, and at K=6 it came out roughly 5% East African, 5% South Asian, and 2% East Asian. I also had testing one with Ancestry, which came back 100% European, but when I uploaded the data to MyHeritage it came back about 10% Sephardic Jewish-North African. With Family Tree, it was almost exclusively European, with some possible South American ancestry.

    And then you so kindly ran the Ancestry yourself, Razib, which gave me 5% Yemeni Jewish–though I am probably not directly descended from Yemeni Jews.

    By ethnic origin, our family has generally identified as Irish and German, but I am fairly certain it’s mostly Old Stock white Americans on my mother’s side. I have natural blonde hair and blue eyes, and look like a fairly typical Northern European. My strands of head hair are very thin, but I have a lot more of them than most people; my hair’s texture is very silky and it’s straight to wavy. I have often been asked if I’m Jewish, though. My full-blooded sister is an interesting case, because she has blue eyes, but has very thick and coarse medium to dark brown hair which is also straight to wavy which she does not need to wash very often, which makes her unusual in the family. But overall, she looks white. She says she’s often asked if she’s Eastern European.

    I think your conclusion of most Old Stock white Americans probably having some Native ancestors, even if it no longer exists in their DNA, to be comforting. It shows that we are not that disconnected from where we’ve settled. It doesn’t excuse the atrocities, but it shows a complex decision-making process. Like, I’m imagining an early settler/white parent with a half-Native kid who the parent wants to succeed in life; as the kid passes for white, the parent works from that.

    0
  21. Now it’s the reverse. “One drop” of sub-Saharan African blood privileges you.

    It is interesting to me that when someone like Obama chooses to “identify” as black there are high fives all around. If a mixed race individual tries to “identify” as white then they are in for an epic beatdown from all sides and directions.

    0
  22. Razib, there are a couple of racist comments on here from AnAn and Twinkie. I believe racist comments diminish the impact of the site.

    0
  23. there are a couple of racist comments

    I think what you mean is that you disapprove of their commenting on race from a perspective that does not appeal to you. It’s just like the Harvard question. Harvard can use and define race and other criteria any way they please, but people with a different view are not allowed to use or think about race in an unapproved way.

    1+
  24. It is quite funny that the current intellectual population that is most tied to the one that argued for all sorts of blood laws in the past is the one to cry “meritocracy!” most now when its expressed preferences are taken seriously by others too. Most aren’t exactly principled libertarians or anything even if they pretend to be. 😉

    And the reality of course is that, unlike what some have commented, Warren has had a lot of success in law (more than anyone on this blog in their respective fields most likely) on her own merits. Huge misstep to try and rise up to the challenge of the birth certificate buffoons though.

    0
  25. Young is spot on.

    There is no doubt in my mind, despite what Warren and Harvard have said, that Warren would not have been appointed to the Harvard law faculty without her public claim to be Native American.

    Warren received her J.D. from Rutgers, which is a “third tier” law school. Resumes from her classmates, who had no claim to being affirmative action subjects, would have been rejected on initial review solely on account of having graduated from a third tier law school.

    2+
  26. “I think your conclusion of most Old Stock white Americans probably having some Native ancestors, even if it no longer exists in their DNA, to be comforting. It shows that we are not that disconnected from where we’ve settled. It doesn’t excuse the atrocities, but it shows a complex decision-making process. Like, I’m imagining an early settler/white parent with a half-Native kid who the parent wants to succeed in life; as the kid passes for white, the parent works from that.”

    Razib used the phrase “genealogical connection” for a reason: there was orders of magnitude more gene flow into Natives from whites than the other direction. Some whites were captured by Indians and raised by them. Old-stock Americans would be related to their progeny but not descended from them.

    Even a cursory reading of history reveals that the atrocities were not one-sided. And saying the whites won in the end doesn’t change that: nobody at the time realized what the final outcome would be.

    Does the fact that Inuit in northeastern Canada completely replaced the previous inhabitants lessen their connection to where they live? If not, why is that only true for white people?

    3+
  27. Razib, there are a couple of racist comments on here from AnAn and Twinkie.

    I am not up on recent internet lingo, but I did recently learn a new term, which I think is appropriate here: concern trolling.

    Does the fact that Inuit in northeastern Canada completely replaced the previous inhabitants lessen their connection to where they live? If not, why is that only true for white people?

    When PoC conquer and displace others, it’s noble warrior-ness. When whites do it, it’s bloodthirsty, disgusting, and morally bankrupt imperialism. Is that racist enough for you, “insightful”?

    4+
  28. Yudi,

    You are bringing up issues that lie outside my concern here. My focus in this thread is Native American ancestry in some whites. Here is Razib’s whole sentence:

    “Most Old Stock white Americans probably have a genealogical relationship to Native Americans, but they may not have any segments of DNA because it is too far back.”

    It’s clear Razib is talking about Old Stock white Americans being genealogically descended from Native Americans here, not the reverse. It’s just that the admixture is so far back, most Old Stock white Americans did not inherit any Native American DNA, even where there is genealogical descent. Of course, I could be reading this wrong. If I am, I ask Razib to correct me.

    0
  29. The mean African-American has a better claim of identifying as a Viking.
    The mean Eurasia has a better claim of identifying as a Neanderthal.

    Than Elizabeth Warren has a claim to identify as an Amerindian, as she did, in official documents.

    This is probably just some ANE residual, this the ultimate bullshit.

    0
  30. That’s a fair reading of that sentence, but the historical and genetic records show the amount with Native descent was quite small even at the time. And most mixed people would have been part of Native groups, not white ones. Unlike in Spanish colonies, Natives retained political autonomy for much longer, and the number of Englishwomen was larger from the beginning.

    My other statements were questioning why anyone should care about that today.

    0
  31. And most mixed people would have been part of Native groups, not white ones.

    Sebastian Junger’s main point in his book is that while many whites abandoned English/European civilization and joined American Indian societies, the reverse almost never occurred.

    0
  32. There’s something ironic about the fact that the so called anti-colonialist, feminist left are decrying that Warren recognizes her descent from a minority ethnic group. How dare she rely on family oral history passed down through the female line, where are the Official Colonial Government records?! That a specific legal entity, the Cherokee Nation, which defines membership through genealogical descent from a minority of identifiable cultural “Cherokee” around the year 1900 doesn’t include a person descended from someone who in all likelihood was “Cherokee” in the year 1800 is understandable. However it also seems somewhat suicidal. Creating a caste system is not necessarily a bad idea if you are the political elite, but a marginalized group cutting itself off at the feet with cries of purity is… interesting. I have become convinced now that the North American Native population’s distaste towards genetic testing is self-serving and not principled. The average “Cherokee”, especially the elite, will most likely have a surprisingly small amount of Native American genetic ancestry. In a more reasonable political environment this would be treated as a matter of fact, properly interpreted through the historical lens that for a long time the “non-white” Native American population had far more links with the colonialists that many would assume, and the NA Indian relocation was not only unjust but unnecessary. Since nobody seems interested in a reasonable journey to the truth based on mutual respect, its a much better idea to obstruct.

    From my understanding Warren’s actions are consistent with a somewhat principled person who only recognized her actual ancestry “officially” after she was secure in employment. Affirmative action can easily destroy, not strengthen, identity. That she was the only thing approaching a “person of color” in the faculty is hardly her fault.

    1+
  33. Warren specifically claimed Cherokee ancestry. But American Indians do not provide DNA samples, so her specific claim cannot be evaluated.

    2+
  34. “Not sure if more native ibd in whites or natives. Probably more native. But lots of old stock whites”

    Surely this can’t be the case, or else the Utahn white sample (mostly old-stock) used for EW would be a poor referent for determining her exact amount of Amerindian ancestry…?

    I suppose where we really differ is that you believe most Amerindian ancestry disappeared from old-stocks, which definitely happened on some level, but I additionally think they never had much of it from the beginning.

    Know what would solve this disagreement? Genotyping old-stock skeletons from old cemeteries! I’m down.

    0
  35. When you lose Dana Milbank…

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/join-my-tribe-elizabeth-warren/2018/10/16/3fb0867e-d181-11e8-b2d2-f397227b43f0_story.html

    Among the many unfortunate results of Warren’s recent DNA test suggesting she’s somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American by ethnicity: It inevitably draws attention to her contribution to the ’80s cookbook, “Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes.”

    Under “Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee,” it lists five recipes, three of which were apparently cribbed from the New York Times and Better Homes and Gardens.

    Worse, one of the recipes she submitted: “Crab with Tomato Mayonnaise Dressing.” A traditional Cherokee dish with mayonnaise, a 19th-century condiment imported by settlers? A crab dish from landlocked Oklahoma? This can mean only one thing: canned crab.

    Warren is unfit to lead.

    Well-played, mein Führer, well-played.

    0
  36. Hi Yudi,

    According to the technical report for Elizabeth Warren, which is linked from the Razib’s post here, some Utah whites do show low levels of Native American ancestry, whereas the British samples didn’t really show any.

    0
  37. I suppose where we really differ is that you believe most Amerindian ancestry disappeared from old-stocks, which definitely happened on some level, but I additionally think they never had much of it from the beginning.

    utah whites are not representative. they are yankee+NW european immigrant. yankees were pretty good at killing off their natives (see “king philip’s war”). the place where u would find native ancestry is upland southern whites.

    2+
  38. Among the many unfortunate results of Warren’s recent DNA test suggesting she’s somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1,024th Native American by ethnicity: It inevitably draws attention to her contribution to the ’80s cookbook, “Pow Wow Chow: A Collection of Recipes from Families of the Five Civilized Tribes.”

    she’s probably 2% native. wilbank is stupid.

    0
  39. About that cookbook, can be argued that, if anything, it reinforces Warren’s version.

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/the-dumbest-plagiarism-scandal-ever/

    “Although I would note that the contribution to this book would indicate that Warren did think of herself as having Native American heritage back in the 1980s and that her family (the book was compiled by a cousin) had similar views. This, now that I think about it, actually reinforces the notion that Warren’s self-identification as having Native American heritage was sincere. Family mythology can be quite powerful. Being told that one is descended from a particular group or that one is related to some particular historical figure can take hold and be accepted without a lot of question, depending on when one was told such information.”

    0
  40. the place where u would find native ancestry is upland southern whites

    Indeed, and many or most of those make some sort of vague claim to having Native American ancestry. AFAIK they don’t claim to be a POC, or allow themselves to be described as such by their employer.

    2+
  41. Well-played, mein Führer, well-played.

    Let’s see, there is concern trolling and then there is trigger trolling.

    0

Comments are closed.