News / Science & Technology

DNA Evidence: Clovis People Ancestors to All Native Americans

Replicas of Clovis artifacts discovered at a site at least 12,600-years-old are displayed at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana, Feb. 12, 2014.
Replicas of Clovis artifacts discovered at a site at least 12,600-years-old are displayed at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Montana, Feb. 12, 2014.
Rosanne Skirble
Native Americans have long considered their oral tradition central to their cultural identity. They count among their ancestors the Clovis people, named for the stone tools discovered near Clovis, New Mexico, in the early 1930s and found in some 1,500 other sites across North America. The first mapping of the Clovis genome provides evidence that ties these ancient people to contemporary American Indians.
 
Sarah Anzick grew up on a farm along Flathead Creek in the western state of Montana. In 1968, the only Clovis burial site ever found was discovered on her family's property. The prehistoric skeleton of a young boy was found buried under some 125 artifacts - largely stone spear points distinctive to Clovis and antler tools.  

Anzick, now a geneticist, is co-author of a study in the scientific journal Nature that describes the Clovis genome.   

“So as a steward of the remains and with training in human genetics and genomics, my experience positioned me uniquely to contribute to the history of the early inhabitants of the North American continent by analyzing the ancient DNA from this Clovis individual," said Anzick.

The remains of the child date to the end of the Clovis era or some 12,600 years ago, says co-author Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A&M University.

“This is the oldest burial in North America and the only Clovis burial. The genetic findings match well with the archeological data for the first Americans.  The two methods together tell the story of the earliest settlers of the Americans and their descendants," said Waters.

The Clovis lived at a time when mammoth, mastodons and giant bison roamed the Earth.  On closer look, the genome finds the Clovis boy is related to all present-day Native Americans in North and South America. Waters adds that the ancestors of this boy originated from Asia and not from Europe as previously hypothesized.

“These genetic findings are consistent with the archeological evidence which shows that the North American continent was first explored and settled 15,000 years ago, with Clovis emerging 2,000 years later at 13,000 years ago," he said.

Native people today inherited those genes. The work to sequence the genome engaged the native community, says historian Shane Doyle, a Crow Indian and professor at Montana State University. Doyle, another study co-author, says native people want more cooperation like this in research.

“We are looking to change that whole story, and we want to bring American Indians to the table with this research so they can help guide the most respectful and appropriate ways to do this kind of research, actually inform the scientists along the way, so that we are able to move forward together," said Doyle.

Doyle says it is young people like his students who will move that dialogue into the 21st century.

He says the Clovis genome sequence did not come as a surprise to Native Americans.

“I feel like this discovery confirms what tribes have never really doubted, that we’ve been here since time immemorial and all of the artifacts and objects in the ground are remnants of our direct ancestors," he said.

While DNA was extracted from the Clovis skeleton for scientific purposes, the bones will be reburied sometime this year in cooperation with Native American tribes in Montana to honor the sacred Indian tradition.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs