PBS docuseries ‘Native America’ recreates cultures pre-1492
By RUSSELL CONTRERAS
Monday, October 22
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The story of Native America taught in U.S. public schools usually begins at contact with European explorers. Children then get lessons about Thanksgiving, maybe the Trail of Tears or the 19th century wars over the removal of tribes in the American West. Rarely discussed is life in the Americas before Columbus’ 1492 voyage.
A new four-part PBS docuseries entitled “Native America” seeks to recreate a world in the Americas generations prior to the arrival of Europeans. Using archaeology, Native American oral traditions, even high-tech 3D renditions, viewers are presented images of busy cities connected by networks that span from the present-day United States to South America.
The docuseries shows how Chaco Canyon in New Mexico became a busy spiritual and commercial center that stood five stories high in the desert sky, centuries before skyscrapers went up in New York.
They also discuss the tunnel under a pyramid in Teotihuacán, Mexico, that revealed an intricate belief system that was also found elsewhere. And outside present-day St. Louis, Missouri, 10,000 people helped erect massive earthwork pyramids into a city now known as Cahokia around the time the real-life Macbeth ruled Scotland.
Series executive producer and director Gary Glassman said the project took more than a year to plan because producers wanted to make sure they had buy-in from Native American communities the documentaries sought to cover. Filmmakers wanted to include animated pieces of sacred art and stories to illustrate the importance of the site and wanted to be sensitive, Glassman said.
“We wanted to give them ownership to their own stories,” Glassman said. “It was about building trust.”
That’s how producers convinced Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office of the Arizona tribe Hopi, to allow directors to briefly film a group of elders conducting a smoking ceremony at Chaco.
In one episode, Kuwanwisiwma explains the religious significance of the Kiva and how elders used the smoking ceremony to contemplate the power of the universe. “The bird world, the reptilian world, the animal world, the insect world…they are all part of who we are as Hopi people,” Kuwanwisiwma tells viewers.
The docuseries then takes viewers to the rock art of the Amazons and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of New York to show how similar spiritual theologies through diverse practices linked people thousands of miles apart from the pyramids of Mississippi to the Andes in present-day Peru.
The first episode of “Native America” is scheduled to air on most PBS stations on Tuesday. Other episodes will air on following Tuesdays until November 13.
Episodes will be streamed for free for a limited time after airings.
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras
Two Native American geneticists interpret Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test
October 22, 2018
Authors: Krystal Tsosie, Ph.D. Student in Genomics and Health Disparities, Vanderbilt University; Matthew Anderson, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, The Ohio State University
Disclosure statement: Krystal Tsosie is affiliated with Vanderbilt University as a doctoral student completing a PhD in Genomics and Health Disparities. She is an enrolled member of the Diné (Navajo) Nation. Matthew Anderson is affiliated with The Ohio State University where he is an assistant professor. He is of Eastern Cherokee descent.
Partners: Vanderbilt University and The Ohio State University provide funding as founding partners of The Conversation US.
Dr. Carlos Bustamante, a prominent population geneticist, recently concluded that Senator Elizabeth Warren had “a Native American ancestor.” While geneticists agree on the validity of the test, which is based on established statistical models of DNA inheritance, we as two Native American geneticists find the interpretation to be problematic.
The reasons have to do with what we see as Warren’s motives, the genetic variants informing the comparison and overall concerns Native Americans have with genetic testing.
Because Bustamante used Indigenous individuals from Central and South America as a reference group to compare Warren’s DNA, we believe he should have stated only that Warren potentially had an “Indigenous” ancestor 6-10 generations ago, not conclusively a “Native American” one. The distinction might seem hypercritical to most, but to the sovereign tribal nations of the United States it’s an important one.
Our concern stems from the historical power imbalances around how genetic material has been collected.
Bustamante’s analysis utilized genetic data collected from Indigenous individuals as part of the 1000 Genomes Project. The project’s broad goal was to catalog genetic data from worldwide populations to advance knowledge of human diversity.
For Indigenous groups in the U.S. and globally, this approach has always been a concern. There is a cultural disconnect between Indigenous origin stories and the practice of tracing human origins through DNA.
Adding to this, earlier ventures of cataloging Indigenous genetic variants, such as the Human Genome Diversity Project and Genographic Project, were denounced by the United Nations and Indigenous nations worldwide for a lack of engagement and transparency. The control and collection of genomic information from marginalized Indigenous groups led to concerns that such information could be used for commercial gain and opened the projects to accusations of exploitation. A declaration in 2007 was passed calling for the cessation of genomic studies collecting Indigenous biomarkers.
While the 1000 Genomes Project learned from its predecessors and adopted more extensive consent procedures, it and other large-scale ancestry projects publicly disclose the genomic information they collect, which is meant to advance research. But Indigenous groups’ concerns about having commercial companies profit from their genetic material without their inclusion has endured. Data from the 1000 Genomes Project and Human Genome Diversity Project, for instance, are used to inform percent Native American ancestry estimates as advertised by direct-to-consumer tests 23andMe and AncestryDNA, the latter of which posted a billion dollars in revenue in 2017.
Because of this and other recent genetic controversies impacting Indigenous communities, Native Americans in the U.S. have been wary of participating in genomics research. Some tribes, like the Navajo Nation, have long-standing moratoriums on genetics research. As such, Native American individuals constitute the lowest ethnic or minority group recruited into genomic studies. (We point to an ethical framework for engaging Indigenous communities that can address these concerns, developed by Indigenous geneticists.)
Genetic testing principles
For these reasons, Bustamante could not use U.S. tribal groups in his analyses of Warren’s DNA. But how does this affect the interpretation?
These studies compare the genetic variants that an individual possesses to a reference group. In Bustamante’s analysis, he used 37 Indigenous individuals from Mexico, Peru and Colombia. Indigenous communities and nations across both continents exchanged goods, migrated and intermarried, and can be culturally linked. But considering that Indigenous peoples of Central and South American have important different population and genetic histories from tribes of the U.S., one can see that he utilized a proxy.
Importantly, most genetic tests sample only a subset of a person’s DNA at certain locations, or loci, on a person’s chromosomes. Often, a set of markers across a genomic region are passed onto progeny with other regions due to physical proximity on the DNA, although this is not the case for all parts of the genome. Statistics are then used to determine which loci are more likely to be co-inherited with others.
Although these tests utilize our best understandings of genetics and statistics, they are still predictions. And statements of statistical inferences should be in respect to the reference group sampled. So the conclusion, at its most conservative, is that Warren has a high statistical probability that her DNA points to an Indigenous ancestor.
Warren claimed that her DNA test result corroborates family lore of a certain Cherokee ancestor but genealogical records show “no proof” that her great-great-grandmother was part Cherokee. Thus, Warren has not demonstrated a direct lineal descent from an enrolled tribal member, a requirement for citizenship by all three of the federally recognized Cherokee tribes. Even further, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma denounced DNA tests as insufficient for determining lineage and “inappropriate.”
There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who self-identify as Cherokee or claim to have a Cherokee ancestor, and finding evidence can be difficult.
Determining which tribal census record – for instance, the Dawes Roll or 1924 Baker Roll used by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, respectively, for enrollment – requires specific knowledge of the ancestor in question. Even though the Dawes Roll has an extensive record of past enrollees, as Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma tribal member McKalee Steen told one of us (Tsosie), “there were a lot of people [who] were too afraid to sign it and now their descendants have no way of knowing or showing that they are a descendant of a tribal member.” These concerns lasted well into the mid-20th century in Oklahoma, where Sen. Warren was raised.
Throughout this, Warren has stated that she understands the “distinction between citizenship and ancestry” and she does not seek tribal enrollment in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. But even with the backlash by Native Americans, she still defends her decision to release her DNA test results. Her response, “I have an election,” and her immediate call to a bet with President Trump illuminates her political motives in trying to demonstrate a Native American ancestry.
Our concerns about DNA ancestry
From our perspective, Warren has taken a complex and harmful history of “Indian” blood quantification – a system we see as meant to dilute our existence – and reduced it to a political ploy. As such, we ultimately see the test is about her own political gain.
In fact, we wish to be excluded from any conversation that conflates DNA ancestry with Indigenous or Native American identity. And the distinction is an important one – “Native American” is not just an ethnic term but it is a cultural and political designation. Tribal sovereignty, the ability to self-govern, is constructed on a special nation-to-nation relationship with the federal government and requires the ability to determine citizenship. To have this biologically reified and reduced to biomarkers from a broad definition of Indigenous peoples that each have their own histories is to threaten the very sovereign status that enables Native American cultural and traditional ways of living.
Upcoming music performances at Otterbein University
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Youth Philharmonic of Central Ohio Presents its Fall 2018 Concert
Westerville, OH—The Youth Philharmonic of Central Ohio will present a Fall Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5, in the Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall, 30 S. Grove Street, on the campus of Otterbein University. This concert is free and open to the public.
The Youth Philharmonic of Central Ohio (YPCO) is an independent youth orchestra comprised of young musicians from throughout the central Ohio region. Formed in the year 2000, YPCO aspires to teach young musicians the repertoire and musicianship involved with performing in a Symphony Orchestra setting. The conductor of the group is Steven Wedell, a full-time violist with the Columbus Symphony and a member of the music faculty at Otterbein.
The Fall Concert will feature music by a wide range of composers. Music by Johannes Brahms, Franz Josef Haydn, Johann Strauss, Peter Tchaikovsky, and John Williams will provide a sample of the variety within the Symphony Orchestra repertoire. Background on each of the compositions will be provided from the stage by the musicians.
Membership in YPCO is by audition. The Orchestra presents two concerts per season and rehearses once a week.
More information about the Otterbein University Department of Music and its concert schedule can be found at http://www.otterbein.edu/music. For more information about this event, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/764981810528752/.
Department of Music
Otterbein University Flute Students to Perform Recital
Westerville, OH—The Otterbein Flute Studio will present an evening of French music at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 8, in Riley Auditorium at the Battelle Fine Arts Center, 170 W. Park Street. Eleven soloists will grace the stage and perform music from the French flute repertoire. Pianist Caroline B. Salido will accompany the musicians. The Otterbein Flute Ensemble will also perform. This event is free and open to the public.
More information about the Otterbein University Department of Music and its concert schedule can be found at http://www.otterbein.edu/music. For more information about this event, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/252407895423929/.
Otterbein Early Music Ensemble to Present “Mythology”
Westerville, OH—Various small ensembles within the Early Music Ensemble at Otterbein University will present a program of pieces related to mythology at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, in Riley Auditorium at the Battelle Fine Arts Center, 170 W. Park Street. This event is free and open to the public.
Ensembles included in this program are the Consort of Viols, Recorder Consort, a loud band of Shawm and Sackbuts, Madrigal Singers, and String Band. The opening scene of Matthew Locke’s Psyche will be performed. Join us for a concert of mythic proportions.
More information about the Otterbein University Department of Music and its concert schedule can be found at http://www.otterbein.edu/music. For more information about this event, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1129997983814254/.
Otterbein Percussion Ensemble to Perform “Rhythm in Riley III”
Westerville, OH—The Otterbein Percussion Ensemble will present “Rhythm in Riley III” at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in Riley Auditorium at the Battelle Fine Arts Center, 170 W. Park Street. This event is free and open to the public.
Under the direction of Michael Yonchak, the Percussion Ensemble will perform a wide range of contemporary works for percussion, with pieces written by Mark Ford, Emmanuel Séjourné, John Beck, Susan Powell, and more. More information about the Otterbein University Department of Music and its concert schedule can be found at http://www.otterbein.edu/music.
Otterbein Concert Choir to Perform in Westerville in Advance of Fall Tour
Westerville, OH—The Otterbein University Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Gayle Walker, will perform their Fall Tour Preview Concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18, at Westerville Community United Church of Christ, 770 County Line Road. The Ringers Bell Choir from the Church of the Messiah in Westerville will be special guests on the program. The concert on November 18 is free and open to the public.
The concert will feature holiday works that the choir will perform on its tour to Nashville this Dec. 7-11, including works by Kim André Arnesen and Eric Whitacre, as well as masterworks, arrangements of carols, and spirituals. While on tour they will perform in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Nashville.
The Otterbein Concert Choir is the most select of Otterbein University’s five vocal ensembles. The choir tours annually to destinations both domestic and abroad; recent itineraries have included Germany (2017) and Savannah, Georgia (2016). During the past 15 years they have performed at venues in Europe and Asia including the Cologne Cathedral, Beijing Conservatory, Notre Dame in Paris, St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, and St. Patrick’s in Dublin. The choir frequently performs at professional conferences, including the American Choral Directors Association Division Conference and the Ohio Music Education Association Conference.
How we solved an Arctic mercury mystery
October 18, 2018
Author: Feiyue Wang, Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba
Disclosure statement: Feiyue Wang receives funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, ArcticNet, the Canadian Arctic GEOTRACES program, and the Canada Research Chairs Program.
Partners: University of Manitoba provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation CA.
In the Canadian Arctic, a mystery has troubled scientists and local communities for decades: Why do marine animals in the western Arctic have higher mercury levels than those in the east?
The trend is seen throughout the food web, from the tiny zooplankton that drift along ocean currents to large mammals like polar bears.
It matters because mercury is a contaminant of global concern and communities in the North rely on the ocean for food. Mercury can cause reproductive problems in some animals, severe neurological damage in people and hamper the development of infants.
Earlier studies had tried to explain the east-west difference by looking at where the mercury that winds up in the ocean comes from. But our new study shows that the answer to this mystery lies in the ocean itself.
A delicate balance
In the Arctic, marine mammals such as polar bears, beluga whales and seals are an important part of the traditional subsistence hunt and the culture of northern Indigenous peoples.
With Arctic communities bearing the brunt of the impact of climate change and global industrialization, the high levels of contaminants, especially mercury, found in these animals — and in people — has received a lot of attention.
Frequently, northern Indigenous mothers and women of child-bearing age have blood mercury levels that exceed the safe limit. Maintaining the nutritional and cultural benefits of marine country food, such as seal and whale, while mitigating the potential health risks from mercury has become a major challenge to Indigenous peoples in the Arctic.
Sources or processes?
Prior research suggested that marine animals in the western Canadian Arctic contain more mercury because the region receives more mercury from a variety of sources, including atmospheric emissions from eastern Asia, river discharge from large watersheds such as the Mackenzie and coastal erosion and permafrost thawing.
However, the mercury from all these sources exists almost exclusively in its inorganic form, as mercury vapour and mercury that is bound to dust particles, for example.
Once it’s in the ocean, however, some inorganic mercury can be converted to an organic form, called methylmercury. Not only is methylmercury taken up more efficiently by plankton and other microorganisms, but it can build up, or bioaccumulate, in organisms as it moves along the food web through a process known as biomagnification. As it does, it tends to inflict more harm on predatory fish, birds and mammals.
For more than a decade, scientists have suspected that the most important factor controlling mercury levels in Arctic marine animals is not where the mercury comes from (sources), but, rather the conversion of inorganic mercury to methylmercury in the ocean (processes). Now we have the answer.
Profiling the ocean
During the summer of 2015, we joined an expedition to the Canadian Arctic led by ArcticNet, a Canadian research network dedicated to the study of the changing Arctic, in conjunction with the Canadian Arctic GEOTRACES program, to study the distribution patterns of mercury along with other trace elements.
We spent eight weeks living aboard an icebreaker, the CCGS Amundsen, where we analyzed seawater samples collected at various depths along a 5,200-kilometre transect that began in the Labrador Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean, transited through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and continued to the Beaufort Sea and the Canada Basin in the west.
Our results found that the concentrations of total mercury – inorganic mercury plus methylmercury – are generally lower in the western Canadian Arctic than in the east. This runs counter to mercury trends observed in marine animals.
Layers of understanding
Methylmercury, on the other hand, shows very revealing distribution patterns: its concentration is lowest at the sea surface, increases to a maximum at depths between 100 and 300 meters, and then decreases towards the bottom of the ocean.
This pattern, where an ocean layer below the surface is enriched with methylmercury, has been seen in other oceans. What makes our discovery different is that the “methylmercury-enriched layer” in the Arctic occurs at much shallower depths than elsewhere.
We also found that the peak concentration of methylmercury in the enriched layer in the Canadian Arctic is highest in the west and lowest in the east, mirroring the mercury trend in marine animals.
The shallowness of the methylmercury-enriched layer is important, as it lies within the habitat of zooplankton and other organisms near the bottom of the food web. This allows methylmercury to be readily taken up by these animals, and subsequently biomagnified in mammals.
So we think we have solved the mystery: the higher mercury levels in marine animals in the western Canadian Arctic are caused by higher methylmercury concentrations in shallow marine waters.
Long journey toward recovery
In 2017, the Minamata Convention on Mercury – a legally binding, global treaty that aims to reduce mercury in the environment – entered into force. Canada played an active role in the negotiations of the treaty and was among the first nations to ratify it.
Yet our study implies that it will take a long time for mercury levels in Canadian Arctic marine mammals to decrease, even if the convention is fully implemented. Recovery will depend very much on environmental and climatic processes such as those that convert inorganic mercury to methylmercury.
Policy-makers and northern Indigenous peoples should be prepared for the long-term need to balance the benefits and risks of the consumption of marine country food.
Nick Moony is a Friend of The Conversation logged in via LinkedIn: Feiyue Wang, Is it possible that this may be due to a lack of tannin in the in the western Arctic ??