Taíno Symposium – Session 2 – Audience Questions


So initially I said I was going to lead some questions. That was a lie, because clearly my colleagues have shown how conversant they are with one another in their talk that I let go on too long because they were so engaging. And so now we want to hear what questions you have, ’cause I’m sure you’re just overwhelmed with so many thoughts. So we have microphones at either ends down here. If you cannot come down to them, one of my colleagues Adrián or Ranald can bring them up to you. So I believe we have about 15 minutes for questions before we get to a real break at 3:30. All right, I see. He can start. And I’ll remind folks since we have a lot of questions, keep your questions short and sweet, please. Yes Hello, hello. Thank you. Could you all briefly talk personally how this has made you think about your own, how you identify, after doing all this research and being scholars, but how do you as a person in the world now, see your own identities? I was born in a country that doesn’t exist anymore, but I guess what the research has told me about my own identity, so yeah, I was born in East Berlin, just to clarify that, East Germany. Also I guess I feel European to some extent, but like what has, this research has told me is that we’re all interconnected in some way, through migrations and through our history. So yeah, I don’t put a label on myself. That’s just me. I celebrate my three components: African, Spanish, and Taíno. But I highlight my Taíno, especially in the community, so I celebrate all of them. So as I was coming through graduate school, I tried out all those analyses, tried them out on myself, and it was exactly what my father told me, so not a big surprise, but it was still so fun nonetheless. Thank you all for being here and for your work. I actually found out about this event through my mother, who always said that she, when she was a university student, a professor, hematologist, hematologist, I guess geneticist, took photos of her because she had a Taíno profile. So when we found out about this event, trying to find out if that research ever went anywhere, she was like well if you go to the museum, let me know if you see any pictures that maybe look like me. We found out that the, we think the doctor’s name is Norman De Castro, and I was wondering for a civilian like me, and I’m sure a lot of people here who are interested in their past, where would you go or where would you suggest that you go to find information about your ancestry and these, like we were saying in earlier sessions, records aren’t necessarily kept, if someone’s work, their research didn’t make it into like a peer-reviewed paper? Like, what could you do to try and kind of locate that information? My initial reaction is go ask your… Yeah. Go ask your family. If that information isn’t there, perhaps there are scholars that might know. The Internet is full of all kinds of crazy things, so be very careful on that. And ideally if there are records or archives you are willing to go through, a lot of this actually is on the Internet, you can sit down and look at it. You’re a young person; I don’t want to be rude or anything. But there’s also books. Young folks like everything to be digital. But if it’s unpublished work, do you think that would’ve made it anywhere? Sometimes you can find them in archives. Like I, recently looking at my own family history, there were slave registration records of the English-speaking islands. The censuses were taken at the turn of, like early 1800s. It’s online now. That wasn’t online ten years ago. So sitting down and sorting through that, which previously was unpublished, s o there’s a lot of sources out there. You could try and shoot emails to people. There are a variety of, they’re citizen scientists. So laypeople that do genetic genealogy and are very well-versed in the science as well as genealogical research. And there’s organizations, you can actually look them up online and maybe contact them, and they can orient you, given your own family history as to what you want to do. I might just add in this context there are of course, are lots of companies out there that will sell you a genetic test for $100 or more to tell you who you are, and I would just encourage you to be cautious about taking what they say, just because it’s their interest to provide more certainty than perhaps really exist in these data, and there are lots of limitations that we could talk about for a long time to the data sets and the way they make those inferences. And so that’s just something to approach with caution. Thank you again. First off, welcome, and secondly, go Pirates. My question is, I have a history in both genetics and bioinformatics, and I wanted to get more involved, both understanding my culture and also the genetic aspect of it. And I was wondering if you guys could steer me in any sort of direction maybe. We can talk after. What… So one plug that Deborah and I can also give is we’re involved in the summer internship for Indigenous peoples in genomics that’s been going on here in the US for six workshops, as had started in SING Aotearoa in 2016, and we just started in Canada this last summer. And so that’s, especially the US-based one, which is focused on ancestry, is a good way to connect with scientists and other Indigenous peoples that are interested in genetics. Thank you. Just two quick things. My question is what sets apart contemporary DNA with ancient DNA, and how does autosomal DNA research play into it? Great questions. Yeah, great questions. So the term ancient is a little bit arbitrary. It kind of conjures up like deep time. But really, it’s more to do with the fact that it tends to be degraded, and so once an organism dies, the repair mechanisms stop, and so the DNA tends to degrade, and up to a point where there might not be anything left. And so we call ancient DNA really anything that’s degraded and therefore hard to work with. And modern DNA from modern, DNA from modern populations. How does autosomal DNA play into it? Well I mean I guess very simply, Jada was talking about these uni-parental markers. Mitochondrial DNA, you can look at the material line, or Y chromosome being the corresponding marker for the man line. Autosomal being then nuclear DNA, so all your ancestry, the rest of the chromosomes that are showed, basically. And it tends to, mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA were used extensively and are very informative because you don’t have to bother with things like recombination and things that complicate things a lot, so they’re good population genetic markers. But they have some limitations. And so if you look at genome-wide, like a full genome, you have a lot more power, a lot more data to work with, and you can draw other types of inferences. That’s what I’d say… Ancestry will also give you some windows into broader ancestry, not just, a bigger fraction of your ancestors. Hi, thank you for coming and being here, it’s very interesting. I’m a Cuba-Rican, and I’ve had my DNA taken. And we were surprised by quite a few things. We were surprised about the A2 haplotype that we were Native American. It doesn’t really say Taíno or anything. We were surprised by, also that Ashkenazi Jewish, and then I found out that there are a lot of people from Puerto Rico especially that have, and my grandmother wore white and killed chickens, she was santera, so I don’t know. We never celebrated the Jewish parts. I don’t know how that came to be in our DNA. And is that common in Caribbean DNA? Maybe not necessarily Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, but ancestry from different parts of Europe that you might not expect. But it’s a religion, so how has that become part of, DNA is religion. They don’t have… So I think this comes back to some of these questions about labels and what names we put on DNA, that label that someone has told you this is Ashkenazi Jewish DNA is not at all necessarily connected to religious practice, religious beliefs. It’s simply that they identified some of those stretches of DNA that come from your body also being in individuals who identify as Ashkenazi Jewish today. So what they’re really identifying is that there are, you have relatives somewhere in the world who identify in that way and share related DNA with you. Whether that means that your shared ancestors identified as Ashkenazi Jews may or may not be the case. We don’t necessarily know. And I think the other thing to keep in mind here is that our own identities, our own religious beliefs, may or may not map onto the DNA in our bodies, that identities are something that are very complicated, religious beliefs are very complicated, and that may not be tied to that genetic material. ‘Cause the family history does speak about having Jewish ancestry in Spain that came to the New World, because of the Inquisition. Yes. So I was wondering if that played a part, – -. That very well, that’s where I think it’s really important as we look at these kinds of genetic information to contextualize that with what we know about our family history as to what we know from other sources of information. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we have time for one more question. So much pressure. We’ll still be around. Hi everybody, my name is Rebecca Gitana-Torres, and I’m a child of Borinquen, manifested in Brooklyn, New York City. My question is really I think maybe a question, but also something for, maybe many of us have been thinking about, particularly women or people who are looking to create families and thinking about the “genetic preservation.” Many cultures across the globe have done so, been very like particular about creating these bloodlines. What can be said about those of us from the Caribbean who may feel very strongly about wanting to further our genetic history, cultural history, because it is all, even spiritual history, and how that can even translate, I feel, and many people might feel through what we passed onto our children genetic-wise and other. I guess for me I would say that when I think about our identities, our cultural, that those are things that are not simply rooted in our DNA, and so regardless of who you marry and reproduce with, whether or not marriage is involved there, whatever that genetic material looks like, that heritage, that identity, that’s going to come from who you are, what you do, how you relate to others, the communities, and sets of people that you connect with. That’s not simply, that’s not going to come from simply having DNA. But I want to thank you all for your interest, for your very brilliant questions that we can of course continue to engage with via email, via conversation outside of here, but we need a 15-minute break, people. So, a big thank you, thank you. Let’s give our panelists another round of applause, thank you so much.