Best Native American DNA Test (2024)
Updated on March 18, 2024
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Best Native American DNA Test (2024)

Many people are curious whether or not they have Native American ancestry and wonder if DNA testing will be able to tell them. But what does DNA testing really say?

This blog post explores the history of DNA testing, how it works, and whether or not you can learn more about any Native American heritage you may have through a DNA test.

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Can a DNA Test Help You Determine if You Have Native American Ancestry?

Yes. DNA test kits reveal your ethnic lineage, so you’ll be able to determine where your relatives came from. Many family trees house different origins, and Native American ancestry may just be in your genes. 

Despite the benefits of DNA testing for Native American heritage, there are a few flaws in at-home test kits for this purpose.

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Source: 123rf

At-home kits are basic and provide an estimation of your DNA makeup. They are also based on modern populations or are mapped by regions. The better a testing company’s database, the more thorough the results, which means not everyone is going to get a complete look into their heritage from their DNA sample. 

Therefore, if the test you take has a smaller database that doesn’t necessarily have a good representation when it comes to Native American DNA, you may have a more difficult time finding answers.

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At-Home DNA Testing is a Crowd-Sourcing Effort

DNA test kits rely on people to participate. If they are unable to grow their database or a certain heritage refuses to participate, it’s incomplete data. 

Additionally, who is or is not a Native American based on the criteria of each tribe also varies widely. There are more than 550 federally recognized Native American tribes, and each has specific guidelines for determining tribal membership.

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Source: 123rf

Most tribes do not require DNA testing for membership and rely solely on paternity and familial connections of the last four to five generations. This makes it difficult to track heritage genetically. 

Some tribes even prohibit DNA testing of members. This has limited the Native American information in databases, and it’s more difficult to establish connections with your ethnic heritage. 

Although some tribes are interested in exploring the use of DNA for tribal enrollment, to date, science can’t come up with a genetic signature for this purpose.

Summary

At-home DNA tests can help you determine whether or not you have Native American ancestry by tracing your lineage.

They aren’t perfect, however, as they have their own limitations. Database-wise, information is pretty scarce if a DNA testing company just doesn’t have enough people of a certain demographic. Still, it’s a good way to learn more about yourself and your roots, and it’s not a total impossibility to determine Native American ancestry.

Should You Use DNA Testing to Establish Native American Heritage?

The simplest answer to this is that it’s likely impossible to do so. Add to that the fact that it isn’t worth trying for most people.

Most people connect to their tribes through tangible family heritage. They might have even moved on from their tribal reservation, but they still have a connection to it through their spirit stronger than their blood connection. 

The only reason for establishing a genetic connection to a tribe would be to satisfy your curiosity. It’s interesting to understand your genetic roots, and if that helps you feel more grounded, it won’t hurt to know more. “Being” Native American has more to do with experience and community relationships rather than origins and blood, especially if you haven’t practiced the traditions before.1

Because of this, a tribal council will decide whether or not you share in their heritage, not a DNA test.2 Test results will not automatically make you part of a tribe, even if it shows that you have some indigenous blood.3

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DNA Tests Might Be a Great Way to Learn about Native American Ancestry for Some People

Some people consider DNA testing for Native American ancestry something of a novelty, but it does offer more than that.

Just as learning you have ancestors from Italy, Africa, China, or anywhere else in the world, knowing that you have Native American DNA is interesting. It can also help you identify health risks and understand things about yourself better. 

It’s highly unlikely genetic testing will reveal anything that will be recognized by a tribal council. That doesn’t mean knowing your heritage isn’t an important endeavor.

Connecting to your Native American roots through your DNA allows you to explore your history and learn more about your family. And something like that is never a wasted effort. 

Summary

Satisfying your personal curiosity about whether or not you have Native American ancestry is never a superficial reason to seek out DNA testing. Who knows, it may even help you figure out any genetic predispositions or congenital disorders that people from a certain lineage often suffer from.

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Updated on March 18, 2024
Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad
Content Contributor
Angela is a full-time digital content manager and editor for Know Your DNA. She also contributes freelance articles to several local and international websites when she has the time. She's always been a voracious believer in finding the truth and ensuring the science is sound.