Learning from the past, looking to the future

  • Thursday, September 10, 2015 4:48pm
  • Opinion

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe recently made a decision about its past that could have far-reaching impacts in its members’ future.

Following the return of remains under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the tribe has decided to allow DNA from the remains to be tested. The hope is that the analysis will offer some insight into the health of current and future members of the tribe.

Sasha Lindgren, the tribe’s former Director of Tribal Government Affairs, told the Clarion that the tribe has a high incidence of arthritis and diabetes. Clues found in the DNA of tribal ancestors may help explain those health issues and others.

“They did it out of respect for the past, and care and concern for the future,” said Lindgren of the tribal elders’ feeling that scientific study would be beneficial.

The decision to make remains available for DNA testing certainly was not one taken lightly, and we commend the tribe for the careful consideration it put into making it. Alan Boraas, a longtime professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College who has worked with the tribe, said that ensuring that remain are respected is of utmost importance, and that had the tribe decided that its ancestors should not be studied, those wishes would be respected.

We hope that scientific study will yield beneficial results. Knowing more about the past — both culturally and genetically — can certainly be of benefit when we try to think about the future.

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