Genomic Research in Indian Country: The New Road to Termination?

43 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2013 Last revised: 8 Nov 2014

Date Written: March 25, 2014


Genomic science has generated controversy in the social, legal, and ethical arenas for decades, and indigenous populations continue to be a subject of great interest in this area. This article looks at the recent concept of population genomics, a biotechnology used to help scientists understand how genetic variation relates to human health and evolutionary history. Parts II and III examine the debate among scientists as to the migration of the “first Americans” into North America, a debate that is quickly being influenced by the DNA markers found in the human genome. Part IV surveys the history of scientific research involving indigenous peoples – a history predominantly colored by ignorance and bias – as science was presented as conclusive proof of their savage nature and inferiority as a race. Scientists today proffer evidence that the ancestors of Native Americans were, in reality, colonists who immigrated from Africa, Europe, and/or Asia, and Part V analyzes a number of indicators that point to the possibility of genomic research providing justification for another termination of the special status and rights of Native Americans. Part VI looks at a number of tools that tribes may wish to consider using to help protect the genetic information of their members as they are faced with the seemingly endless need of researchers for Native American DNA. The article concludes that while suppositions of geneticists are in actuality just theories of historic migration, these theories have gained acceptance as fact in mainstream society. Given current indicators, Congress and/or the courts may very well use genomic science to justify another termination of the federal/tribal trust relationship.

Keywords: population genetics, genomic science, DNA, genetic research, biocolonialism, Indian, tribe, tribal, American Indian, Native American, termination, Indigenous, Indigenous peoples

Suggested Citation

Sanders, Marren, Genomic Research in Indian Country: The New Road to Termination? (March 25, 2014). 39 Okla. City U. L. Rev. 1 (2014), Available at SSRN: or

Marren Sanders (Contact Author)

Arizona Summit Law School ( email )

One North Central Ave.
14th Floor
Phoenix, AZ 85004-4414
United States

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