However in this case we are not talking about the fictional characters of James Fenimore Cooper’s historical novel, The last of the Mohican’s, but about the real native Americans. (Quite possibly even the Mahican, the tribe Cooper confused with Mohegan, who supposedly lived in New York next to the Hudson River. New research shows that there is a direct genetic link between the remains of Native Americans, who wondered around thousands of years ago, and their living descendants.
This direct genetic link was found in mitochondrial DNA. (This DNA is inherited by children from their mothers.) Using this mitochondrial material the researchers were able to track three maternal lineages from ancient times to 2013. Therefore proving that quite possibly ‘The Last of the Mohicans,’ still lives.
Barbara Petzelt, an author and participant in the study and liaison to the Tsimshian-speaking Metlakatla community, one of the First Nations groups that participated in the study, explained: “Having a DNA link showing direct maternal ancestry dating back at least 5,000 years is huge as far as helping the Metlakatla prove that this territory was theirs over the millennia.”
Professor Ripan Malhi, who led the research said that it shows that: “This is the beginning of the golden era for ancient DNA research because we can do so much now that we couldn’t do a few years ago because of advances in sequencing technologies, we’re just starting to get an idea of the mitogenomic diversity in the Americas, in the living individuals as well as the ancient individuals.” He added: “There’s a pattern of European males mixing with Native American females after European contact and so lots of the Y chromosomes in the community trace back to Europe.” Wouldn’t that be fun, if the original Mohicans were indeed European? (Or Mahican, to avoid confusion.) That the last one didn’t die but lives on, thousands of years later?
Scientists, David Archer, an anthropology professor at Northwest Community College in Prince Rupert, commented: “Archaeology is one important source of information about the past, and oral traditions give us a lot of verifiable information about the past cultural events and patterns,” he said. “But the genetic information is something that is immediately recognizable. If somebody is told that their DNA links to somebody who was present 2,500 years ago and also to someone who was present 5,500 years ago, you can summarize that in a sentence and it’s very easily understood and it’s exciting.”
It definitely is exciting that research shows that some form of the last of the Mohicans continued and still lives. (Of course as mentioned before the Mohicans weren’t a real tribe but the tribes that helped the researchers in this study most definitely are real.) It means that we are able to use genealogical searches for our own relatives. Maybe we will find out that we are all linked together and one big family after all. (Just like Trinh Xuan Thuan, astrophysicist said: “This is always connected to that; everything is connected to everything else. You never live by yourself. You live always within a family, society or culture. You constantly interact with other people all the time. So our happiness depends on their happiness as well. How can we be happy if we are the only one happy on just an island of happiness within an ocean of misery? Of course that’s not possible.”
Would you like to find out to whom you are connected? Where your roots are? Let us know in the comments.
By Georgina Pijttersen