The third chapter of Donald Yates’ history of the Cherokee (Old World Roots of the Cherokee, McFarland 2012) contains the genetic story of the Cherokee Indians based on DNA Consultants’ 2009 study “Anomalous Mitochondrial DNA in the Cherokee,” but it is no easy read, being written for an academic audience.
Earlier this year Yates published a condensation of his work in the series Cherokee Chapbooks, called Old Souls in a New World: The Secret History of the Cherokee Indians (Panther’s Lodge). This publication has no footnotes, bibliography or pictures; those must be sought in Old World Roots and scholarly articles Yates has written over the years. But the new chapbook is affordable, quick to read and no less groundbreaking and authentic in its research.
Here, from Old Souls in a New World, is the amazing story of Elvis Presley’s DNA, Indian traders and their Cherokee brides on the Southeastern frontier, haplogroup X, Egyptian T, Berber U, Jewish J and the personal stories of a selection from the fifty-two subjects who blew the lid off Native American studies with their proof of ancient Middle Eastern and Jewish lineages.
From Chapter 4, “DNA,” Old Souls in a New World: The Secret History of the Cherokee Indians, by Donald N. Panther-Yates (Cherokee Chapbooks 7; Phoenix: Panther’s Lodge, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-0615892337
History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.
Few people know it but Elvis Presley claimed to be Jewish and Cherokee. A DNA test run on a rare specimen of his in 2004 bore this out. Both of Elvis’ assertions were based on the ancestry of his mother, Gladys Love Smith. Growing up in Memphis, Elvis went to summer camp through the Jewish community center. When his mother died, he took care to have her grave marked with a Star of David (since removed). He studied Judaism increasingly in later years and to the end of his life wore a chai necklace, symbol of Jewish life. Published genealogies take Gladys’ strict maternal line back to great-great grandmother Nancy Burdine, a professed Jewess born in Kentucky, whose mother was White Dove, a reputed fullblood. Through his mother’s direct female line, Elvis was a Jewish Indian, an American Indian Jew.
Well, maybe not. Bracketing for the moment what makes one a Jew, we have to admit that American Indian identity is not so simple either. One factor weighing heavily in both claims, however, is DNA.
Paleo-American genetics is fraught with problems. According to a previous director of Tulane’s Middle American Research Institute, the field is a notorious “battleground of the theorists,” a controversial area “which has snared to their downfall not a few crackpots, mystics, ‘linguistic acrobats,’ racists and even ‘famous institutions’ . . . [including] of course the anthropological profession itself.” The DNA landscape is strewn with racist bombshells and political dynamite.
About twenty years ago, in a work as revered as it is unreadable, Italian-born geneticist Luca Luigi Cavalli-Sforza at Stanford University unveiled a tree of man based on an analysis of 120 markers from forty-two world populations. Looking solely at female lines, he posited two main limbs, African and non-African. The latter branched off into Europeans (Caucasians) and Northeast Asians (Siberians and Mongolians). Included in Northeast Asians were so-called Amerindians. Amerinds were closest in genetic distance to Northern Turkic, Chukchi and other Arctic peoples. They shared a number of genetic markers with their ancient neighbors, including a similar frequency of female lineages. These came to be labeled mitochondrial haplogroups A, B, C, and D.
Little did Cavalli-Sforza and his team expect to encounter any snags in their research, much less defunding by the U.S. Government and the United Nations, but this is exactly what happened. The genial professor received a letter from a Canadian human rights group called the Rural Advancement Foundation International. They demanded he stop his work immediately. They accused the Human Genome Diversity Project of biopiracy. The scientists were stealing DNA.
Ever since that slippery slope, geneticists have trodden warily around the issue of Native American demographics and genetics.
Theodore Schurr’s team in 1990 had matched “Amerindian” changes in mitochondrial DNA over the last 40,000 years with those of Mongolians and Siberians. The lines were indelibly drawn. The scientific community laid down the law that the earliest Native Americans come from four primary maternal lineages. Only female haplogroups A, B, C and D are true Native American types. A fifth lineage, haplogroup X, was admitted, provisionally, in 1997.
Elvis’s American Indian mitochondrial type is B. What account can we make of this haplogroup? Certain critics of the new axiom in American Indian genetics point out that B is not associated in high frequencies with Mongolian populations. Rather, it is Southeast Asian in origin—something borne out by the Elvis sample having also a rare Asian ethnic marker. B’s center of diffusion is Taiwan and it is common, even dominant, among Polynesians, the Hopi, and Pueblo Indians like the Jemez.
Geneticists base their conclusions about ancient migrations on comparisons with population data of living peoples as reported in anthropological and forensic publications. But these are assumptions, pure and simple. Is it certain that populations in places like Mongolia and Alaska in the past—especially far distant past—were the same as they are today? Numerous genetic types become extinct in the course of time. Bottlenecks and genetic drift distort a population’s structure and composition. Early migrants can be replaced through competition or changed by gene flow from later arrivals. Genotyping to determine a Y chromosome group from paternal pedigrees or the mitochondrial DNA passed to us by our mother, looks at but two lines out of thousands in one’s heritage. The current state of genomics cannot test ancestry that crosses from a male to female or vice versa. It cannot isolate the genetic contribution passed to you, say, by your mother’s father, or maternal grandfather. Most of our genetic history lies buried in non-sex-linked lines, the province of autosomal DNA.
Schurr’s doctrine of the four ancient founding mothers of Native Americans was based entirely on small Pima, Maya, Ticuna, Mexican and South American Indian samples. A study by D. C. Wallace and colleagues inferred an Asian correlation from evidence taken solely from Arizona’s tiny tribes of Pima and Papago Indians. This 1985 article was the source of untold mischief. Four female haplogroups were later “proved” to account for over 95 percent of all contemporary American Indian populations. Geneticists fell into lockstep to show that only a small number of founding mothers migrated from Asia into the New World. In 2004, despite a much shallower time-depth for calculating mutations, scientists decided that it had to be the same story for male founders. There was a single, recent entry of Native American Y chromosomes into the Americas.
The underlying logic goes like this: All our subjects tested out to be haplogroup A, B, C, D, E or X.
All our subjects were Indians because they were located on reservations.
Therefore, all Indians are haplogroup A, B, C, D, E or X.
It’s as though we claimed, “All men are two-legged creatures; therefore since the skeleton we dug up has two legs, it is human.” It might be a kangaroo.
About the time Rutgers professor Elizabeth Hirschman and I were concluding our study of Melungeon DNA, we decided to put together a small sample of Cherokee descendants who could trace their line back to the marriage of a Jewish merchant with the daughter of an Indian headman. Our object was to test the ethnicity of those Cherokee who blended with Melungeons. Those enrolled for the project had to be directly descended from a Cherokee woman strictly through the female line.
To our knowledge, our studies were the first to qualify participants on the basis of their family histories. Invariably, these mention Indian ancestry in the female line, usually Cherokee. Native American chiefs cemented trade agreements with intermarriage of their daughters and other female kinswomen. Early explorer John Lawson wrote about this custom in 1709:
The Indian Traders are those which travel and abide amongst the Indians for a long space of time; sometimes for a Year, two, or three. These Men have commonly their Indian Wives, whereby they soon learn the Indian Tongue, keep a Friendship with the Savages; and, besides the Satisfaction of a She-Bed-Fellow, they find these Indian Girls very serviceable to them, on Account of dressing their Victuals, and instructing ’em in the Affairs and Customs of the Country. Moreover, such a Man gets a great Trade with the Savages; for when a Person that lives amongst them, is reserv’d from the Conversation of their Women, ’tis impossible for him ever to accomplish his Designs amongst that People.
My forebear Isaac Cooper’s grandfather was the pioneer William Cooper. This son of a plantation owner was born on the James River about 1725 and became the guide and scout for Daniel Boone when the latter was hired by the firm of Cohen and Isaacs to survey lands eventually forming Kentucky and Tennessee. Cooper planted a corn crop in 1775 on the left bank of Otter Creek above Clover Bottom near Boonsboro. He was then employed by Richard Henderson to assist Boone in clearing the Wilderness Road. He died in 1781 in an Indian attack after helping the Cumberland settlers continue the road to what became Nashville, Tennessee.
Although the Coopers came from England in the seventeenth century and settled on the James River, their more distant origins were clearly Portuguese and Jewish. They were descended from Marannos, who became British citizens in the period of the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary immediately following Jews’ re-admittance into Britain. This path to Americanization is a staple feature of Cherokee genealogies.
Let us now turn to the female side of the project. Gayl Wilson traces her Wolf Clan line to Sarah Consene, a daughter of Young Dragging Canoe. She is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Her mitochondrial DNA haplogroup C proves to be one of the leading types among Cherokees. It is found sparsely in Mongolia and Siberia, and its frequency in North America is weighted toward the Northeast rather than Alaska and the Northwest, with a heavy incidence in the lower Appalachians. Wilson’s particular type of C matches nine individuals with Hispanic surnames, including Juan B. Madrid (Two Hearts), a California schoolteacher, and 26 anonymous samples from Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain and the U.S. This would appear to support the Mexican affinities of the Cherokee.
DNA that ended up being haplogroup B was contributed by a matrilineal descendant of Lucretia Parris, halfblood daughter of George Parris and granddaughter of early Cherokee Indian trader Richard Pearis, who died in the Bahamas, April 7, 1794. The Pearis or Parris family is the likely namesake of Parris Island in South Carolina. Their original name was perhaps Perez/Peres. They intermarried with the Dougherty and Cooper families.
U.S. federal Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins describes Cornelius Dougherty’s residence near the town of Quanasee and calls him “an old Irish trader.” He is said to have been 120 years old when he died in 1788. His original trading post was located at Seneca Old Town on the Keowee River, where William and Joseph Cooper were also situated since 1698. Cornelius’ father Alexander was a Jacobite who fled to America after the Glorious Revolution. According to Rogers and Rogers’ Cherokee history, it was Alexander who was probably the first white man to marry a Cherokee, in 1690. After 1719, Cornelius became a licensed trader out of Charleston, the British headquarters for the Indian trade, where brothers William and Joseph Cooper were commissioners, and married Ah-nee-wa-kee, a daughter of Chief Moytoy II, thus fulfilling the usual contract. She was of the Wild Potato Clan. Deerhead Cove beneath the brow of Fox Mountain in Dade County, Georgia and DeKalb County, Alabama, was named for her. The name of the mountain towering over Deerhead Cove honors Chief Black Fox, whose descendants on nearby Sand Mountain are multiply entwined with Doughertys.
Elvis’ form of B matches Chickasaws, Choctaws and Creeks. Altogether, lineage B accounts for one-half or more of Cherokee DNA and roughly a quarter of all Southeastern Indians. The Maya and Mixté in Mexico are about one-quarter B and one-half A with smaller degrees of C, D and other. The Pima are about half B, half C, with a negligible amount of A. The Boruca in Central America are as high as three-quarters B.
When first described, haplogroup B was believed to be part of a second wave of American Indian colonization from Asia dating to 15,000-12,000 years ago. This migration supposedly followed an earlier and larger influx of A. The highest frequencies of B are found along the eastern edge of China in the islands of Taiwan (34%) and the Philippines (40%). Today, it is more likely to be seen as the trail of early humans following the beachcomber route up through Japan and down the American coast.
Elvis Presley was born and grew up in Tupelo, on the edge of Chickasaw country. But his maternal ancestor Nancy Burdine came from Kentucky in Cherokee territory. His remote female ancestor could have been either Chickasaw or Cherokee. The Chickasaw and Cherokee had a common border just west of the site of Nashville along the Natchez Trace. They often exchanged female marriage partners in peace treaties and intertribal relations.
Two Cherokee female lines show a connection with the white man who founded the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Col. William Holland Thomas (1805-1893) occupies a special place in the history of the Eastern Band of Cherokee. He went to work at the age of twelve at the Walker trading post on Soco Creek and learned the Cherokee language as he bargained with the natives for ginseng and furs. Drowning Bear, chief of Quallatown, took a keen interest in him. When Drowning Bear learned that the boy had no father or brothers and sisters, he adopted him as a son. Will’s best friend was a Cherokee boy who taught him the ancient customs, lore and religious rites.
In 1867 Thomas’ health failed. The Civil War had ruined him. He eventually went into an insane asylum, where he died May 10, 1893. Without him, however, there would be no Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Col. Will Thomas was the only white chief of an Indian tribe.
While he was an apprentice for the Walkers, young Will fell in love with Catherine Hyde, a descendant of Betsy Walker, a Cherokee woman from Soco (One-Town). A direct maternal line descendant of Betsy Walker, Kimberly Hill, provided a sample of her mitochondrial DNA. It proved to be a specific type within haplogroup J. The same haplotype came to light in fellow project participant Sharon Bedzyk, a descendant of Ann Hyde, Catherine’s sister. A related haplotype was identified in a late-joining participant with ancestry traced to Myra Jarvis, a Melungeon woman born 1815 in Georgia.
Although Col. Will officially married Sarah Jane Burney Love late in life in 1857, he had several paramours. In addition to Catherine Hyde, one of them was the Polly after whom the Qualla Reservation was named. She bore him Demarius Angeline in 1827. Note that Demarius is a favorite name of Crypto-Jews. It is derived from Tamar, Hebrew for “date palm.” Here again our project was fortunate. Thanks to the Indian grapevine, a direct female-line descendant of Demarius Angeline Sherrill, nee Thomas, responded to the call. “We were most surprised to learn our Angeline came from the X lineage,” said James Riddle. He is literally the last of the line. Since he is male, Angeline’s lineage would die out with him. It is an apt illustration of the fragility of haplogroups.
Haplogroup X was first detected in North America over a decade ago. It was added to Native American lineages A, B, C and D only reluctantly. Its discovery opened the door for more minor founding mothers at the same time that it created a strong incentive among die-hard believers in existing dogma to prove it was Siberian. What is different about haplogroup X is the suspicion it might be an ancient link between Europe and North America. Some view it as a founding lineage that directly crossed the Atlantic Ocean, perhaps with the elusive Red Paint Culture. The detection of X in our study represents the first report of it among the Cherokee. Previously, it was identified only in certain northern tribes.
We have seven instances of haplogroup X. In the case of Annie L. Garrett, born 1846 in Mississippi, descendant Betty Sue Satterfield vouches for their being a tradition in the family she was Cherokee.
Michelle Baugh of Hazel Green, Alabama, traces her Cherokee female line to Agnes Weldy, born about 1707. Descendants include enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Seyinus, a Cherokee woman born on or near the Qualla Boundary in North Carolina in 1862, is the source of a similar X lineage.
Another is the sample taken from Billy Sinor, the son of Gladys Lulu Sutton, born in Indian Territory in 1906. His mother’s birth certificate lists her as “Cherokee Indian.“
My own maternal line goes back to a Cherokee woman in northern Georgia or North Carolina who had children by a trader named Jordan. He can be identified as Enoch Jordan. Trader Jordan was born about 1768 in Scotland of ancestry from Russia or the Ukraine. His Cherokee wife, my 5th great-grandmother, proves to be haplogroup U2, but a form of it with no exact matches in any databases. Given origins in Russia or the Ukraine, and an intervening generation in Scotland, Trader Jordan himself was almost certainly Jewish. The Y chromosome type of his descendants belongs to male haplogroup J, a paternal lineage that contains the genetic signature of Old Testament priests. Here is evidently another case of a Jewish trader marrying a Cherokee woman. But how to explain the Cherokee wife’s Old World haplogroup of U?
Haplogroup U is associated with Berbers and Egyptians as well as other early Mediterranean peoples. Professor Brian Sykes in The Seven Daughters of Eve places the Ur-mother Ursula he created for his bestseller in prehistoric Greece. The resemblance of members of my mother Bessie Cooper Yates’ family, who claimed to be Cherokee through the female line, to a modern-day Cyrenaic woman in the Alinari photo archives seems striking and undeniable.
In our study, U covers 13 cases or 25% of the total, second in frequency only to haplogroup T. Who are these Mediterranean descendants among the Cherokee?
One is Mary M. Garrabrant-Brower. Her great-grandmother was Clarissa Green of the Cherokee Wolf Clan, born 1846. This Wolf Clan woman’s grandfather was remembered as a Cherokee chief, as is consistent with the traditional nature of the Wolf Clan. Mary’s mother Mary M. Lounsbury maintained the Cherokee language and rituals, even though the family relocated to the Northeast.
A Scottsdale, Arizona doctor in our study, another U, matches only one other person in the world, Marie Eastman, born 1901 in Indian Territory. His own descent is documented from Jane Rose, a member of the Eastern Cherokee Band. Her family is listed on the Baker Rolls, the final arbiter of enrollment established by the U.S. government.
My wife, Teresa Panther-Yates, proves to have mtDNA that can also be designated U, the most common “European” subgroup according to genetics journals. It has no exact matches anywhere; it is unique in the world. Teresa traces her maternal line back to Hancock County, Georgia. Her female ancestor died about 1838, at the time of the Trail of Tears. There is a tradition in her family that this line was Cherokee.
One participant who learned of her U lineage in the study says that her line goes back to Ann Dreaweah, a Cherokee woman married to a half blood Cherokee man.
Another instance of U has no close matches at all but appears to have a Cherokee form of it. He was adopted in Oklahoma and knows nothing of his mother’s ancestry.
Gerald Potterf, another U, traces his mother’s line to Lillie C. Wilson-Field, born in 1857, Catawba County, North Carolina. He believes she was probably Cherokee.
In all instances of U where there are Melungeon, Cherokee and Jewish connections in the genealogy, the most frequent clan mentioned is Paint Clan.
It was the T’s, however, that blew the lid off Cherokee DNA studies. Haplogroup T emerges as the largest lineage, followed by U, X, J and H. Similar proportions of these haplogroups are noted in the populations of Egypt, Israel and other parts of the East Mediterranean.
Maternal lineage T arose in Mesopotamia approximately 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. It spread northward through the Caucasus and west from Anatolia into Europe. It shares a common source with haplogroup J in the parent haplogroup JT. Ancient people bearing haplogroup T and J are viewed by geneticists as some of the first farmers, introducing agriculture to Europe with the Neolithic Revolution. Europe’s previous genetic substrate emphasized older haplogroups U and N. The T lineage includes about ten percent of modern Europeans. The closer one goes to its origin in the Fertile Crescent the more prevalent it is.
All T’s in the Cherokee project are unmatched in Old World populations. They do, however, in some cases, match each other. Such kinship indicates we are looking at members of the same definite group, with the same set of clan mothers as their ancestors.
One T in the study fully matched four other people in the Mitosearch database, all born in the United States. One of these listed their ancestor as being Birdie Burns, born 1889 in Arkansas, the daughter of Alice Cook, a Cherokee.
Gail Lynn Dean is the wife of another participant. Both she and her husband claim Cherokee ancestries.
Linda Burckhalter is the great-great-granddaughter of Sully Firebush, the daughter of a Cherokee chief. Sully married Solomon Sutton, stowaway son of a London merchant, in what would seem to be a variation of “Jewish trader marries chief’s daughter.”
At twenty-seven percent, T types make up the leading anomalous haplogroup not corresponding to the types A, B, C, or D. Several of them evidently stem from the same Cherokee family or clan, although they have been scattered from their original home by historical circumstances. Such consistency in the findings reinforces the conclusion that this is an accurate cross-section of a population, not a random collection of DNA test subjects. No such mix could result from post-1492 European gene flow into the Cherokee Nation. To dismiss the evidence as admixture would entail assuming that there was a large influx of Middle Eastern-born women selectively marrying Cherokee men in historical times, something not even faintly suggested by the facts. Mitochondrial DNA can only come from mothers; it cannot be brought into the country by men.
If not from Siberia, Mongolia or Asia, where do our anomalous, non-Amerindian-appearing lineages come from? The comparative incidence of haplogroup T in the Cherokee mirrors the percentage for Egypt, one of the only countries where T attains a major showing among the other types. In Egypt, T is three times the frequency it is in Europe. Haplogroup U in our sample is about the same as the Middle East in general. Its frequency is similar to that of Turkey and Greece.
Far and away, however, the most explosive evidence revolves around haplogroup X, the third largest haplogroup. The only other place on earth where X is found at such a prodigious frequency is in the Druze, a people who have dwelt for thousands of years in the Hills of Galilee in northern Israel and Lebanon. The work of Liran I. Shlush in 2009 proves that the Druze, because of the high concentration as well as diversity of haplotypes, is the worldwide source and center of diffusion for X.
As a special treat for the customers whose names and stories may be mentioned in it from the original study, this chapter in the superb narration by Mohawk-Italian New York-based voice actor Rich Crankshaw is presented here in its entirety from the audiobook version! Give it a listen!
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