A Comprehensive Look at  DNA  and the Book of Mormon
    A counter claim to anti-Mormon antagonists who find no DNA evidence to support the validity of the Book of Mormon and its claim that the Hebrew colonists, Lehi, and later, Mulek, were led to the promised land by the hand of the Lord just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.
 

 
    During the time I was busy doing research for my newest work, The Lost Empires of the Book of Mormon, it appears a controversy was brewing over the issue of DNA and the Book of Mormon. As I began to research the matter, I was amazed at the great lengths anti-Mormon antagonists went to discredit any claims of a DNA link between the people in Mesoamerica, where some theorists place Book of Mormon territory, and the Hebrew descendants of those described in the Book of Mormon. Finding no DNA evidence linking ancient Mesoamericans to the Near East, the place of origin for both the colonies of Lehi and Mulek, left these antagonists strangely invigorated in supposing they had discredited the Book of Mormon as a second witness for Christ once and for all. Yet, had they looked further northward in the regions of New York's Hill Cumorah, their efforts to discredit the authenticity of the Book of Mormon would have been in vain, for far too much evidence, including DNA markers, tie the Indians of the Northeastern United States with the Middle East and Israel.

    While I admit to being neither a scholar nor a geneticist, in researching papers already presented on the subject, I discovered that Native American DNA generally falls within four haplogroups A, B, C, and D. Three of the four haplogroups, A, C. and D are found primarily in Asia. The B haplogroup is found chiefly in southeast Asia, China, Japan, Melanesia, and Polynesia. Thus, it was determined that groups A, C, and D must have entered America from Siberia across the Bering Straits during the Ice Age when an ice bridge successfully connected North America and Asia. The people carrying the B haplogroup are thought to have arrived by boat from the South Pacific or Japan.

   With no new evidence to suggest otherwise, the theory that America was peopled primarily from migrating tribes from Asia was perpetuated throughout the generations until just recently when a rare genetic DNA link called haplogroup X, which is found primarily in Europe, was discovered among the North American tribes. While Native American haplogroup X is somewhat distinct from the X marker in Europeans, it has proven to be distantly related, thereby setting it apart as a founding marker for certain Native American tribes during the very early beginnings of its expansion and spread from the Near East. [1] In light of such an important discovery, researchers have begun to rethink their earlier ideas on the peopling of the Americas, with new theories now having some of the Native Americans arriving via an Atlantic crossing rather than a Pacific.

   As more study was done of the X haplogroup, it was discovered that it mutated as people began to migrate out from the Near East, with the X1 found primarily among those who moved into North and East Africa, and the X2 among those who remained in Near East where it ultimately weakened and disappeared through genetic drift and during the Jewish Diaspora. Yet, interestingly, even after the scattering of so many Jews to the four corners of the world, the Druze living in Israel and Lebanon, a monotheistic people who remained a separate and distinct population and rarely married outside their clan, retained 26% of the original X2 in their populations. While haplogroup X is found in low frequencies throughout the world today, 26 % of a population carrying a haplogroup is rather high considering the admixture of other tribes into any given race over the years. Thus, Dan Mishmar, a genetics researcher at Ben-Gurion University, believed the Druze populations provided a rare "glimpse into the past genetic landscape of the Near East at a time when the X haplogroup was more prevalent." [2]

    Now, after the collapse of Israel's northern and southern kingdoms, the original X founding marker ultimately spread westward across Europe where it can still be found in some places in rather high frequencies. Crossing over to America, the X haplogroup shows up in frequencies as high as 10-40% in several modern Algonquins tribes, particularly the Ojibway. It is as high as 15% among the Iroquois and Sioux. The Nuu-Chah-Nulth in the northwest carry the marker at a frequency of 11-13 %, the Navajo in northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico at 7%, while the Yakima of Washington carry it at frequencies of 5%. Interestingly, the remains of Washington's "Kennewick Man" exhibits evidence of the X mtDNA haplogroup.

    The X haplogroup has not as yet been found among the Southern and Central American tribes, including the Maya. In fact, it is the complete absence of this haplogroup in Mesoamerica, where a popular theory exists which places Book of Mormon territory in that area, which set in motion the firestorm which anti-Mormon antagonist began in their determination to discredit the Book of Mormon. Yet, with the constant movement of people in all directions we can suppose pockets of the X haplogroup will one day be found in those regions as well, just as the Hebrew DNA associated with the Cohen Modal haplotype did in Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia, for the people in Judah' southern kingdom were scattering to every corner of the world, not just the two small colonies of Lehi and Mulek. But, the high frequency of haplogroup X found among the northeastern tribes who surround New York's Hill Cumorah remains a significant source of evidence for the presence of the Nephites and their various branches in the promised land of America.

    As researchers noted that X haplogroup diminished in frequency the further west it moved from the founding tribes in the northeast, they began to entertain the possibility of an Atlantic crossing for the early Native Americans rather than a Pacific. Such a radical change initially took the wind out of the sail of anti-Mormon antagonists in their on-going efforts to discredit the validity of the Book of Mormon. But, not for long, for winds picked up again in 2001 when a study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics noted that haplogroup X had been discovered among a small group of people living in the Gobi Desert in southern Siberia. Such a discovery provided them all the ammunition they thought they needed to continue their earlier claims that all Native Americans came from Asia, not from the Near East as was recently suggested. Even researchers began to wonder if they had been premature in giving scientific credence to a possible European source for the haplogroup X found in certain Native American populations. Continuing research finally resolved the matter in 2003 when, after an extensive study of the matter, it was discovered that the X haplogroup found in Siberia was an admixture from relatively recent gene flow from Europe or West Asia.[3] But of added importance, researchers were more convinced than ever that the Near East was the geographical place of origin for the haplogroup X,[4] a place which incorporates the Palestinian territories, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus, and ISRAEL—right where the Book of Mormon places the colonies of Lehi and Mulek before their migration to the promised land.

    Other interesting facts were also discovered. For instance, after analysis dating material they discovered that two separate diffusions of the X haplogroup entered North America, one during pre-glacial times, and one after. [5] While the time-line currently in vogue among geologists is hopelessly at odds with the Biblical time-line, we can reconcile one diffusion of people carrying the X marker into America with the Jaredites who arrived from the regions north of Babylon, and the other with the Nephites who arrived from Jerusalem.

    In light of so much evidence of a Hebrew presence in America, and notwithstanding many of the western tribes have roots with ties to Asia, it can no longer be doubted that many Native American tribes have ties which link them to the Near East as well, and thus, Jerusalem—just as the Book of Mormon claims. Even so, what would be more reasonable than to suppose both the people in Asia and those in America moved back and forth in both directions over the years? Just such a scenario was discovered during a research study of a particular Y chromosome which was noted in many of the natives of North, Central, and South America, but totally absent in nearly 1000 Asians from 17 populations in Siberia. Thus, researchers concluded that the gene flow must have arrived in Siberia from migrating males from North America rather than the other way around.[6]

    Even the eastern Algonquians have traditions of moving west across the land from time to time. For instance the Lenni Lenape branch of the family reveal that at some remote time in history they migrated westward to a land of ice and snow somewhere in the far northwest. David McCutchen, who translated their records, claims the lands they describe suggests they may have crossed over to Siberia before returning to the land of their fathers in a migration which they claim took over nine hundred years. That history was recorded in picture writing and subsequently translated into what has been called the "Red Record," or the Wallam Olum.

    The Sauk (Sac) branch of the family also have a tradition of a westward migration, claiming that long ago, when their numbers were much greater, they traveled across the Bering Strait to conquer China. Dr. J. E. Price claims Chinese written records reveal the Sauk impressed the Chinese with their dress, Mohawk hair style, red and black war paint, and excellent horsemanship and archery abilities. [7]

    Although several tribes across the country are known to carry the X haplogroup, most of them likely related, it is found more frequently in the regions around the Great Lakes than elsewhere in North America. This area is dominated by the Algonquin speaking people (particularly the Ojibway), and the Iroquois tribes who extended from western end of the Great Lakes to Maine. Yet, interestingly, by studying the position of the X haplogroup found among Native Americans on the genetic tree, it was discovered that an early split took place at the very beginning of the expansion and spread from the Near East. It seems that one complete Native American X sequence was found among the southwestern Navajo, and the other among the tribes in the land northward, or Ontario, who developed into the Ojibway over the centuries, the two believed to have diverged, or gone their separate ways from a common point of origin after their common ancestor was already settled in America.[8] Such discoveries led to the conclusion that, along with the four major DNA markers, A, B, C, and D, the X haplogroup was a fifth founding mtDNA for Native Americans.

    The wide distribution of the X haplogroup around the Great Lakes eastward to Maine, and from Canada and Washington State, to Arizona and the central Plains, suggests a wide initial dispersion of the founding tribes, with its origins thought by many to be linked to the New York Iroquois. Not only has the genetic X marker been found among the modern descendants of the Iroquois, but also in their ancient burials which were found throughout New York. As to their ties to the Book or Mormon, in 1987, Fiedel argued that the Point Peninsula people of prehistoric New York and lower Ontario (thought to be the progenitors of the Iroquois) were those who spread the Algonquin speaking people into the northern Great Lakes region from their point of origin in southern Ontario—right where thousand of Nephites migrated after moving northward from western New York's proposed land of Zarahemla in the century before Christ. After spending many years among the Ojibway in the land northward, and noting the many Hebrew traditions among them, William Warren was led to believe they were either descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, or at the very least had had a close communion with them.[9] After their own research of the matter, a number of early historians of that day agreed, for the evidence was simply too compelling. DNA supports their claims, as does the Book of Mormon.

    Now, the major language families around the Great Lakes include the Iroquois in the east, the Siouan in the west, and the Algonquin throughout the entire region. The movement of the Algonquin tribes into Sioux territory explains the small levels of haplogroup X in Sioux populations, for it is believed a large amount of gene flow occurred between the two people, as it did between the Sioux and Iroquois. [10] As DNA research continued, it became increasingly evident that a significant contribution of Caucasoid, or white, immigrants was added to the Native American gene pool sometime before the arrival of Columbus. Sieur de Roberval, first governor general of America's "New France," described the Iroquois in 1542 as: "A people of goodly stature and well made; they are very white, but they are all naked and if they were appareled as the French are, they would be as white and as fair, but they paint themselves for fear of heat and sunburning." [11] (Such a description should also dispel claims that Book of Mormon territory could only have taken place in the tropics because of one lone reference to the "heat of the day" mentioned in Alma 51:33.)

    It appears a break took place during the Hopewell era (100 B.C.-350 A.D.), with those who moved northward from New York into Ontario ultimately referred to as Algonquins, and those who moved southward into Ohio, West Virginia and some of the other southeastern states referred to as the Cherokee. Thus, the Cherokee picked up DNA from other sources in the area as well. While a modern Cherokee carries a mixed genetic history, a pure blooded Cherokee carries basically the X or C haplogroup through the mother's line. The X can be tied to the Semitic tribes, while it is suggested they picked up the C from the more archaic populations already living in the area when they arrived. DNA testing of the Maritime Archaic populations living in Labrador, for instance, also called the Red Paint People, show they were already carriers of A, C, and X before the arrival of the Algonquin family and were thus referred to as Proto-Algonquins. If history can be our guide, we will find that the Red Paint people (called Red Ocher further west), merged both physically and culturally with a strain of the Glacial Kame people (Jaredites) [12], the suggested Jaredites. It is believed their merger produced the Adena populations who preceded the Cherokee in the Ohio Valley, with the Cherokee, who joined them around 100 B. C., ultimately becoming known as Hopewell after a farm where some of their artifacts were found. The identity of the Hopewell has long been a mystery, but in their treatment of the Distribution of mitochondrial DNA lineages among Native American tribes of Northeastern North America in 2001, Malhji, Ripan, Shultz, and Smith concluded that the ancestors of the Cherokee were the builders of the Hopewell earth-mounds in the Ohio Valley some 2000 years ago. The ancient remains of people in Illinois near Ohio also show evidence of the X haplogroup,[13] a region settled by both the Jaredites and Nephites during their eras.

    Not surprisingly, along with the X haplogroup from the mother's line, the Cherokee also carry the defining Q (Y chromosome) from their father's line which is considered a minor founding haplogroup of the Ashkenazi Jews. The term Ashkenazi is used to describe those who moved northward into Europe after the Jewish Diaspora, or scattering, rather than southward into Africa where they became known as Shapardic Jews. Genetic ties between the Jewish populations and the Cherokee was discovered when the DNA haplogroup of a Cherokee in Virginia revealed the word Ashkenazi. Noting its importance, other Cherokee DNA files began to be pulled, only to discover they were all Ashkenazi Jews, with a few revealed to be Levites.[14]

    Now, the Ashkenazi Jews in Europe were so named because the main centers of Jewish learning were located in Germany, and the Medieval Hebrew name for Germany was Ashkenazi. Even so, a 2005 study by Nebel et al., based on Y chromosome polymorphic markers, showed that Ashkenazi Jews are more closely related to other Jewish and Middle Eastern groups than to their host populations in Europe. Despite their long-term residence in different countries and isolation from one another, most Jewish populations were not significantly different from one another at the genetic level. Although the historical record is limited, there is a consensus of cultural, linguistic, and genetic evidence that the Ashkenazi Jewish population originated in the Middle East and that the Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, the Sephardic Jews from Africa, the Cohanim, a Levite priestly class through Aaron, and the Israelites shared the same genetic signature originating in the Middle East 2000 years before the Jewish Diaspora. [15]

    Other genetic markers also tie the Cherokee to the Jews. The R1a (Y chromosome) which is spread through the father's line, for instance, is another marker which is found in high levels among the Levites. While Behar believed R1a found among the Ashkenazi Jews was restricted primarily to the Levites, further study suggests it extended well beyond the Levite priestly class to a small percent of Israelites of the non-Jewish populations as well.[16] We might remember that Lehi and Ishmael's family were among those of Joseph's line (one from Ephraim, one from Manasseh) who chose to live among those of Judah and Benjamin and some of the tribe of Levi in the southern kingdom of Judah rather than with the apostates in Israel's northern kingdom. Such a move explains 2 Nephi 30:4, which states that the seed of Nephi and those that followed him into the land of promise are "descendants of the Jews." Not surprisingly, James Adair, who came to live in America before the colonies were formed and spent 33 years among the Indians, including the Cherokee, documenting their customs, civil policies, history, language, religion, priests, military customs, their agriculture and sports, their marriage rites and funeral ceremonies, and their temperaments and manners found them all to have affinities with the customs and traits of the Hebrews.

    As to the presence of R1b among the Cherokee, another subdivision of the R haplogroup, Roberta Estes explains that it may have come about because of an admixture of others into the Native populations before their contact with Europeans which have yet to be identified. As to who they might have been, the frequency of R1b is noted most heavily in the Celtic tribes of Europe who descended from Japheth's son Gomer. The R1b is thought to have originated in the Eurasian Steppes and is associated with the Kurgen mound culture and Proto-Indo-European expansion during the Bronze Age. A considerable number of the Gomer-ites headed west during this early expansion, some of which ultimately merged with the tribe of Dan living in Ireland, with Ireland subsequently carrying the greatest concentration of R1b in Europe. The Basque, Welsh and Irish are the most distinct peoples with the R1b haplogroup. The inscriptions they left behind make it clear that ancient Irish mariners and Celts ultimately arrived and colonized the east coast of America as well, settling in regions from New England to Florida during prehistoric times, with the genes of the Celtic tribes thus transferred to the local populations.

    The ever expanding and westward migrating children of Japheth into Europe from the Caucuses and Scythia may also explain how both the Jewish populations in Europe and America's Cherokee populations came to have the Q haplogroup. This unique haplogroup is found primarily in a huge triangle which encompasses an area from Norway at its northwestern corner, southward as far as the Iranian plateau, and eastward to China and central Asia where it is thought to have originated. Yet, strangely, there is no overland evidence of haplogroup Q along overland pathways between Norway and Central Asia. Thus, we must wonder if it was transferred by the sea-faring Celtic tribes who descended from Japheth and lived primarily from the Caucuses to Siberia, who in concert with the sea-faring tribe of Dan, both considered the sea-kings of their day, traveled the seas and rivers throughout Eurasia, and beyond. Certain legends and traditions have them sailing back and forth between India, Malaysia, back again to the Mediterranean, and northward to Ireland, Denmark and Norway where they continued westward to America and the Caribbean Sea where some planted themselves among the isles in the Gulf of Mexico, in Mesoamerica, and in America's southeast where they would have and merged with the Cherokee living in that area, thus passing along the Q chromosome.

     In my most recent work, The Lost Empires of the Book of Mormon, I detail the arrival of some of the Irish Celts into eastern North America where they became major players in the mound building traditions of the Cherokee/Hopewell, thereby adding new bloodlines—the Danites adding a new line of Hebrew origins, and the Celts, with whom they merged, adding an entirely new line through the sons of Japheth, both Gomer and Magog. In speaking of his posterity, Noah prophesied that: "God shall enlarge Japheth {meaning he would spread far and wide}, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; . . ." (Genesis 9:27), the Hebrews, and thus the Cherokee, being among the descendants of Shem through Abraham.

(© Copyright, Phyllis Olive, 2009)

    The range of dispersion of the various tribes described in this paper is discussed in more detail in my newest work, The Lost Empires of the Book of Mormon found on this web-site. This work is a must read for serious students of the Book of Mormon, for every piece of the puzzle can finally be reconciled with people and places. It is a work unlike any other and stands alone in its efforts to lay out the complete history of a people from their arrival in the promised land to their finally destruction, including their merger or association with other people from other lands, apostates within their own numbers, and those who broke away and settled elsewhere. The Great Destruction which took place at the time of Christ's crucifixion can also be reconciled, as can the geographical descriptions of various lands and the identity of the surviving tribes, including some of their experiences which can finally be told.
    I began my earlier work, The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon, by studying out the 200-300 scriptural descriptions provided in the Book of Mormon and by carefully laying them out in the New York setting until they finally fit like a hand in a glove. In this work, I began with a history of nations, and by following tribes and people throughout the ages, the story of early Jaredites fell into place, as did the placement and saga of the Nephites, both of which lived in essentially the same geographical location. In fact, I can now add that everything I have gathered and put forth in The Lost Empires of the Book of Mormon can be backed up by DNA evidence. Thus, if I might be so bold, a trait I am not generally noted for, this book will likely satisfy not just the casual reader of the Book of Mormon by putting a place on the map and a face on it's people, but it will provide the Native American tribes a better understanding of their origins, and put out the fires started by those intent on bringing down the Saints in these last and final days of preparation for the Savior's ultimate return. While this work may become the basis for further work in the area, for there is still much to learn, because it holds the answers to so many questions left unanswered since the early days of the Church, I believe it to be one of the most important works to come out in 150 years.


References:
1- Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogrup X, Reidla, Kivisild, Metsplau, Kaldman, and others.
2- Written up in the May 7th issue of the journal PLoSONE. Researchers from the Rambam Health Care campus, Haifa, Israel, Washington University in St. Louis Missouri, the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel also contributed to this study.
3- Origin and diffusion of mtDNA hapogroup X, 2003.
(www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artrid=1180497.)
4- Origin and diffusion of mtDNA hapogroup X, 2003.)
(www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artrid=1180497.)
5- Origin and diffusion of mtDNA hapogroup X, 2003. P. 2.)
 (www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artrid=1180497.)
6- Michael Hammer and Tatiana Karafet, DNA & The Peopling of Siberia. Laboratory of Molecular Systematics and Evolution, University of Arizona.
7- Joan Price, Ancient Sauk, Ojibway, Winnebago Cosmology: Myth, Mounds and Artifacts, p.46.
8- The American Journal of Human Genetics, Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X.
9- William Warren, History of the Ojibway People, p. 71.
10-Distribution of mitochondrial DNA lineages among Native American tribes of Northeastern North America- Human Biology, Feb. 2001 by, Ripan S. Malhi, Beth A. Schultz, David G. Smith.
11-Mallery, p. 170.
12-Distribution of mitochondrial DNA Lineages Among Native American Tribes of Northeastern North America, Human Biology, 2001, Malhi, S. Ripan, B.A. Shultz, D. G. Smith.
13-Gregory L. Little, DNA Analysis on Native Americans, 2001.
14-CherokeeofLawrenceCountryTn.org.
15-http://www.familytreedna.com/pdf/400971.pdf.
16-Ellen Levy-Coffman, A Mosaic of People: The Jewish Story and a Reassessment of the DNA Evidence, p. 7.

 

  

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