DNA has absolutely zero to do with being Native and Jewish
For starters, it is super important to state that DNA has absolutely zero to do with being Native and Jewish. It does not make you a Native or a Jew.
My Indigenous heritage and Native Nation citizenship derive solely from my Native Mother. My Mvskoke ancestry goes straight through her, to my Grandmother, to my Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather, and to many many ancestors all the way back to time immemorial.
My Jewish heritage is from my Father and my Orthodox conversion, since being Jewish is determined by unbroken matrilineal descent or conversion. My descent is straight line but patrilineal for a couple generations and beyond that also goes back to time immemorial.
DNA can be interesting though
When I was a young child, my Mom told me I was a mutt, and my DNA sure proves her 100% correct, ha! So far, roughly once a year, Ancestry.com revises my DNA ethnicity estimates as the science and sample sizes improves. This post’s header image and the following list are from their 2022 ethnicity estimate.
European Jewish 28%
Sweden & Denmark 18%
England & Northwestern Europe 18%
Indigenous Americas-North 9%
Germanic Europe 9%
Ivory Coast & Ghana
Indigenous Americas-Yucatan Peninsula 1%
This year Ancestry.com detailed my DNA even further and split it into maternal and paternal sections
A few major changes, now on 3 continents instead of 4
Ancestry.com revises periodically their DNA ethnicity estimations as their science advances and DNA databases grow. Their previous estimate was calculated in August 2020 which is in this post. I do think this is improved and it also matches my children’s DNA better.
Gone are the South American Indigenous groups and Mexican Indigenous was further refined to Yucatan Peninsula Indigenous. Note my Indigenous heritage from my maternal grandmother also includes the African, which is now 3 country groups and some portion of English, Scotch and/or Irish likely.
European Jewish is still my largest group coming from one grandparent, as my paternal grandfather was my only unmixed grandparent.
England & Northwestern Europe follow a close 2nd with all 3 other grandparents contributing to in varying degrees probably, but mostly my maternal grandfather.
Sweden & Denmark increased a lot, which I believe is part of my paternal grandmother’s Dutch heritage along with Norway and Germanic Europe.
European Jewish 28%
England & Northwestern Europe 27%
Sweden & Denmark 12%
Indigenous Americas-North 9%
Germanic Europe 4%
Indigenous Americas-Yucatan Peninsula 2%
DNA is very interesting I think, but it doesn’t necessarily speak to the culture(s) one is, is raised within or claims you
Many people think of culture as language, music, dress, political and social behavior etc., which is true but culture also speaks to the values and thought processes one is taught.
My values and thought processes were taught to me mostly by my Indigenous mother, who was taught by her Indigenous mother, who was taught by her Indigenous mother and so on… Most Native tribes are matriarchal and the maternal nature and direction of my Indigeneity is impossible to ignore. Being Mvskoke is a strong and dominant part of me.
Likewise, my Jewish father was taught by his Jewish father, who was taught by his Jewish father and so on and the patriarchal nature of the Jewish culture were passed to me in a strong fashion. The religion of Judaism is validated maternally, which is why I had an Orthodox conversion in adulthood, but there is no doubt in my mind the Jewish culture is patriarchal.
None of this is to dismiss my European heritages, but for me the dominant cultures of each of my parents burn the brightest. No doubt it took me many years to organize my upbringing into understanding the cultural influences, but at this point I clearly see it.
The white Christian American (European derived) culture is something just not in me. For a long time I didn’t understand why I didn’t fit into (American) life. Now I know.
White Christian American culture & society thinks it is the neutral, & that other cultural standards & behavior fall short
It thinks other cultures aren’t civilized, up to the modern state of advancement or even G-d blessed state that white Christian American culture and society is.
This view is 100% false.
Much of white Christian American interaction with other cultures is about measuring and changing people to follow white standards. Assimilation can be subtle or as forceful as at gunpoint.
White Christian American culture and society, being the designer of race says that skin color is the ultimate determining measure of value.
This is also completely false.
There are a quite a few facets to this but I’m going to discuss one: Light skinned or white passing people of other cultures. It is a clear fact that light skinned or white passing people of other cultures benefit or at least do not suffer exactly the same as darker skinned peoples under white racial structures. But bear with me and learn. This is adjacent knowledge not replacement knowledge to the fact that the darker your skin is, the more you suffer under whiteness.
Skin color is just the art of G-d in the garden of humanity
It has no real value differentiation. Essentially it is decoration and meaningless. However, under the white construct of race, white people have turned it to their cruel and dominating advantage. Many people are square pegs trying to fit into a white round hole.
Going forward, when I say white, just insert ‘white Christian American (European derived)’. Strongly replace your vision of skin color with culture and values.
Regardless of appearance under the false and made up white racial structures, Native and Jewish cultures (to name just two) are not white cultures.
Regardless of varying degrees of assimilation or awareness, I am not a white person. My children and grandchildren are not white people. My parents and grandparents were not white people. We don’t act or think like white people.
This is why Jews say to themselves “oy, goy” with that common understanding and head shake, because Jews do not think like white people.
This is why even white passing Natives will call you a colonizer, settler or a white person. Not just because you are, but because white people have a thought process that isn’t the neutral they think it is and clearly one of its own culture, that is not shared by Natives.
In my own life and others, I can think of many clashes and harms due to this white misunderstanding of other cultures, regardless of the level of a Jewish or Native person’s enlightenment.
ALL government, law, business and social structures are controlled by and polluted with false white viewpoints.
Whether white people know it or not, according to their own limited or non-existent standard of understanding… from the building you live in… to your workplace… all the way to even the world stage… and probably soon even outer space, non-white cultures are getting the short end of the stick, period.
Only YOU can change this by equalizing the ruling, power and economic structures now. Not when it meets white standards, but now. Not when you think it’s right, had enough white meetings, prayer or whatever, but now.
However, you won’t see me claim I’m African-American
Or a Black person… I’d be thrilled and honored to make the claim. My Senegal, Ivory Coast/Ghana and Nigeria DNA together has Elizabeth Warren’s Native-American DNA beat 3 times over, but I don’t know my African ancestor(s). I haven’t lived a life with any of their experiences. I can’t own this.
It is cool though!
I estimate within 4-6 generations ago that I had at least one African ancestor and I may someday discover the confirmed genealogy of this person.
My curiosity runs wild and that would be a super exciting day, but I still won’t be able to own it. An ally is the most I’ll ever be.
Due to other relatives DNA, I know this is though my Mvskoke Native bloodlines, but that is all I know. If any of my Native cousins out there stumble upon this post on the Internet and know more than I know, please contact me.
Image and countries updated 5-18-2022. The geographic estimate of my African ancestry has bounced around a tiny bit since 2019, but I think it’s safe to say there is 3% from the Western Africa coastal areas from Senegal to Nigeria.
Every situation with Indigenous heritage is unique
This is my personal story and how I relate to it. It is not a blueprint to measure others.
There are fake tribes and phony Indians out there, but there are also legitimate tribes and legitimately connected members that haven’t fared well so far under colonizer control or other issues. That is why I say every situation is unique. There could be a number of mitigating factors; ‘insufficient’ blood quantum, refusal to cooperate with colonizers, missed a census, infighting, disenrollments, competing economically with non-Natives and other possibilities… With hundreds, even possibly thousands of tribes, and even more personal relationships to tribes, there is no way I could rationally speak authoritatively about every situation.
With the exception of blood quantum, these mitigating factors are rare in factual reality, and represent an extremely small percentage, less than 1% in my amateur estimation. 99%+ of actual Indigenous people meet the requirements for citizenship in a Tribal Nation. No doubt, enrolling in a Tribal Nation sometimes entails some challenging research and difficult to acquire documentation.
Fortunately for my family and I, our Indigenous Nation is well known, large, and our connection to it is a straight line and well documented for quite some time. I will say this much, if you meet the criteria for citizenship in an Indigenous Nation you have heritage with and the only thing standing in your way is your own inaction, in my opinion you need to become a citizen before claiming indigeneity publicly.
I am 100% Native. I am connected. Connected by DNA, blood quantum, descent, relationship, citizenship in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, education, participation and growth. I was born Native. It’s a gift of inestimable value that the Creator, my mother Mona Smith Rothschild and many other ancestors gave to me. No one could validate it except them. No one can invalidate it or take it away except me, and I will not be relinquishing it.
FYI, I feel the same about being 100% Jewish, with a few changes. I’m a multi-layered person. I’m not one layer fractured into pieces. My Native layer and my Jewish layer are both full and complete. I will write about this more later, but for now this is about being Native.
Most personal things I write on this website are for my descendants; hopefully these writings will outlive me somehow and prove useful to others who read my writings as well.
As I have discussed before in previous posts here and here, DNA is not the end all for me or most Natives. Still, it is definitely a bonus and can corroborate other information. I was aware of the heritage of my 4 grandparents – Native, Jewish, Dutch and English. I was not aware that the Native included not only North American Indigenous, but other Indigenous and African DNA. By itself, DNA can [maybe] pinpoint geographic regions, but [definitely] not specific Tribal identities. Some Indigenous Nations have citizens with no Indigenous DNA as well.
My great-grandmother Jeanetta Grayson Berryhill was full blooded Mvskoke, so her blood quantum was 1/1. My great-grandfather Pleasant Luther ‘Duke’ Berryhill‘s blood quantum was 1/8. This of course made my grandmother’s blood quantum 9/16, my mother’s blood quantum 9/32 and my blood quantum 9/64 or about 14%. Roughly three-fourths of my Indigenous Nation has a blood quantum of less than 1/4. I believe my blood quantum is above the average and above the median of my Tribal Nation.
You might have noticed my great-grandfather’s blood quantum of 1/8 is less than my blood quantum of 9/64. He was born and lived on the reservation, was a Captain of the Lighthorse, and was very active in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Government. A picture hung in the Creek Nation Council House in Okmulgee, Oklahoma of him and my great-grandmother and outside the Council House, a monument honors him. Me, I’m trying. This is an example of why blood quantum is essentially meaningless.
Blood quantum is a colonizer construct. The United States Federal Government designed it to steal land and erase Indigenous culture. Every Mvskoke is 100% Indigenous in my opinion. Blood quantum is by design arbitrary and inaccurate, a corrupt conspiracy from over 100 years ago. Sometimes it is subject to fraud and/or ineptitude, including people that shouldn’t be, and not including people that should be.
Blood quantum also only counts the blood of 1 Tribal heritage in an individual, even when there are multiple Tribal heritages involved. Blood quantum is a meaningless classification forced upon the Indigenous and no others, but it has its legal and citizenship ramifications today, so it is important in a practical sense ultimately. Some Indigenous Nations have even significant numbers of citizens with no blood quantum as well.
Starting in the early 1700s, before the United States was a country, through today, there are 10 generations of my Indigenous ancestors and descendants that I know of so far, by name, as well as their birth/death dates. This is an unbroken line of descent. Often there are photos, drawings, writings and other documentation of their lives.
My grandmother and her parents were born on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation in Indian Territory before Oklahoma was a state. Ancestors before them traveled to Indian Territory on the Trail of Tears from the Old Creek Nation. Others lived and died in the Old Creek Nation, in what is now Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, where they lived with their ancestors for who knows how many millennia, perhaps time immemorial.
Obviously my mother and grandmother were not strangers to me or obscure relatives discovered through research or testing. I was raised, nurtured and loved by them. It doesn’t get bigger than this to me. As a common and understandable sign of their times, they were not exactly standing on street corners with megaphones broadcasting their indigeneity. Hopefully this ends with me. I am broadcasting it, literally around the world.
I am Native. I am Indigenous. I am Indian. I am Mvskoke and proud of it.
Citizenship in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
This is super important to me. Anyone that is a direct descendant of someone on the Dawes Rolls or the relevant census for other tribes, would be crazy not to become a citizen of their Indigenous Nation. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation criteria for Citizenship is that you must be Creek by Blood and trace back to a direct ancestor listed on the 1906 Dawes Roll by issuance of birth and/or death certificates’. This and the forms you need to fill out may seem overwhelming at first, but with hindsight I can tell you it is not that complex.
I don’t need to tell you, historical and ongoing colonizer genocide against Indigenous peoples has been devastating to populations. If you are Indigenous, join your Nation! Your people need you and you need them. Fortunately many Nations are rebounding. My Nation has over 90,000 citizens now.
Education, Participation and Growth
To me being Native is not a static thing. I’m deeply immersed in learning about my culture and tribe, and have been for some time. There is quite a bit of written and video material out there. Realistically, I’m probably too old to gain fluency in our language, but for those who can, I highly recommend it. I hope to incorporate some of our ceremonial and music legacies into my experimental music recordings. When I do I will post the recordings on this website.
As an at-large citizen, I do what I can to participate. I vote in Tribal Nation elections and US elections as pro-Indigenous as I can. Sovereignty and provision for my Nation is always foremost on my mind and in my vote. I influence who I can. I hope to be blessed enough to visit my reservation with family someday.
I strongly support #Landback. Nothing short of the restoration of Tribal lands, full sovereignty, reparations and the complete removal of the US Government from Indigenous Nations will satisfy me permanently.
Every month that you talk to me or read my writings, I will have grown. I do my best to pass down knowledge to my descendants, and light their fire, which is the best growth card in my deck.
In all the millenniums before colonizers, most tribe members had a family connection to their Indigenous tribes in the Americas. You were generally born into or married into the tribe. However, just like every other tribe in the world, tribes were in charge of their own citizens, they could confer citizenship on whomever they pleased. And for a time, even after the colonizers arrived, they did exactly that.
This is one of several reasons why some tribes have black, white and other races or ethnicities mixed in. Being Indigenous is not a pure racial thing. That’s a white construction that has nothing to do with the rest of the world. My tribe, the Muscogee, Creek, or my preference the Mvskoke people, before and throughout the existence of the United States has been a mixture of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. There are brown people, red people, black people, white people, and whatever other skin tones you want to pin a name to people.
Blood Quantum is a colonizer construct
Every Indigenous tribe throughout the western hemisphere has its own history with colonizers. Obviously European colonizers have seriously interfered with Indigenous folk since the day they set foot in ever increasing ways, but in 1898 the United States essentially took control of the membership of my tribe. The Muscogee, one of the five civilized tribes, were required to participate in a census. Although the Muscogee did not consider strict ‘blood’ descent the only way to determine if a person was a member of the tribe, the Dawes Commission did.
Henceforth, the Dawes Rolls were the main factor to determine if you were a member of the Muscogee (and the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole as well). There were also separate Dawes rolls for Freedmen or formerly enslaved people associated with the tribe. There were also mistakes between the two ‘rolls’ as well as people that bribed their way into the rolls to steal land allotted for the Indigenous and Freedmen.
Indigenous DNA is nice, but by itself is meaningless for citizenship in an indigenous nation
You might have seen some claims of indigenous descent disputes before, Elizabeth Warren likely the most infamous. Family myth or lore is silly beyond reason and usually accompanied by a great deal of ignorance.
Minute amounts of DNA, as well, do not mean much. DNA is just not the end all. Sometimes DNA may confirm or buttress some historical beliefs and it may or may not indicate ancestors of the general Indigenous population, but not to the tribal level for sure.
Family and connection to tribe is what it is all about
Traditionally, the lineage of the Mvskoke people, like most Native American tribes, is matrilineal. I have a clear, straight and recent matrilineal line to 2 women on the Dawes Rolls. My grandmother and my great grandmother whom you see in the images above were both born in the Creek nation before the establishment of Oklahoma. Only my mother stands between them and me.
My grandmother of course, was personally known to me. I have talked with her, been held by her, kissed by her, sat on her lap… She lived with us for a time… You get what I’m saying.
If matrilineal descent were the only factor that mattered in any racial, ethnic, or religious affiliation, I would be nothing but a born 100% Native American. Fortunately for my children and grandchildren patrilineal matters too. Like me, they also have a clear lineage to women and men on Dawes Rolls. This lineage is why I and the majority of my descendants are enrolled members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
I believe my 4 major ethnicities (Mvskoke, Jewish, Dutch, and English) are 100% complete layers, not 25% of each and not only that but I feel them, I know the people, I am connected. It’s not myth or lore or the result of a surprise DNA finding.
I do find my DNA results to be informative though. For instance I was thrilled to discover African DNA, that confirms a common understanding that most Mvskoke have black ancestry as well. I’m excited and dying to know more, but I don’t know the people; I can’t run around claiming I’m an African American. An ally is what I’ll always likely be.
None of all this is to say my experiences in life have been as a fully Indigenous person growing up and living life from the reservation onward. I grew up in a time of assimilation and have been white passing most of the time. Culturally it’s a different story, I’ve been an urban Jew my whole adult life.
Some of the best things about old age are being real, being true to yourself, being who you really are & being willing to share your life, good and bad, honestly without fear of judgment with your friends and family. Rather than write a book, here is my website.
My life, thoughts & whatever else I feel like writing about, ha!
Where do you start?
Though I try to live a simple life, I am a complex person with a complex history. I’m going to start this website out with a super-abbreviated timeline, my DNA and my basic ethnic/racial ancestry.
I was born in 1956, in a time period when pressures to homogenize and assimilate in the United States were very strong. When I was very young, my mother Mona Lee Rothschild, the most amazing person in all history of humankind, told me with a laugh and love, that I was a mutt. She told me the basic breakdown, that each of my grandparents were Jewish, Indigenous, Dutch and English. My mother was Indigenous and English, my father Jewish and Dutch. I am all four.
Of course, when I was a young child, the history of my living relatives as much as 70 years earlier were an unimaginably ancient time ago. I could not even begin to comprehend it. So, that was that basically, and life moved on as a secular American family in suburban Chicago.
In junior and senior high school, I experienced some antisemitism and began to be more aware of how some of the world related to my Jewishness. In the late 1970’s, as a young adult I moved to the north side of the city of Chicago, where I met many more Jews and increasingly identified with my Jewish ethnicity.
Some time in the 1980s, my mother put together a family tree going back about 5 generations along with what photos she could gather. By the end of the 1980s I strongly identified as Jewish ethnically and religiously, and had an orthodox conversion.
The patriarchy was very strong in my family, i.e. the Rothschild side of my heritage, and it passed very clearly from my grandfather Yehuda (Jay Leo) Rothschild to my father Malcolm Valk Rothschild to me Yehuda (Jay Franklin) Rothschild. I am the oldest (Jewish) male of my generation as well as torchbearer of the name. Jay is Americanized for Yehuda, my Hebrew name.
In the 1980s and 1990s, I believed my mission in life was to be the family patriarch, the most successful of all generations and build an empire that outlasted me. I believed I was special.
Life had different plans for me
Then in the mid-1990’s, I had a mid-life crisis and decided that I was a slave to the aspirations of a group of grass plants, known as my perfect American lawn.
That crisis started a decade of hell and euphoria, downtown living, deep deep depression, and eventually even a short moment of homelessness that landed me in West Rogers Park in 2006, a northernmost neighborhood in Chicago. I had a new trait, humility, and an understanding that not everyone can overcome the adverse things in their lives without help. I began to embrace and joy on the diversity of people and life throughout this post-crisis decade and for then on. I no longer believed I was special or destined to build an empire. I was just one equal value person of the billions on Earth.
By 2012, I was back in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago. I began to thirst for more knowledge about my Native side. Referring to my mother’s family tree, I searched online for information about my ancestors and started to actually find some. It was rather amazing to me the things I discovered.
Woe is me for the long in person conversations I did not have with my ancestors, especially my mother and father, now all passed on. These are my greatest regrets without doubt.
In the beginning of 2016, G-d smiled upon me in more than one way. I moved into my current residence, a socialist commune of sorts, or an intentional community of ~200 people in a 10 story high-rise on the lakefront in Uptown Chicago.
In these last 5 years I began deconstructing my spiritual beliefs. I have fully embraced my Mvskoke (Muscogee/Creek) Indigenous heritage. I feel that each of my 4 major ethnicities (Jewish, Mvskoke, Dutch, and English) are 100% complete layers, not 25% of each. I strongly identify as a Jew and a Native.
And now the DNA!
For Chanukah in 2019, my oldest daughter Torie and family bought me an Ancestry DNA test. It may have been the best present ever. Getting the results back in January 2020 threw gasoline on the fire for my ancestors and history.
Spanning four continents – white, brown and black. [See header image above]
European Jewish 30%
England & Northwestern Europe 27%
Indigenous Americas-North 8%
Germanic Europe 4%
Indigenous Americas-Andean 1%
Indigenous Americas-Colombia & Venezuela 1%
Indigenous Americas-Mexico 1%
September 26, 2021 Update: It is important to note that DNA ancestry is not an exact science. It can produce incorrect and/or incomplete results, especially if there is a small sampling and underrepresented ethnicities, as there is with Indigenous people. The Central/South American Indigenous results in this DNA interpretation were nullified in a newer interpretation, and shifted into North American & Yucatan Indigenous results, along with other small changes.
Most importantly DNA ancestry is useless for determining if you are Indigenous. NO legit North American tribes accept DNA results for citizenship because of the above paragraph and DNA results do not even hint at tribal heritage. Citizenship requirements vary for each Tribal Nation, but they always at minimum require a direct descendant connection to a previously enrolled citizen proven by birth and death certificates, as well as other requirements. DNA results by themselves means zero in determining if you are Indigenous, Native, Indian or whatever.
Also note that while there are racial and cultural facets, being Indigenous is primarily a political status, i.e. a citizen of a sovereign nation. There are truly all races and colors represented in North American Indigenous people. It is not as simple as a yes/no genetic answer.
All that said, DNA can be informative combined with other information, and you truly can connect with lost and unknown relatives. I know I found people I had lost touch with and discovered many new relatives. I highly recommend it.