Understanding the complexities of ancestry-related identity is a necessary component of ethically sound research related to the genetic ancestry of modern-day communities. This is especially true when working with indigenous populations, given the legal and social implications that genetic ancestry interpretations may have in these communities. This study employs a multicomponent approach to explore the intricacies of ancestry-related identity within one extended family with members who identify as Alaskan Native. The seven participants were interviewed about their own self-identity, perceptions regarding genetic ancestry estimation, and their knowledge of oral family history. Additionally, each participant consented to having his or her genetic ancestry estimated. The researchers also surveyed ancestry-related documents, such as census records, birth certificates, and Certificates of Indian Blood. These three different perspectives—oral family history and self-identity, genetic ancestry estimation, historical and legal documentation—illustrate the complex nature of ancestry-related identity within the context of indigenous and colonial interactions in North America. While estimates of genetic ancestry broadly reflected each individual's self-reported biogeographic ancestry and supported all described and historically reported biological relationships, the estimates did not always match federally recorded blood quantum values, nor did they provide any information on relationships at the tribe or clan level. Employing a multicomponent approach and engaging study participants may help to safeguard against genetic essentialism and provide a more nuanced understanding of ancestry-related identity within a larger political, legal, and historical context.
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Vol. 87 • No. 4