I don’t always feel this way, but I really appreciate how much this book treats its readers as adults. There’s a lot of early work in this book that looks to situate itself and its methods, and in doing so, spends an appropriate and generous amount of time explaining to readers (which I found especially useful as an educated person with no particular experience in these topics and methods) explaining how the methods of anthropology were considered, why they were considered, and what limits and allowances these methods were subject to. So in addressing the question of how Native American identity is impacted by the science genetics and DNA, we understand pretty clearly by the end of the introduction what this book will and won’t be doing.
For the most part, using power dynamics and its history as guides, this book purports to focus on science and scientists (especially in their connections to larger specific and general institutions) as an upward trajectory, and not at specific Native American groups in this study, except in places where their participation in both the creation and presentation of research allows. Because of the way “research” has been used as a tool for oppression and as an implement of oppression (meaning that the results of research has been employed, but also how the specific research itself as oppressing), this book tries to limit that impact. It’s clearly a delicate question that is handled with care.
So the book spends a lot of time looking at DNA science and this has become a new tension in the questions of Native American identity. For one thing, and this book predates the more recent public debates of certain politicians claiming Native status, its looks at DNA science, including public companies, “determine” Native ancestry, what if anything that means, and how it connects to the already fraught and complicated questions of how Native American communities create their own definitions for group membership. It’s a thorough book that really highlights the debate and because it’s academic, gives a lot of in-depth research and analysis. It doesn’t answer all those questions, nor should it, but it gives a lot of ways of understanding that I found really useful in my own thinking.