Since 2005, the Genographic Project has been an ongoing international collaboration between scientists, indigenous communities and the general public. This project is designed to improve the understanding of the paths that early humans traveled as they moved from one place to another place around the globe. For Drs. Theodore Schurr and Jada Benn Torres, this project involves learning more about how and when humans initially inhabited the Americas, including the islands of the Caribbean. You can learn more about the Genographic Project following this link:https://genographic.
In order to learn more about human history, the Genographic researchers study people’s DNA. In collaboration with the indigenous Caribbean communities of both St. Vincent and Trinidad, they have learned quite a bit more about the first peoples of the Caribbean as well as the impact of African and European colonization of the Caribbean.
Dr. Benn Torres stated: “Based on our research we have learned that just under half (42%) of our indigenous Caribbean study participants have maternal ancestry from indigenous Caribbean women with the remaining proportion coming from African and South Asian women. When we consider the paternal ancestry, just under a third (28%) of our male study participants have indigenous ancestry that is traced to indigenous Caribbean men. The remaining proportion of male study participants have ancestry that can be traced to both Africa and Europe. These findings indicate the strong role that indigenous Caribbean people had and still have in shaping genetic diversity in contemporary Caribbean populations.”
In comparing Genographic Project results with those of previous studies, Dr. Benn Torres and colleagues noted some genetic similarities between indigenous communities in St. Vincent and the indigenous Vincentian community that was exiled to Honduras in the 18th century. These similarities are a testimony to the unique history of the island.
Finally, Genographic Project research suggests a South American origin for indigenous Caribbean peoples, and possibly also connections to Central American populations. Furthermore, the genetic data from the indigenous communities of St. Vincent and Trinidad also support the notion that, prior to European contact, the Caribbean was home to a wide variety of indigenous peoples.
Both Drs. Benn Torres and Schurr are appreciative for the continued community support of the project and look forward to future interaction with the Vincentian indigenous communities.