MDGARRET-L ArchivesArchiver > MDGARRET > 2006-09 > 1157214859
Subject: About Physical Characteristics as "Indicators" of Native Ancestry
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2006 12:34:19 EDT
Native Americans don't all look alike. And they are not the Hollywood image
of old. Go to any Pow Wow and you will see Native Americans of all colors. From
the lightest of color hair, eyes and skin to the darkest due to intermarriage
with other races from the earliest of times up til today.
The following list started as a collection of Physical Characteristics noted
by numerous researchers over many years of doing research. It does not point
to any one tribe. They are merely physical characteristics that we look for as
"indicators" when researching Native American Ancestry.
When I was in elementary school I was a Tomboy and loved being barefoot.
Until one day in school where we traced our feet. I noticed for the first time
that my feet were different. My big toes are shorter than my other toes and I
have what is considered a small foot with an extremely high arch.
I thought I was deformed and started wearing socks or sat with my feet under
me to hide them. Another girls mother was a helper in class. She noticed the
change, she told me that in some tribes, feet like mine were a sign of royalty.
She actually used a different word which I didn't understand at the time that
she explained was like a princess. She was a full Cherokee so I believed her
and wasn't embarrassed anymore. I just accepted her reassurance as any young
Growing up I didn't know of my own heritage. I was constantly amazed by
people who would come up to me asking what tribe. They would say I looked Indian
because of my coloring, cheek bones, or my nose, and numerous other physical
I felt complimented, but thought they were confused.
It wasn't until years later when a distant cousin of my mothers told us we
were part Shawnee, that I became involved in Native American Ancestry research
and found out what they had been talking about all those years.
Many people are surprised to find the physical characteristics running in
their family, are often "indicators" of Native American Ancestry.
High cheekbones where glasses set high on the face and get all smeary on the
bottom of the lens.
Almond shaped almost oriental looking eyes.
Lazy eyes in children.
Heavy "fat" eyelids where the eyelid appears to have an extra fold.
A melanin (pigmentation) in the back of the eye on the retina peculiar to
"Shovel" teeth, the teeth have a ledge on the backside. Run your tongue
across them, they feel almost like a shovel shape.
Large front teeth with a slight or more than slight gap.
Lack of the Carrabelli cusp on the maxillary first molars, (a little bump)
which is missing in Native Americans.
Large heavy earlobes.
Crooked fingers particularly the little finger or pinky.
An inverted breastbone. Often called a Chicken Breast. The bone actually
makes an indentation in the chest.
Little toes that lie under the next one.
A second toe longer than the big toe.
A wider space between the big toe and second one.
An extra ridge of bone along the outside of the foot.
A student of mine was surprised when her Dentist asked if she has Native
American ancestry. She said yes and he told her that she has "lingual nodes", two
bony nodes that protrude from the jaw bone under the tongue. This sparked my
interest as I have one, but the dentist told me as a kid that it was a
Often misunderstood for physical abuse is the Mongolian bruise found on new
born children of Native Ancestry. (Also appears in some Asian newborns). In
some cases this is described as a blue stain, or a birth mark, in a triangle
formation at the base of the spine. It may disappear in time, but is not always
the case. In my family we call this the furry triangle, as it has been replaced
by a light fuzzy triangle of hair.
In addition to the physical attributes mentioned, there are five major
diseases that we look for in Native American Family lines.
Again everyone knows about the drunken Indian. Alcoholism is due to the lack
of an enzyme to convert the alcohol in the bloodstream. Arthritis.
It is beginning to appear that Fibromyalgia is also related to Native
About half of American Indian adults have diabetes; most have type 2
diabetes. Rates vary markedly among tribes. Type 1 diabetes in American Indian and
Alaska Native youth is relatively rare; however, recent reports highlight an
increasing incidence of type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. American
Indians and Alaska Natives have genetic, medical, and lifestyle risk factors for
type 2 diabetes.
American Indians and Alaska Natives with diabetes have a high incidence of
diabetes complications such as eye and kidney disease, cardiovascular disease,
and lower extremity amputations. Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause
of death in American Indians, and diabetes is a high contributing risk factor
for cardiovascular disease.
There is currently much interest in the occurance of Hypo Glycemia - the
opposite of Diabetes Low Blood sugar causing women to become Diabetic during
Oclesia of the Esphogus - the last muscle in the esphogus becomes to strong
and closes off after just a few bites and the person can not swallow any more.
People with this can easily starve to death.
Ventricula Parastole which is a heart Arrithmaya and is thought to occur only
in Delaware (Lanape) ancestry.
Thyroid conditions Hypo and Hyper are often found in those with Native
Kidney problems including Kidney stones.
There have been many people who found out they are Native American quite by
accident. They need a transfusion, or have cancer and are in need of bone
marrow transplants, they cannot find a match as there are several antigens in the
blood which are hard to match, also indicative of Native American Ancestry.
Some of the information concerning Physical Characteristics which can
indicate Native Ancestry, first appeared in an article by NAAH Contributing Editor
Snowflower "Let's Get Physical". Snowflower is a Shawnee Genealogist familiar
with all of the tribes in the Ohio Valley area.
Additional scientific and medical information was gleaned from an article in
the Family Tree publication of the Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library P O Box
1110 Moultrie Ga 31776-1110 Information in the article was credited to T.L.&
M. Genealogy published by the Talbot Library and Museum , P. O. Box 349,
Colcord OK 74338.
The list appears on many websites, some approved and acknowledgd, others we
aren't always aware of.
The list is also used as one of many fact sheets at the Native American
Family History and Cultural Heritage booth at many Pow Wows where we set up to aid
people in beginning their genealogical search.
The list is updated as we hear from other researchers, though we don't
immediately add items unless there is some information corroborating the item as an
The list also appears in numerouse email lists online when discussions like
this come up.
Laurie Beth Roman
Publisher/Executive Editor Native American Family History & Cultural Heritage