Mexican Women’s Mitochondrial DNA Primarily Native American

Amy Tilden

 Mitatwe’eptes (aka Amy Tilden) – Nez Perce – circa 1910

In the paper, “Large scale mitochondrial sequencing in Mexican Americans suggests a reappraisal of Native American origins,” Kumar et al provide a piece of information I find extremely interesting.

“For mtDNA variation, some studies have measured Native American, European and African contributions to Mexican and Mexican American populations, revealing 85 to 90% of mtDNA lineages are of Native American origin, with the remainder having European (5-7%) or African ancestry (3-5%). Thus the observed frequency of Native American mtDNA in Mexican/Mexican Americans is higher than was expected on the basis of autosomal estimates of Native American admixture for these populations i.e. ~ 30-46%. The difference is indicative of directional mating involving preferentially immigrant men and Native American women. This type of genetic asymmetry has been observed in other populations, including Brazilian individuals of African ancestry, as the analysis of sex specific and autosomal markers has revealed evidence for substantial European admixture that was mediated mostly through men. In our 384 completely sequenced Mexican American mitochondrial genomes, 12 (3.1%) are of African ancestry belonging to haplogroups L0a1a’3’, L2a1, L3b, L3d and U6a7; 52 (13.6%) belong to European haplogroups HV, JT, U1, U4, U5; and K and the majority (320, 83.3%) are of Native American ancestry.”

44 thoughts on “Mexican Women’s Mitochondrial DNA Primarily Native American

      • No, men arriving from Spain were NOT allowed to bring any woman over that they were not married to. If they were bachelors and could not find a daughter of another Spanish compadre they took Native wives. They had no other choice. Men were only allowed to bring their legal wives and children. My father is Costa Rican and his mother was very fair with Blue eyes. Her haplo is A2j !!! They really had no idea.

      • thats not entirely accurate. the fur trade in the 1600s in canada saw a huge boom in indigenous and european mixing. so much so that theres even a term for the indigenous women: “country wives”.

  1. Not surprising. I suspect most Hispanic-American populations would show a similar pattern. A Cuban-American friend of mine tested 95% European, 4% Native American, yet has the mtDNA haplogroup A2d1, which is Native American. Most Caribbean and Central American countries experienced similar early Spanish male immigration. (or French in Haiti and English in the BWI to a lesser extent) I’m not as familiar with South American immigration patterns.

    • Not even close. Mexico has a very high Native American component, but the Carribean Hispanics have a LOT of African mtdna as well. In Dominican Republic the African is 4 to 5 times higher than other Hispanic countries. As for Cuba, it goes without saying that they are largely a mulatto country similar to the Dominican Republic where the Native component is usually in the low single digits

  2. What an interesting article! I live in Northwest Oregon, I am quite familiar with the Confederated Tribes of the Nez Perce. They must have done some migration of their own, years ago, would be my guess. It is amazing how ‘tribes’ of peoples, moved about early on. Although my 9% Spanish is from Spain, most of the matches are tied with my Jewish side so far, a few in Spain and the others in South America. Some of them show they descend from relatives who lived in various parts of Russia. That is a lot of traveling! :-)

  3. It was my impression that Native Americans were adverse to dna testing because of religious reasons. Wonder how they got a representative # of testers? Just yesterday, I received an email from a Native American whose tree I had viewed at In her tree it indicated a marriage between brother and sister. I thought she had a made a mistake, but she indicated that was not unusual at the time. Tribal differences, she did not indicate. I guess this would be considered “compounding” and wonder how this would factor in.

    • As the linked paper explains, the sample group was Mexican American from the San Antonio (Texas) Family Heart Study, and apparently did not include any self-identifying Native American.

      • This is probably because the US does not recognize Mexican tribes hence most Mexicans do not report as native. My mother belongs to halotype B as do most natives from Mexico. America Indians are halotype A and came from the Bering strait. B is now coming to light that we came across the oceans during ancient times with primarily Mongol ancestry. My family does carry the purple birthmark. Many northern Mexico tribes mixed with southern tribes. Linguistically its shown we have similar ancestry with the Zuni, Hopi tribes, also in beliefs. Its all very interesting. My mother & I went to the Hopi lands and it was quite enlightening some elders said my mom looked and talked the same way they said she was a distant auntie. When I told them she was Mexican they said oh yeah, tribes used to steal each others children all the time. My moms mother was Huichol from Zacatecas.

  4. Diana Sotela, Interesting item, but you misunderstood Israel P’s question / comment which draws the historical distinction between invading men in English North Am who brought the women with them, in contrast to Nueva Espana, where the invaders utterly destroyed existing cultures and enslaved the native men, leaving themselves virtually unlimited access to the surviving women. Malinche is the representative iconic image of the fate of indigenous women and by implication, of indigenous males.

    • La Malinche is a truly fascinating historical figure. As mistress to Hernan Cortes, she bore him a son, Martin, the first mestizo of New Spain who had both a son and a daughter. The pattern was set.

      • Not only la malinche. One daughter of Moctezuma, a princess, was pregnant by Cortez when she was still a teenager (in all she had 5 legit husbands, all dying one after the other!), but Cortez abused of her, and her descendants bear the name of Moctezuma; some descendants living in Spain since centuries ago, they don’t look at all indian anymore.

      • Actually the first Mestizo was a female, but as history has it, her birth was not considered historically significant and her brothers birth is the one recognized as the birth of the first mestizo.

  5. Kumar’s work is great. We reported similar findings for Mexico in a scientific poster at the ASHG Conference in 2008 in Philadelphia. We never got to write an actual paper though. The sample size was nearly 3000 mtDNAs. In 2012, we published a paper in PLoS One on Panamanians mtDNA (sample size = 1500). The frequency of Native mtDNA lineages was similar to that of Kumar and his Mexican sample.

  6. I have written a few articles relating to this issue and Puerto Ricans. A few years back, Puerto Rican scientist, Dr. Juan Martinez Cruzado, conducted a National Science Foundation sponsored mitochondrial DNA survey of Puerto Ricans on the island. It so happens that 61% of all Puerto Ricans have indigenous mitochondrial DNA. Here is a link to Dr. Martinez Cruzado’s own account of the study:

  7. Does anyone know of a tribe that were yaki? Spelling is prob different? They had later joined up with the Cherokee.



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  10. This is also because many Native Americans in the states closer to Mexico, started claiming to be Mexican-Amaerican so their children would not be taken wawy and sent to boarding schools. They immersed themselves into the Mexican American culture and their children grew up thinking they were Mexican American, Also, when Tejas was taken by the US the tirbes who resided there were not all Native American, some had to be Mexican Indegenious tribes.

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  13. Umm it’s true a large amount are native american including myself which is pretty awesome. My whole family was shocked by that one. We did a dna test and learned our haplogroup is only carried by 11% of natives in both North and South America. Most mexicans carry at least a quarter native ancestry. Mexico has the largest groups of Natives in both North and South America about 15 million while the USA has about 5 million that is double the size. So why should this surprise anyone? This study was pretty accurate.

    • There so much more natives there than here because of the genocide that took place since the beginning. And we are still dwindling in numbers. Just saying.

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  15. When the US took the west,the government started to put native americans in reservations, many of this native americans came from the east cost but they did not want to be in a reservation,so they said that they were mexicans that’s one of the reason that in New Mexico many Mexicans started to say that they were Spaniards so they wont be confused by native americans

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  21. Mexican Mestizos (except in the deep southern part of Mexico) are by far predominantly European. Many also have West African ancestry. I think people may mistake this to mean “Mexican means Indian”, which it most certainly does not.

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  23. i was born in zacatecas mexico my family roots have been traced back with DNA back to the 1600 s in spain and sardinia or the westren mediteraniam also same german origin found in visigoth spain

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