Genetics and the Peopling of the Americas - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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Genetics and the Peopling of the Americas

Join us February 29 at 7pm at 101 Archer!

OCH is excited to welcome genetic anthropologist Jennifer Raff, author of Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas, to 101 Archer.

As an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas, Raff studies the DNA of ancient and contemporary peoples in order to understand their histories, focusing mainly on Native American populations. She writes for the general public on topics concerning human genetics and scientific literacy, particularly those related to human evolution and more recent history, and issues at the intersection of genetics, race, and identity.

Twenty thousand years ago, people crossed a great land bridge from Siberia into Western Alaska and then dispersed southward into what is now called the Americas. Until we venture out to other worlds, this remains the last time our species has populated an entirely new place, and this event has been a subject of deep fascination and controversy. No written records—and scant archaeological evidence—exist to tell us what happened or how it took place. Many different models have been proposed to explain how the Americas were peopled and what happened in the thousands of years that followed.

Raff’s book is the story of who the first peoples in the Americas were, how and why they made the crossing, how they dispersed south, and how they lived based on a new and powerful kind of evidence: their complete genomes. Origin provides an overview of these new histories throughout North and South America, and a glimpse into how the tools of genetics reveal details about human history and evolution.

Raff explores how genetics is currently being used to construct narratives that profoundly impact Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Her work serves as a primer for anyone interested in how genetics has become entangled with identity in the way that society addresses the question “Who is indigenous?”

On February 29 at 7pm, Raff will discuss her book, genetic anthropology, and its impact on historical and contemporary notions of genetic identity in the Americas. For more information, follow us on social media.