Asia Minute: DNA Helps Link Indigenous Australians with Ancestral Lands

Mar 10, 2017

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Indigenous people around the world share a tie to the land of their ancestors. That’s true here in Hawai‘i and it’s also true in Australia where a new study is helping some native people connect with their past.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

 


Australia’s first Aboriginal people came to the continent from New Guinea about 50,000 years ago when the two land masses were still connected.  That’s one finding from a DNA analysis of hair samples taken from Aboriginal people through much of the 20thcentury.

According to a piece published in the journal Nature, the analysis also shows the pattern of migration followed by Australia’s native population.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide found the indigenous people crossed onto the continent in the north and then came down both the east and west coasts.  They stuck relatively close to the ocean some settled along the way, while others kept moving.  The nomadic groups eventually met in the south after some 2,000 years.

While all of this is of interest to historians and anthropologists, there’s a very real current-day application as well.

Scientists say the DNA research can help re-connect indigenous families with their ancestral communities.

Starting in the late 1800’s, many aboriginal children were forcibly separated from their families by the government in what is known in Australia as the “stolen generation.”

Historians estimate that tens of thousands of people were taken from their families.

This latest research could help many descendants of that generation determine where their ancestors once lived.