Between 1990 and 1994, more than 200 blood samples were drawn. An assistant actually slept in the Supai medical clinic while gathering the samples. At night, the assistant clandestinely examined the clinic's records, looking for reports of schizophrenia among tribal members, according to court records.
Roughly 100 tribe members who gave blood from 1990 to 1994 signed a broad consent that said the research was to “study the causes of behavioral/medical disorders.”
Dr. Markow examined several genes that were thought to have medical relevance, including for schizophrenia, metabolic disorders and alcoholism, she said, but found little to pursue. The Havasupai did not, it turned out, share the gene variant linked to diabetes in the Pima.
One reported a high degree of inbreeding, a measure that can correspond with a higher susceptibility to disease.
Ms. Tilousi found that offensive. “We say if you do that, a close relative of yours will die,” she said.
Another article, suggesting that the tribe’s ancestors had crossed the frozen Bering Sea to arrive in North America, flew in the face of the tribe’s traditional stories that it had originated in the canyon and was assigned to be its guardian.
Listening to the investigators, Ms. Tilousi felt a surge of anger, she recalled. But in Supai, the initial reaction was more of hurt. Though some Havasupai knew already that their ancestors most likely came from Asia, “when people tell us, ‘No, this is not where you are from,’ and your own blood says so — it is confusing to us,” Rex Tilousi said. “It hurts the elders who have been telling these stories to our grandchildren.”
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