Is there any evidence of Viking genetics in the North East American Indian population? There is a blue eye trait in some East Coast tribes, especially the Iroquoian tribe of the Cherokee.

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    Can we get a reference for that blue-eyed Cherokee claim? (If its Elisabeth Warren, I'm gonna be mad...) – T.E.D. Dec 19 '17 at 14:50
  • I found some fascinating stuff about the blue eyed Mandan... – justCal Dec 19 '17 at 14:51
  • @justCal - Interesting indeed, but their language is (yes IS, there are still Mandan around) Siouxan, which makes sense given where they were living. This is why we could really use a link to exactly what is being talked about. There's a good chance I could answer this if I knew that. – T.E.D. Dec 19 '17 at 15:03
  • @T.E.D. I found more strangeness here. I would like your take on this middle-east connection, I had not seen this before. – justCal Dec 19 '17 at 15:08
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    ...and FWIW, the pics in that article showing these supposed European-looking Mandan to my eyes have a much more distinct resemblance to my Osage relatives (Osage are also Siouan) – T.E.D. Dec 19 '17 at 15:11

I am going to say Yes, to the title question, and No to the question in the body.

Is there a link...

There is a genetic link, but not in the direction you were expecting. An article published on the National Geographic website makes some claims concerning Native American DNA signatures located among Icelandic populations:

Analyzing a type of DNA passed only from mother to child, scientists found more than 80 living Icelanders with a genetic variation similar to one found mostly in Native Americans.


"We know that Vikings sailed to the Americas," said Agnar Helgason of deCODE Genetics and the University of Iceland, who co-wrote the study with his student Sigrídur Ebenesersdóttir and colleagues. "So all you have to do is assume … that they met some people and ended up taking at least one female back with them.


Despite the evidence, for now it's nearly impossible to prove a direct, thousand-year-old genetic link between Native Americans and Icelanders.

For starters, no living Native American group carries the exact genetic variation found in the Icelandic families.

In light of another answer mentioning Greenland, the DNA study looked at that as well:

The Inuit, often called Eskimos, carry no version of the variant—a crucial detail, given that Greenland has a native Inuit population

So this DNA sample cannot be traced to any interaction with the Inuit.


This leads us to the more specific query implied in the body of the question, essentially :
Were there blue-eyed Cherokee Native Americans descended from Vikings?

One problem with this is that technically we don't even seem to know what Cherokee DNA looks like to start wth. From a genealogy site, AccessGenealogy:

First, the readers should understand that if any commercial DNA lab returns tests results that state a percentage of DNA for a particular Southeastern Native American tribe, the report should be considered fraudulent. The American Society of Human Genetics has not certified any DNA test markers to be associated with a particular Southeastern American Indian tribe.

We don't have good DNA samples of any original,pre-colonial era North American Native American group so that we can isolate specific markers of that group. So to isolate Viking DNA parts in modern DNA, it would be very difficult to prove they were from original contact (abt. the year 1000) or later European contact during or after the colonial period.

Another website provides more discussion of the 'blue-eyed' issue here:Native Languages.org

  • 3
    Upvoted for the NA -> Iceland angle, which hadn't occurred to me, but makes more sense knowing what we know about how genes move around. The stuff under the bar is also correct (although it remains to be seen exactly what "blue-eyed" genes issue the OP is referring to). However, I'd also add that Native Americans didn't care about "blood" like Europeans do. One of their Cheifs on the Trail of Tears was 3/4th Scots by "blood". – T.E.D. Dec 19 '17 at 16:23
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    The Icelanders were also very isolated, so they make a good DNA source to work from. As to the Cherokee DNA stuff, yes direct citation of the 'source' of that aspect of the story would be beneficial. But even for a colonial to observe someone with blue-eyes in the 1600's, it would still be 600 years after any possible mixing...pretty thin – justCal Dec 19 '17 at 16:45
  • Weren't there a good many American soldiers stationed in Iceland during and after WWII? Since a considerable portion of Americans have some Indian ancestry, all it takes is a few of them recreating off-base to mix up the gene pool. How would you distinguish this from similar admixtures that happened more than 500 years ago? – jamesqf Dec 19 '17 at 20:38
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    @jamesqf I'm no genetics expert, but the article mentions tracking this back into the 1700's. A relationship as recent as ww2 would be obvious in family histories. Part of the DNA stuff requires a good bit of genealogical research as well. – justCal Dec 19 '17 at 20:43
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    If you find the same rare genetic marker in several people who claim to have a common ancestor, the simplest assumption is that they are correct. – andejons Dec 20 '17 at 7:02

Well, we never did get a reference for what "blue-eyed Cherokee"s you were actually talking about. However, the very first link I got on a google search happens to be a nice Native American urban myth debunking page that I've directed people to before, so I'll quote the appropriate passage from it for you:

Q: I heard that there was a tribe called the "blue-eyed Indians" because Norse or Celtic explorers intermarried with them. Is that true?

A: No. There is no tribe of Indians that is predominantly blue-eyed. In fact, blue eyes, like blond hair, is genetically recessive, so if a full-blood Indian and a blue-eyed Caucasian person had a baby, it would be genetically impossible for that baby to have blue eyes. Blue eyes only occur in people who have blue-eyed Caucasian relatives on both sides of their family tree, and even then only some of the time. There are tribes who have had plenty of blue-eyed individuals after colonization, such as the Lumbees and the Cherokees, because those tribes lived in close contact with a Caucasian community as large as their own and intermarried with them frequently. Before colonization, not a chance. A few Norse or Celtic explorers couldn't have left behind blue-eyed Indian babies any more than a few Caucasians exploring Africa could have left behind a race of blond-haired black people.

For the Cherokee in fact probably their most historic Chief, John Ross, who led them through the Trail of Tear, was blue-eyed (and possibly red-haired). How did this happen you might ask? Well his father and his maternal Grandmother were both Scottish. Native Americans prior to cultural assimilation didn't have the European concept of "blood". Instead they were clan-based (likely why they got on well with the Scots), which was more of a voluntary association. Sort of like how Europeans are with their football teams.

  • I looked at this a little more tonight and did find some sites that tried connecting this to Roanoke as well. – justCal Dec 22 '17 at 6:10
  • The site oversimplifies the inheritance pattern for eye color. It's correct that a full-blood Indian and a blue-eyed Viking can't have a blue-eyed baby, but if a number of Vikings and Indians interbreed, the grandchildren can have blue eyes. A few Norse or Celtic explorers can't leave behind a tribe of blue-eyed Indians, but in the absence of selective pressure, they can leave behind a legacy of scattered blue-eyed individuals. (This is ignoring the fact that eye color isn't a simple dominant/recessive inheritance pattern.) – Mark Dec 23 '17 at 2:25

Norsemen traded with the Thule of the Arctic region, whom they called Scraelings. The Thule (Proto-Inuits) arrived in the northeast Atlantic zone not long after the Norse settled in Greenland. There was a paleolithic, pre-Thule population in the Atlantic region, called the Dorset culture. They were annihilated by the Thule. The Thule also prevented the Norse from permanently settling any further West than eastern Greenland. Ultimately, they drove the norse entirely out of Greenland, so there were no Norsemen in the Americas. (Greenland is considered to be North America.) This left the Thule as the sold inhabitants of the Arctic zone.

The Thule came from the Bering Strait. The region was connected with Asian trade, and utilized iron. There was a lot of competition and warfare based around hunting grounds for the bow-headed whale. They had Mongolian bows and Chinese style slat armor, which they made from bone. This made them militarily superior to the Norse. Recent research suggests that Thule migrated from the Bering Strait to the Atlantic because Genghis Khan disrupted the iron trade from Asia. Searching for new sources, they crossed to the continent with dog sleds in under 5 years.

Norsemen couldn't have taken Thule women as they pleased. I think that such interaction would probably have been in the form of kidnapping or trade, so the natives would be assimilated into the Norse. If they did have sexual interactions with the Dorset people, it wouldn't have mattered because they were decimated. There were other types of natives in Newfoundland and Labrador, and a few Norsemen reached here. Given the paucity of Norse archaeological sites, or archaeological evidence thereof, its hard to imagine any significant interactions with anyone outside of Greenland.

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  • Useful background information - but I don't see an actual answer yet. Is that perhaps still in progress? – Pieter Geerkens Dec 22 '17 at 2:04
  • I don't think that I'll put more work into this question. – John Dee Dec 22 '17 at 3:08
  • Fair enough. I might come back and top this off for you. This is a good base. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 22 '17 at 3:13
  • Sure. Something else that occured to me last night was if the Thule took or received Norse women. This comes down to the culture of Scandinavians in regards to women, and the possibility of Thule raids. I think the latter may not have been likely if the Thule only had an distance advantage with the Mongolian bow. Rather than outright warfare, the territories could have been mostly determined by perceived pressures and mutual understanding. – John Dee Dec 22 '17 at 14:53

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