This Native American Man Has The Oldest American DNA Ever Recorded

Published May 9, 2019
Updated February 21, 2022

The DNA testing company found Darrell Crawford's results so unprecedented that they said it was like finding Bigfoot.

Darrell Crawford In Montana

TwitterDarrell “Dusty” Crawford didn’t even want to get his DNA tested. He merely did it to assuage his brother, who died before the results came back.

Before Alvin “Willy” Crawford’s heart gave out, the Montana man asked his brother, Darrell “Dusty” Crawford to get his DNA tested. When he did, according to USA Today, CRI Genetics told Crawford that his results were so unprecedented that it was like finding Bigfoot.

CRI Genetics is one of many modern “biogeographical ancestry” companies. They trace a customer’s genetic makeup through time and space and attempt to find its place in the evolution of humankind.

The results, which are 99 percent accurate, indicated that Crawford’s line went back 55 generations. CRI Genetics said its never been able to date anyone’s DNA as far back as this. This is now officially the oldest American DNA found on the continent.

For Crawford, the test was merely done to assuage his brother. Naturally, he wished he could share these remarkable results with him.

“He’s the one who encouraged me to do this, and he wanted to compare our results,” said Crawford. “I just wish I could have shown it to him. It would have blown him away.”

Bering Strait Migration Pattern

University of Cambridge/NewsweekThe Bering Strait migration pattern Crawford thought his ancestors took to get here. The DNA test indicated otherwise.

The late Willy Crawford lived on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Heart Butte, Montana. Darrell Crawford has long believed that his ancestors came to North America during the Ice Age, through the Bering Land Bridge, an ancient human migration route from Asia to the Americas.

The DNA results, however, indicated that the Crawfords’ ancestors came here from the Pacific. They initially settled in South America and then traveled north. To be clear, this, too, is merely a theory. While the company touts a 99 percent accuracy rate, other considerable variables are at play.

Crawford is part of the mtDNA Haplogroup B2. This genetic population subset originated in Arizona some 17,000 years ago and has a fairly low frequency in both Alaska and Canada. It’s one of the four major Native American groups that populated the continent.

These groups are called clans, and all trace back to four female ancestors: Ai, Ina, Chie, and Sachi. CRI Genetics found Crawford to hail from the Ina clan. This DNA group’s closest relatives outside the Western Hemisphere are found in Southeast Asia.

“Its path from the Americas is somewhat of a mystery as there are no frequencies of the haplogroup in either Alaska or Canada,” CRI Genetics explained. “Today this Native American line is found only in the Americas, with a strong frequency on the eastern coast of North America.”

Ancient Mastodon Femur

Tom Deméré/San Diego Natural History MuseumBlackfeet Community College professor Shelly Eli pointed to the mastodon femur found in 2017 as evidence that Native Americans have “always been here.”

For Shelly Eli, who teaches Piikani culture at the Blackfeet Community College, the scientific theories that this Native American line migrated to the Americas from elsewhere are unfounded. Citing oral stories and indigenous history, she said, “We’ve always been here, since time immemorial.”

“There’s no oral stories that say we crossed a bridge or anything else.”

Eli rooted her claim in 2017 research that dated human activity in North America at least 100,000 years earlier than the previous estimates of 15,000.

Blackfeet Indians

Wikimedia CommonsDarrell Crawford is a Native American from the Blackfeet tribe, which lives in a Montana reservation 3,000 square miles wide.

As for Crawford’s ancestral makeup, his results showed 83 percent Native American ancestry. While some of this was a mixture of various Native threads — 73 percent of that came from the same heritage.

The remaining 17 percent were comprised of 9.8 percent European, 5.3 percent East Asian, 2 percent South Asian, and .2 percent African.

For the scientific community, Crawford’s results are monumental. The benchmark for the oldest American DNA ever tested has now been moved back 17,000 years. For Crawford, himself, the find is an affirmation of long his ancestors have been in the region. Ultimately, he just wished he could share the news with his brother.

After learning about the Montana man whose DNA is now the oldest American DNA ever tested, read about the 15,500-year-old weapons that are the oldest ever found in North America. Then, see surprising new revelations about some of the first humans in North America.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.