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Event Series Event Series: Speaker Series – Houston

Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas

October 21 @ 6:30 pm 7:30 pm

Houston Museum of Natural Science
Houston, Texas

How—and when—did people first arrive on the American continents? For many years, scientists believed they had straightforward answers. However, recent archaeological evidence shows that humans were in the Americas thousands of years before the Clovis people. Researchers are now using ancient DNA to trace human population history, revealing a complex story of migrations, isolation, and adaptation.

In this talk, Dr. Jennifer Raff will explore the latest genetic and archaeological evidence for the origins of the First Peoples. We’ll piece together a story told by DNA fragments recovered from a tooth in Siberia, a broken knife found deep beneath a muddy pond in Florida, and children’s footprints left thousands of years ago on the shores of an ancient lake in New Mexico. We’ll examine why these same pieces of evidence can lead to different interpretations among scholars and how they align—or don’t—with the ancient knowledge held by present-day Indigenous descendants.

While a clearer picture of this history is emerging, many questions remain. We will discuss how scientists are addressing these questions and grappling with the legacy of harm their research has caused Indigenous peoples. Genetics can be a powerful tool for understanding the past, but when used unwisely or unethically, it can perpetuate historical injustices such as colonialism, racism, and disrespect. We will examine how these themes are interconnected in the field and how scientists—many of whom are Native American—are working to make research practices more ethical.

Dr. Jennifer Raff is an anthropological geneticist and science writer. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the book “Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas.” She is currently an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Affiliate Faculty with the Indigenous Studies Program at the University of Kansas, working with tribes and communities across North America to use ancient and contemporary genomes as tools for investigating historical questions. Her research focuses on the initial peopling of the Americas as well as more recent histories in the North American Arctic and mid-continent.

About this event

This is a 45 minute in-person lecture in the Giant Wortham Theater at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. There will be an opportunity to ask questions to the speaker following the lecture. Purchase tickets to attend in person. Subscribe to The Leakey Foundation YouTube channel to receive notifications when the lecture is available to view online. 

I [name], of [city, state ZIP], bequeath the sum of $[ ] or [ ] percent of my estate to L.S.B. Leakey Foundation for Research Related to Man’s Origins, Behavior & Survival, (dba The Leakey Foundation), a nonprofit organization with a business address of 1003B O’Reilly Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94129 and a tax identification number 95-2536475 for its unrestricted use and purpose.

If you have questions, please contact Sharal Camisa Smith sharal at 

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