Using DNA tests, Dean Lerat has created a massive family tree for the Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan...
By day, Dean Lerat is an RCMP staff sergeant in Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask. But in his free time, the member of Cowessess First Nation is a DNA detective.
Lerat, who is Saulteaux, is using DNA testing and archival records to help Indigenous people learn about their biological families and fill in gaps in their family histories. With that data, he's creating genetic maps and extensive family trees of the Treaty 4 area in Saskatchewan.
"The Sixties Scoop adoptees [and] descendants of residential school survivors, I think I've helped over 15 of them now find their way back," he told Unreserved host Rosanna Deerchild.
Lerat said people he doesn't know contact him through social media channels, asking him to help them find where they come from.
"I'll spend a couple hours in the morning, Saturday morning, having a cup of coffee … trying to figure out who their aunts and uncles are. And then I'll send them back a tree if I can. Whether it's partial, whether it's full," he said.
"I'm curious. I like to solve mysteries."
Creating a 'genetic road map'
Along with DNA testing, Lerat also uses obituaries, band lists, censuses and old documents from the Northwest Mounted Police (the precursor to the RCMP) to inform his work. He also uses online databases offered by companies such as Ancestry, 23 and Me, My Heritage and Family Tree DNA.
All of this work helps Lerat piece together what he calls a "genetic road map."
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