Some tiding up

October 1, 2008 at 3:32 am | Posted in Chatting, Naming | Leave a comment
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When I started this blog more than six months ago my knowledge of Arctic peoples was weak, very weak. I was starting almost from zero, so the firsts posts where uncertain and maybe a bit vague, not to mention I categorized and tagged them intuitively, without a previous planning. This lead to a bit of chaos in the categories system, which I have just tried to partially solve. I have been reorganizing the categories for the location of the information.

There were two evident problems:

1) A mixed system was used, with some categories (Innu, Na-Dene), referring to tribes or ethnicities and another ones (Scandinavia, Alaska) referring to geographical places.
2) The categories for the places where not well-established, coexisting denominations such as Russia/Siberia, or Scandinavia/Sápmi which refer to similar places.

So some decisions where made, and now the new categories to locate the entries are the following:

Alaska, Canada, Greenland Scandinavia, Siberia, Japan

Of course, this system has problems. In some cases it existed a decision to be made between the native name (Sápmi instead of Scandinavia for the Saamis, or Kalaallit Nunaat for Greenland) and the general or English one. Though n those cases my personal preference and tendency is to use the native name, I finally opted for the general name in order to keep the blog usable and accessible to more people.

My decision for avoiding the tribe or ethnicities name is because for me it is very difficult to create a closed list right now. Furthermore, the number of categories would be too high, making more difficult the navigation through the blog. The name of the tribes has been used when tagging, so it should not by difficult to find it anyway.

Of course good-intentioned criticism is always welcomed, as the list is like a trial for next months.

Photo by curiousyellow under Creative Commons

To stop or not to stop…

March 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm | Posted in History, Japan, Naming | Leave a comment
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In Japan! A month ago I read in a Lonely Planet Magazine that in Japan there was an indigenous group called Ainu, who came from Siberia. It was a cool surprises, as I liked the idea of stopping in Japan. But now I’m a bit confused, as the Wikipedia says the origin of this group is not clear at all. And it seems it is not going to be clear in the immediate future years, actually:

The origins of the Ainu have not been fully determined. They have often been considered Jomon-jin, natives to Japan from the Jomon period. “The Ainu lived in this place a hundred thousand years before the Children of the Sun came” is told in one of their Yukar Upopo (Ainu legends). Ainu culture dates from around 1200 CE and recent research suggests that it originated in a merger of the Okhotsk and Satsumon cultures.Their economy was based on farming as well as hunting, fishing and gathering.

Ainu men generally have dense hair development. Many early investigators proposed a Caucasian ancestry, although recent DNA tests have found no traces of Caucasian ancestry. Genetic testing of the Ainu people has shown them to belong mainly to Y-haplogroup D. The only places outside of Japan in which Y-haplogroup D is common are Tibet and the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean.In a study by Tajima et al. (2004), two out of a sample of sixteen (or 12.5%) Ainu men were found to belong to Haplogroup C3, which is the most common Y-chromosome haplogroup among the indigenous populations of the Russian Far East and Mongolia; Hammer et al. (2005) tested another sample of four Ainu men and found that one of them (1/4 or 25%) belonged to haplogroup C3. Some researchers have speculated that this minority of Haplogroup C3 carriers among the Ainu may reflect a certain degree of unidirectional genetic influence from the Nivkhs, with whom the Ainu have long-standing cultural interactions.According to Tanaka et al. (2004), their mtDNA lineages mainly consist of haplogroup Y (21.6%) and haplogroup M7a (15.7%). A recent reevaluation of cranial traits suggests that the Ainu resemble the Okhotsk more than they do the Jomon.This agrees with the reference to the Ainu culture being a merger of Okhotsk and Satsumon cultures referenced above.

Some have speculated that the Ainu may be descendants of a prehistoric race that also produced indigenous Australian peoples. In Steve Olson’s book Mapping Human History, page 133, he describes the discovery of fossils dating back 10,000 years, representing the remains of the Jōmon, a group whose facial features more closely resemble those of the indigenous peoples of New Guinea and Australia. After a new wave of immigration, probably from the Korean Peninsula, some 2,300 years ago, of the Yayoi people, the pure-blooded Jōmon were pushed into northern Japan. Genetic data suggest that modern Japanese are descended from both the Yayoi and the Jōmon.

In the late 20th century, much speculation arose that people of the group related to the Jomon may have been one of the first to settle North America. This hypothesis is based largely on skeletal and cultural evidence among tribes living in the western part of North America and certain parts of Latin America. It is possible that North America had several peoples among its early settlers – these relatives of the Jomon being one of them. Kennewick Man is also cited at times as supporting this hypothesis.

Groundbreaking genetic mapping studies by Cavalli-Sforza have shown a sharp gradient in gene frequencies centered in the area around the Sea of Japan, and particularly in the Japanese Archipelago, that distinguishes these populations from others in the rest of eastern Asia and most of the American continent. This gradient appears as the third most important genetic movement (in other words, the third principal component of genetic variation) in Eurasia (after the “Great expansion” from the African continent, which has a cline centered in Arabia and adjacent parts of the Middle East, and a second cline that distinguishes the northern regions of Eurasia and particularly Siberia from regions to the south), which would make it consistent with the early Jōmon period, or possibly even the pre-Jōmon period.

Jomon and Yayoi are Japanese periods. A lot of new information here, I have looked for the words in bold too:

The Nivkhs (also Nivkh, Nivkhi, or Gilyak; ethnonym: Nivxi; language, нивхгу – Nivxgu) are an indigenous ethnic group inhabiting the northern half of Sakhalin Island and the region of the Amur River estuary administered by Russia. Nivkh were mainly fishermen, hunters, and dog breeders. The Nivkh were semi-nomadic living near the coasts in the summer and wintering inland along streams and rivers to catch salmon. The land the Nivkh inhabit is characterized as Taiga with cold snow-laden winters and mild summers with sparse tree cover. The Nivkh are believed to be the original inhabitants of the region deriving from a proposed Neolithic people migrating from the Transbaikal region during the Late Pleistocene.

The Nivkh suffered heavily from foreign influences, the first of which was the migration of the Tungusic peoples; latter Manchu and Chinese dynasties forced tribute upon its people. In the late 19th century, Russian Cossacks annexed and colonized Nivkh lands, where they are a small, often neglected, minority today. Today, the Nivkh live in Russian-style housing and with the over-fishing and pollution of the streams and seas, they have adopted many foods from Russian cuisine. The Nivkh practice shamanism, which is important for the winter Bear Festival, though some have converted to Russian Orthodoxy.

They number 5,287 (2002 Russian Federation census). Most speak Russian today, though about 10 percent speak their indigenous Nivkh language, which is considered an isolate language, though for convenience grouped with the Paleosiberian languages. The Nivkh language is divided into four dialects,though they are sometimes grouped with the nearby Chukotko-Kamchatkan and Altaic languages.

I haven’t found anything for Okhotsk and Satsumon. Everything is pretty confusing right now. Maybe I will have to take more things into account, such as way of living, religious believes, or material culture. Lets see what came then.

Who they are: start dealing with naming

March 7, 2008 at 12:54 am | Posted in Naming | Leave a comment
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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the word ‘eskimo’ in an English composition. My teacher pointed to me that this was considered a politically incorrect and pejorative word. I had wrote it because, as a non-native English speaker, I liked how it sounded, and it was also pretty similar to the word I use in my own language, ‘esquimal’. Besides, in Linguistics there’s a group of languages called Eskimo-Aleut spoken in Canada, Alaska and Greenland, so I didn’t make me suspicious about being insensitive. But that worried me; it was a bad beginning for my trip starting naming contemptuously the people who I wanted to visit.

Basically -that’s pretty funny I guess – it’s a problem of terminology and naming, and now that I’ve started investigating it, it’s too much for me. I’m copying here everything I’ve founded in, classified by geographical areas. Of course, opinions, corrections and comments are more than appreciated.

Alaska, Canada and Greenland
1.a member of an indigenous people of Greenland, northern Canada, Alaska, and northeastern Siberia, characterized by short, stocky build and light-brown complexion.
2.either of two related languages spoken by the Eskimos, one in Greenland, Canada, and northern Alaska, the other in southern Alaska and Siberia.Compare Inuit, Yupik.Usage note The name Inuit, by which the native people of the Arctic from northern Alaska to western Greenland call themselves, has largely supplanted Eskimo in Canada and is used officially by the Canadian government. Many Inuit consider Eskimo derogatory, in part because the word was, erroneously, long thought to mean literally “eater of raw meat.” Inuit has also come to be used in a wider sense, to name all people traditionally called Eskimo, regardless of local self-designations. Nonetheless, Eskimo continues in use in all parts of the world, especially in historical and archaeological contexts and in reference to the people as a cultural and linguistic unity. The term Native American is sometimes used to include Eskimo and Aleut peoples. See also Indian.
1.a member of the Eskimo peoples inhabiting northernmost North America from northern Alaska to eastern Canada and Greenland.
2.the language of the Inuit, a member of the Eskimo-Aleut family comprising a variety of dialects.
Also, Innuit.
Also called Inupik.
Usage Note: The preferred term for the native peoples of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland is now Inuit, and the use of Eskimo in referring to these peoples is often considered offensive, especially in Canada. Inuit, the plural of the Inuit word inuk, “human being,” is less exact in referring to the peoples of northern Alaska, who speak dialects of the closely related Inupiaq language, and it is inappropriate when used in reference to speakers of Yupik, the Eskimoan language branch of western Alaska and the Siberian Arctic. See Usage Note at Eskimo.

1.also, Aleutian. a member of a people native to the Aleutian Islands and the western Alaska Peninsula who are related physically and culturally to the Eskimos.
2.ahe language of the Aleuts, distantly related to Eskimo: a member of the Eskimo-Aleut family.

1.Eskimo dog.
2.Siberian Husky.
3.Canadian Slang.
a. an Inuit.

b. the language of the Inuit.
Usage note: Origin: 1870–75; by ellipsis from husky dog, husky breed; cf. Newfoundland and Labrador dial. Husky a Labrador Inuit, earlier Huskemaw, Uskemaw, ult. < the same Algonquian source as Eskimo.

Norway, Sweden, Finland and Kola peninsula

1.A member of a people of nomadic herding tradition inhabiting Lapland.
2.Any of the Finnic languages of the Sami.

1.Also called Laplander . A member of a Finnic people of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and adjacent regions.
2.Also called Lappish. any of the languages of the Lapps, closely related to Finnish.
Also called Sami.


1.a member of the nomadic Ugrian people living in northwestern Siberia (east of the Urals)
2.a Ugric language (related to Hungarian) spoken by the Ostyak [syn: Khanty]

1.a member of a Paleo-Asiatic people of northeastern Siberia.
2.the Chukotian language of the Chukchi people, noted for having different pronunciations for men and women.

1.a member of a Siberian people living mainly in the Yakut Autonomous Republic, Khabarovsk territory, and Evenki National District in the Russian Federation.
2.the Tungusic language spoken by the Evenki.

1.a member of a Uralic people dwelling in W Siberia and the far NE parts of European Russia.
2.Also, Samoyedic. a subfamily of Uralic languages spoken by the Samoyed people.

Usage Note Siberian Mongolian people, 1589, from Rus. samoyed, lit. “self-eaters, cannibals” (the first element cognate with Eng. same, the second with O.E. etan “to eat”). The native name is Nenets. As the name of a type of dog (once used as a working dog in the Arctic) it is attested from 1889.

1.A member of a reindeer-herding people of of extreme northwest Russia along the coast of the White, Barents, and Kara seas.
2.The Uralic language of this people.

In both senses also called Samoyed.


1.A member of an indigenous people of Japan, now inhabiting parts of Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and the Kuril Islands.
2.The language of the Ainu.
3.caucasoid people in Japan and eastern Russia, 1819, from Ainu, lit. “man.”

As it uses to happen, not only is the problem solved, but is it’s bigger. As far as I know, and though it’s not on the dictionary, ‘lapp’ and ‘lappish’ aren’t the right words, though I don’t know if it’s because its pejorative or just inadequate. I’ve put my head around Wikipedia, but the maps where so colorful and the words so complicated that I’ve decided that mt head was not prepared enough to hold out for such a terminological invasion. I’ll carry on another day.

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