Seri people

Last updated

Seri
Comcaac
Chapito.jpg
Chapito, a Seri shaman from Punta Chueca, Sonora
Total population
~1,000 (2006) [1]
Regions with significant populations
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico
Sonora
Languages
Seri   Spanish
Religion
Traditionally animists, currently primarily Christian

The Seri are an indigenous group of the Mexican state of Sonora. The majority reside on the Seri communal property (Spanish, ejido), in the towns of Punta Chueca (Seri: Socaaix) and El Desemboque (Seri: Haxöl Iihom) on the mainland coast of the Gulf of California. Tiburón Island (Tahejöc) and San Esteban Island (Cofteecöl and sometimes Hast) were also part of their traditional territory. They were historically seminomadic hunter-gatherers who maintained an intimate relationship with both the sea and the land. They are one of the ethnic groups of Mexico that has most strongly maintained their language and culture throughout the years after contact with Spanish and Mexican cultures.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Sonora State of Mexico

Sonora, officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Sonora, is one of 31 states that, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 federal entities of United Mexican States. It is divided into 72 municipalities; the capital city is Hermosillo. Sonora is bordered by the states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest and Sinaloa to the south. To the north, it shares the U.S.–Mexico border with the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and on the west has a significant share of the coastline of the Gulf of California.

Punta Chueca is a Seri town located on the Gulf of California in the Mexican state of Sonora. It is located 25 kilometers north of the fishing and tourist town of Bahía de Kino. Both of these towns are part of the Municipality of Hermosillo. One of the two villages on the Seri Indian communal property, it has small stores, a primary school and a small satellite-fed secondary school (telesecundaria). It is one of the closest points on the mainland to Tiburón Island, separated from it by the Canal del Infiernillo. According to the Mexican census of 2010, the town, had a population of 520 inhabitants.

Contents

The Seri people are not related culturally or linguistically to other groups that have lived in the area, such as the Opata, Yaqui (sg.: Yequim, pl.: Yectz), O'odham (sg.: Hapaay), or Cochimí. The Seri language is distinct from all others in the region and is considered a language isolate. [2]

The Opata are three indigenous peoples of Mexico. Opata territory, the “Opatería” in Spanish, encompasses the mountainous northeast and central part of the state of Sonora, extending to near the border with the United States. Most Opatan towns were situated in river valleys and had an economy based on irrigated agriculture. In the 16th century, when they first met the Spanish explorers, the Opata were the most numerous people in Sonora. Today, some people continue to identify as Opatas and are working to restore aspects of pre-contact Opata culture, and revitalize Opata identity. Some sources indicate that as an identifiable ethnic group, the Opata and their language are now extinct, or nearly extinct.

The O'odham peoples, including the Tohono O'odham, the Pima or Akimel O'odham, and the Hia C-ed O'odham, are an indigenous Uto-Aztecan peoples of the Sonoran desert in southern and central Arizona and northern Sonora, united by a common heritage language, the O'odham language. Today, many O'odham live in the Tohono O'odham Nation, the San Xavier Indian Reservation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community or off-reservation in one of the cities or towns of Arizona.

Seri language language

Seri is an indigenous language spoken by between 716 and 900 Seri people in Punta Chueca and El Desemboque, two villages on the coast of Sonora, Mexico. The language is generally considered an isolate, however, there have been attempts to include it in the theoretical Hokan language family. There is no concrete evidence for connections to other languages at this time.

Beside the Apache (sg.: Hapats, pl.: Hapatsoj) and Yaqui, the Seri are best known as fierce warriors for their fierce resistance against subjugation by the Spanish (sg.: Casopin) and later Mexicans (sg./pl.: Cocsar).

The Apache are a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States, which include the Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Salinero, Plains and Western Apache. Distant cousins of the Apache are the Navajo, with which they share the Southern Athabaskan languages. There are Apache communities in Oklahoma, Texas, and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Apache people have moved throughout the United States and elsewhere, including urban centers. The Apache Nations are politically autonomous, speak several different languages and have distinct cultures.

A warrior is a person specializing in combat or warfare, especially within the context of a tribal or clan-based warrior culture society that recognizes a separate warrior class or caste.

The name Seri is an exonym of uncertain origin. (Claims that it is from Opata or from Yaqui were nineteenth-century speculations based on similarity to words in those languages and not with clear evidence.) [2] Their name for themselves is Comcaac (phonemically /kom'kɑːk/, phonetically [koŋˈkɑːk]); singular: Cmiique (phonemically /'kmiːkɛ/), phonetically [ˈkw̃ĩːkːɛ]). [3]

Bands

Seri woman's dress for everyday wear on display at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City MAPElNorte029.JPG
Seri woman's dress for everyday wear on display at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City

The Seri were formerly divided into six bands. They were:

Bahía Kino village in Sonora

Bahía de Kino is a town in the Mexican state of Sonora, Hermosillo (municipality), on the Sea of Cortez ; it was named after Eusebio Kino. The name also applies to the adjacent bay between Tiburón Island and Punta San Nicolás, Sonora. The names Bahía de Kino, Bahía Kino and Kino Bay are used interchangeably.

Guaymas city in Sonora, Mexico

Guaymas is a city in Guaymas Municipality, in the southwest part of the state of Sonora, in northwestern Mexico. The city is 117 km south of the state capital of Hermosillo, and 242 miles from the U.S. border. The municipality is located on the Gulf of California and the western edge of the Sonoran Desert and has a hot, dry climate and 117 km of beaches. The municipality’s formal name is Guaymas de Zaragoza and the city’s formal name is the Heróica Ciudad de Guaymas.

Tiburón Island island

Tiburón Island is the largest island in the Gulf of California and the largest island in Mexico, with an area of 1,201 square kilometres (464 sq mi). It was made a nature reserve in 1963 by President Adolfo López Mateos.

Three of the bands were further subdivided. Relations between bands were not always friendly, and internal conflict sometimes occurred.

Some bands were also living on the Baja California Peninsula (Hant Ihiin), they were called Hant Ihiini comcaac. [4]

It has been said that these groups spoke three distinct but mutually intelligible dialects. It is thought that the first dialect was spoken by the Xiica hai iic coii, Xiica xnaai iic coii, Tahejöc comcaac and Heeno comcaac Bands and presently this variant is the only dialect spoken and is the ancestor of modern-day Seri. The second dialect was spoken by the Xnaamotat Band, but it is currently extinct and there was very little data collected regarding this dialect. The third dialect is also extinct and was spoken by the Xiica hast ano coii Band; it was described as sounding musical, as if speakers were singing instead of speaking (Moser 1963). Speakers sometimes make remarks regarding certain expressions being characteristic of particular Bands, especially of the Xiica hast ano coii Band. These communication differences were thought to have kept the groups from having much social interaction with each other. [5]

After the Seri population was greatly reduced by conflicts with the Mexican government and the O'odham, and epidemics of smallpox and measles, the remaining Seris grouped together and the band divisions were lost.

Ethnonym

The autoethnonym of the Seri people, Comcaac, was first recorded by United States Boundary Commissioner John Russell Bartlett, who was in the area for a short visit in early 1852. [6] The word was included in the list of approximately 180 words that Bartlett archived in the Bureau of American Ethnology (now part of the National Anthropological Archive, housed at the Smithsonian). He recorded the word as "komkak", which reflected the pronunciation of the word at that time (although he missed the vowel length and did not indicate stress). Other word lists, obtained by other people during the last half of the nineteenth century, confirm that pronunciation. The phonetic rule by which the consonant /m/ is pronounced as a velar nasal in this context (after an unstressed vowel and preceding a velar consonant) may not have come about until sometime in the early twentieth century or researchers may have encountered slow-speech deliberate pronunciations for which the assimilation was held in abeyance. The singular form, Cmiique, was first recorded by French explorer and philologist Alphonse Pinart in 1879. [7] He recorded the word as "kmike", which must have reflected the pronunciation of the word at that time (although he also missed the vowel length). The phonetic rule by which the consonant /m/ is pronounced as a nasalized velar approximant in this context (after a velar stop) may not have come about until sometime in the mid twentieth century.

In media

Notes

  1. Martlett, Stephen (2006). The Sociolinguistic Situation of the Seri Language in 20006 (PDF). SIL International.
  2. 1 2 Marlett (2011).
  3. Marlett, Moreno & Herrera (2005).
  4. Seri Names
  5. SERI LANDSCAPE CLASSIFICATION AND SPATIAL REFERENCE
  6. McGee 1898:96ff.
  7. Alphonse Pinart. 1879. [Vocabulary of the Seri]. Manuscript. Bureau of American Ethnology collection, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Bibliography

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