Navajo Timeline

Please click on the links to the left to learn more of our Navajo history, or read the report below to learn more of the origin of the American Indian.

 

ORIGIN OF THE FIRST AMERICAN

Table Of Contents

    Classification
    Introduction
    The First Americans
    Two Lines of Research:  Skull Measurements, Grammar
    Skull Measurements
    The "Original" Melting Pot
    Grammar Check
    Conclusion
    Footnotes

 

Classification

According to Ethnologist and Linguist, the Navajos are classified scientifically as follows,

    Primary Race :     Mongoloid (Asian) or Xanthochroid
        (Homo Sapiens Asiaticus)
    Secondary Race :     American Indian
    Ensemble :     Na-Dené
    Branch :     Athabascan-Eyak
    Family :     Athabascan
    Group :     Athabascan
    Sub-Group :     Apachean
    Unit :     Navajo-Apache
    Sub-Unit :     Western Apache
    Tribe :     Navajo (Diné)

according to the following table,

COLOR CODE
    =   Human-Race Classification
    =   Navajo Classification Path

 

Primary Race Secondary Race Ensemble Branch Family Group Sub-Group Unit Sub-Unit Tribes
Mongoloid
(Asian)
or
Xanthochroid
(Homo
Sapien
Asiaticus)
American
Indian
Na-Dené Athabascan
-Eyak
Athabascan Athabascan Apachean Navajo-
Apache
Eastern
Apache
Jicarilla
Apache
Lipan
Apache
Mescalero
Apache
Chiricahua
Apache
Western
Apache
Western
Apache
Navajo
(Diné)
Kiowa
Apache
Kiowa
Apache
Kiowa
Apache
Pacific
Coast
 
Northern
Eyak  
**  
Algonquian  
Andean-
Equatorial
Aztec-
Tanoan
Chibchan
GE-Pano
-Carib
Hokaltecan
Oto-
Manguean
Penutian
Siouan
Central
Mongolian
 
Eskimo
Indonesian
Northern
Mongolian
Polynesian
Southern
Mongolian
Uralian
Australoid
(Homo
Sapiens
Australasicus)
 
Caucasoid
(White)
or
Homo
Sapiens
Albus
Negroid
(Black)
or
Melanoderm
(Homo
Sapiens
Afer)

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Introduction

Throughout most of my life, I had often wondered "who I am", and "where did I come from". Being American Indian, I had searched through the Book of Mormon, searched out my Genealogy, and read other scholarly books and papers, to find this information. I had also notice physical similarities that Asians had with Navajos, and other American Indians, while living in Los Angeles. Most people have taken me for Asian (mostly Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino). My father, Harrison Lapahie, a Navajo Code Talker, was thought of and looked Chinese, by his neighbors, having a white yellowish skin underneath his clothes. Only his arms and face would show a tan.

Having gone to visit my wife's relatives (she is Filipina) in the jungles of southern Mindanao, I noticed 5 Filipinos fishing, at a river that ran besides a cliff on one side, in a pristine green jungle environment of thousands of banana and coconut trees. Three were holding a net stretched across the river. One had a spear thrower, a spear on a wooden handle with a hooked tip that worked like a missile launcher. It had a string attached to the spear, so that it could be pulled back after being launched. Another, had a bow and arrows. These guys were naked with only a breech cloth covering their groin. Their skin was a richly dark bronze. How they looked and fished, and other events that occurred there, reminded me of how the pure Filipino was physically and culturally similar to the pure American Indians before the European invasion.

Talking to my wife, I learned similarities between Navajo and Tagalog (the Filipino national language). In Navajo and Tagalog, salt is said the same, "Asin". In Tagalog, yes is "Oo", in Navajo "Ó ". Pure Indonesians (Indonesians and Filipinos) and pure American Indians are facially very similar.

Also, the similarity in culture & mythology of the Mongol/Tibetan people and the Navajo. Their Sangye Se (enlightenment), our Hózhó (harmony), their Shambhala (sacred center), our Navajo Sacred World (5th World), their spirits and dieties and symbols, and our spirits and dieties and symbols; sometimes makes me think, that there is a relationship between these two races, in some way.

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The First Americans

The "First Americans", are people who had come from Asia, thousands of years before Christopher Columbus finally arrived and "discovered" the New World. It is estimated that about 75 million inhabitants of the Americas were living here when Christopher Columbus came across the Atlantic Ocean from a "distant" continent, and called the First Americans, "Indios" (Indians), in 1492. He thought he was in the Indies (India) and that was his big mistake. It would be a long time before anyone realized how wrong Columbus was. So the name "Indio" (or "Indian") stuck. It's what American Indians are mostly called today in the Americas.

Some people say "Native Americans" instead of Indians, although the word "native" is confusing. It has two meanings. Anyone who is born in a country is a native of that country, so many of us are native Americans. "Native" also means to have an origin, or beginning, in a country. As far as we know, no people is native to America, all our ancestors came from somewhere else. Yet "Indians", "First Americans", or "American Indians", they are all good names to describe the first inhabitants of the Americas in North America. "Indios", as used in Hispanic (Latin) America, is thought of as a derogoratory word to describe their American Indian people. Most Indians simply call themselves "The People" in their various native dialects. I prefer to call myself "American Indian" or Diné ("The People" in Navajo).

Before the European invasion, the "First Americans" were mostly hunters, farmers, and thinkers. Each American Indian "Nation" developed its different life-style and different language, just as European, Africans, and Asians did. It all depended on who their leaders were and where they lived.

The Indian thinkers created many different useful products. Their priests and scientists created mathematically precise calendars, more accurate than the Julian Calendar and other calendars used through out the world today. Goldsmiths made some of the most beautiful jewelry the world had ever seen. They invented the hammock, the canoe, snowshoes, and a game called lacrosse. They learned to gather rubber from rubber plants; they made rubber balls and used them to play ball games. They built pyramids, temples, and cities. They also invented the wheel, though they didn't make good use of it. Perhaps the wheel wasn't used effectively (only putting wheels on children's toys) because they didn't have horses to pull them.

When the Europeans brought the horse, it completely changed "Indian" life, just as the automobile and airplane changed life in 20th century America. Can you imagine hunting buffalo on foot? Now jump on horseback and see the difference it makes!

When the horse came to America, it was returning home. A tiny horse ancestor (Eohippus) had lived in America in Ice Age times. Some of those ancient dog-sized horses had trotted across Beringia to Asia. In Asia, they grew (Eohippus --> Mesohippus --> Merychippus --> Equus) large and galloped on to Europe and Africa. Those that stayed in America became extinct.

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Two Lines of Research: Skull Measurements, Grammar

We were taught that the earliest "Americans", the Clovis people, came to this country sometime about 11,500 years ago (9,500 BCE). They were said to have traveled from Siberia across the land bridge that then connected the Asian land mass with what is now Alaska.

In a recently revised version of America's earliest history, the first "American" settlers were a far more diverse lot who moved about more than we suspected. Recent evidence gathered from two different lines of research, skull measurements, and analyzing grammar, converges on this truth.

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Skull Measurements

C. Loring Brace, an Anthropologist at the University of Michigan, has made a career out of analyzing skulls from around the world. His work has confirmed a complex origin for today's American Indians.

Brace and his colleagues performed 2 dozens measurements on each of thousands of ancient and newer skulls. Then, they mapped the similarities among groups. Their analysis showed that the descendants of the first humans to enter the New World, those being natives of Mexico, Peru and the southern United States, had no obvious ties to any Asian groups. "The 'native' inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere are not all minor variants of the same people," he says. Brace, a strong advocate of the diversity proposition, plans to press forward with his investigation.

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The "Original" Melting Pot

The diversity of the original American Indian settlers was not quite as great as that of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries when waves of European, Asian and (unwilling) African immigrants arrived on American shores. However, the First Americans did have more far-flung origins that were ever suspected. For example, Brace's studies have revealed that the Blackfoot, Iroquois, and other tribes from Minnesota, Michigan, Ontario, and Massachusetts descended from the Jomon, a prehistoric people of Japan. The Inuit in the far north and tribal groups who once lived down the Eastern seaboard into Florida appear to be a later branch from the trunk of the Jomon family tree. The Athabaskan-speaking people from the Yukon and northern-western Canada, who spread as far south as Arizona and northern Mexico (the Navajos and Apaches), appear to trace their origins to China. "Their craniofacial configuration allies them more closely to the living Chinese than to any other population in either hemisphere," say Brace.

To identify the ultimate origins of these peoples, Brace hopes to use new samples, from sites in Mongolia, that have been silently biding their time in museums in the former Soviet Union. "These samples represent the remaining large block of the world not currently covered in any detail by the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology craniofacial database," as spoken by a university spokesman. Their addition could provide a fuller picture of our country's earliest inhabitants. "We hope that new samples from Novosibirsk, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg, which we've recently been given permission to measure, will illuminate their origins," says Brace.

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Grammar Check

One of the reasons Brace's work is being taken so seriously is that it has been more or less verified.

Johanna Nichols, a Professor of Slavic languages and literature at the University of California at Berkeley, has researched a conclusion similar to Brace's by way of an entirely different approach. While Brace has analyzed the most substantial bits of our past, Nichols has focused on the most ephemeral - language.

She says that new linguistic evidence from indigenous languages throughout the New World strongly suggest that humans have been in the Americas since as early as 40,000 BCE. She says that it is only along the west Coast that languages appear to have come from immigrants who arrived after the ice age, 14,000 years ago.

Nichols also has some radical ideas about the direction in which the country was settled. Breaking with the traditional view of migrations, she says that the interior of North America was colonized not only from Siberia but also from the south.

To bolster her argument for an early settlement date, Nichols points to findings from the Monte Verde site in southern Chile. It has been dated at 12,500 years old, which means the area was occupied during the last ice age. And, the Monte Verde people would have needed at least 6,500 years to travel from Alaska to Chile. Yet, that only takes us back to about 19,000 years ago. Here is where her study of language diversity provides the rest of the explanation for the 40,000 BCE settlement date. Her research suggests a very high degree of language diversity, and that, says Nichols, is something that happens only with time. She maintains that the approximately 150 distinct Native American language families we know of today must have required at least 35,000 years to develop.

Beneath this diversity, there are deep linguistic similarities that link across the Pacific Ocean. "From the Sierra and the Andes mountains all the way to the Atlantic, American languages share distinctive features," says Nichols. "They share grammatical features that are rare elsewhere, which gives the hemisphere a distinctive signature." One of these features is a pronoun system with "n" in the words for "I" and "we" and "m" in the words for "you." It is found on both the American Pacific coast and the south Asian coast.

As to the question of where it all began, that is something we may never know. "(These language similarities) indicate a common history of a people so ancient that we cannot hope to trace their linguistic descent," says Nichols.

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Conclusion

In conclusion, it would appear that no matter how deeply we delve into the American Indian past, America always was a land of immigrants. A link can be established with Asia, but other American Indian nations, can only be assumed. Immigration in the Americas had always occurred, some just arrived a bit earlier than others.

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FOOTNOTES

  1. Popular Mechanics. June 2000 p. 40, 42
  2. A History of US, The First Americans. Oxford University Press, p. 19, 20
  3. Oxford Children's History of the World. Oxford University Press, p 67
  4. Navajo & Tibetan Sacred Wisdom: The Circle of the Spirit. Inner Traditions

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