Indigenous Peoples in the Americas

Tracing the journeys of the Caribbean’s first people

Reprinted from Around the O
https://around.uoregon.edu/content/tracing-journeys-caribbeans-first-people

Caribbean Digging at Grand Bay

January 6, 2020—People first settled the Caribbean thousands of years ago, but their exact migration routes have long remained a puzzle. Now, a new study coauthored by eight UO researchers is piecing that puzzle together through a rigorous reexamination of archaeological data.

Published in the journal Science Advances, the study reports evidence that the first Caribbean islanders traveled directly from South America to the northern Caribbean beginning about 5,800 years ago, initially settling Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico in the Greater Antilles and smaller islands in the northern Lesser Antilles before further colonizing islands to the south.

“This scenario contradicts a competing ‘stepping stone’ model that many archaeologists still subscribe to, which asserts a south-to-north settlement beginning in the Lesser Antilles,” said Matthew Napolitano, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology

Critics of the stepping stone model point out that trade winds and ocean currents in the region would have made travel toward the southern Lesser Antilles difficult for expeditions from the South or Central American mainlands and that early seafarers would likely have been attracted to the larger, more productive islands of the Greater Antilles, settling those first before gradually migrating southward.

The new study is the culmination of a graduate student project supervised by Scott Fitzpatrick, associate director of the UO’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History and a professor in the Department of Anthropology. Conducted over a four-year period by Napolitano and Fitzpatrick along with graduate students Robert DiNapoli, Jessica Stone and several others, the project was designed to put the stepping stone model and other Caribbean settlement hypotheses to the test.

The north-to-south pattern was borne out in the team’s research, which involved tracking down and reevaluating nearly 2,500 radiocarbon dates reported from cultural sites on 55 Caribbean islands.

The authors assessed each date’s reliability using strict criteria related to the geologic and archaeological contexts of the dated material, the quality of the samples and the lab conditions under which the materials were analyzed. The dates were then subjected to rigorous statistical analyses, resulting in a new and exceptionally robust colonization model.  

“By carefully applying these criteria, we were able to improve confidence about the reported dates, as well as whether the dated materials actually relate to human activity,” Fitzpatrick said.

To the researchers’ surprise, just over half of the analyzed radiocarbon dates passed muster, despite more than 50 years of archaeological scholarship in the region.

“Our analysis of the resulting acceptable dates, which represent human occupations on 26 islands, provides the first reliable model for initial arrival in the region,” said Fitzpatrick, an expert in island and coastal archaeology whose research focuses on the Caribbean and Pacific.    

The study has also resulted in the largest publicly accessible database of radiocarbon dates for the region.     

“Human colonization of the Caribbean is one of the least understood population dispersals in the Americas,” Napolitano said. “This work helps solve some of the mystery while providing a ‘best practices’ approach to collecting and reporting radiocarbon dates.”  

—By Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History

RELATED LINKS

Study finds climate helped guide early Pacific seafarers

Archaeologists develop a new picture of the human footprint

Department of Anthropology

Meet Scott Fitzpatrick

Meet Matthew Napolitano

Read the study

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Language, Culture, and Identity: a public talk by Daryl Baldwin

October 14, 2019
6:00 pm

6pm, 156 Straub Hall, University of Oregon
A CLLAS-themed Event: *The Politics of Language in the Americas: Power, Culture, History, and Resistance

On the occasion of Indigenous Peoples Day during 2019 declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the Graduate Linguists of Oregon Student Society (GLOSS) in collaboration with the Northwest Indian Language Institute, will be hosting a public talk by Daryl Baldwin, a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University. A 2016 MacArthur Fellow, Baldwin has been an intellectual leader in the revitalization of the Myaamia language, a language that was dormant for several decades after losing its native speakers. 

Today, the Myaamia language is undergoing a vibrant process of revitalization which, as Baldwin will explain, is strongly grounded on a long-standing and mutually strengthening relationship between the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Miami University. You may learn more about Daryl Baldwin at https://miamioh.edu/myaamia-center/about/staff-faculty-affiliates/baldwin/and https://www.macfound.org/fellows/955/ .

* CLLAS is cosponsoring as part of its two-year theme (2019-2021) 
The Politics of Language in the Americas: Power, Culture, History, and Resistance.

Fair Trade Rebels: UO graduate Lindsay Naylor has a new book on coffee production in Chiapas

Fair Trade Rebels: Coffee Production and Struggles for Autonomy in Chiapas, by Lindsay Naylor. Diverse Economies and Livable Worlds Series. (University of Minnesota Press, 2019)

Lindsay Naylor is an assistant professor, Department of Geography & Spatial Sciences, College of Earth, Ocean, & Environment at the University of Delaware. As a graduate student at the University of Oregon, she was the recipient of a 2010 CLLAS Graduate Student Research Grant for “Harnessing Multiple Movements: The Intersection of Fair Trade and the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas, Mexico.”

Naylor’s new book is titled Fair Trade Rebels: Coffee Production and Struggles for Autonomy in Chiapas.

Synopsis: Is fair trade really fair? Who is it for, and who gets to decide? Fair Trade Rebels addresses such questions in a new way by shifting the focus from the abstract concept of fair trade–and whether it is “working”–to the perspectives of small farmers. It examines the everyday experiences of resistance and agricultural practice among the campesinos/as of Chiapas, Mexico, who struggle for dignified livelihoods in self-declared autonomous communities in the highlands, confronting inequalities locally in what is really a global corporate agricultural chain.

Based on extensive fieldwork, Fair Trade Rebels draws on stories from Chiapas that have emerged from the farmers’ interaction with both the fair-trade-certified marketplace and state violence. Here Lindsay Naylor discusses the racialized and historical backdrop of coffee production and rebel autonomy in the highlands, underscores the divergence of movements for fairer trade and the so-called alternative certified market, traces the network of such movements from the highlands and into the United States, and evaluates existing food sovereignty and diverse economic exchanges. Putting decolonial thinking in conversation with diverse economies theory, Fair Trade Rebels evaluates fair trade not by the measure of its success or failure but through a unique, place-based approach that expands our understanding of the relationship between fair trade, autonomy, and economic development.

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Rejuvenating Nahuatl Scholarship in the 21st Century

February 27, 2019
4:00 pmto6:00 pm

A Presentation by Dra. Lidi a E. Gómez García
Wednesday, February 27, 4-6 pm, 375 McKenzie Hall

Ethnohistorian Lidia  E. Gómez García (Benemérita Universidad de Puebla, Mexico), will  speak  about colonial manuscript production (alphabetic and pictorial) by Nahuas, the ethnic group that included the Aztecs,  during roughly three centuries, from 1540 to 1830. She will discuss how Nahua scholars have become engaged in the serious study of these fascinating indigenous-language manuscripts, thousands of which survive to this day.  

Sponsored by the Departments of History and Romance Languages, Latin American Studies, and the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies.

 

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Judge Yassmin Barrios, “Justice and Reparation in Guatemala: Challenges and Possibilities”

March 5, 2019
6:00 pmto7:30 pm

156 Straub Hall, 1451 Onyx St., UO campus
Free & open to the public

Justice and Reparation in Guatemala: Challenges and Possibilities

CLLAS Inaugural Lecture in Latinx and Latin American Studies

Please join us for the CLLAS Inaugural Lecture in Latinx and Latin American Studies with Judge Yassmin Barrios. Judge Barrios will deliver her address, “Justice and Reparation in Guatemala: Challenges and Possibilities,” in 156 Straub Hall at 6pm on Tuesday, March 5th.

Judge Yassmin Barrios is president of one of the two Guatemalan High Risk Crimes Tribunals. She was the presiding judge in the case of General Efraín Ríos Montt, convicting the dictator for genocide against the indigenous Ixil Mayans of Guatemala.

Sponsored by the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies and cosponsored by the President’s Office, the Oregon Humanities Center, the Center for the Study of Women in Society, the Latin American Studies Program, and the Departments of History, Political Science, and Romance Languages.

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Linguistics professor Gabriela Pérez Báez gets NEH grant to protect indigenous languages

Linguistics prof gets NEH grant to protect indigenous languages

Around the O / December 12, 2018 — To date, more than 7,000 languages are spoken around the world. As Gabriela Pérez Báez explains, languages hold critical knowledge about the history of survival of the communities of speakers, their ecological perspectives and their well-being.

Gabriela Pérez Báez

Pérez Báez is an assistant professor in the University of Oregon’s linguistics department and serves as the director of its new Language Revitalization Lab. She also serves as co-director for the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages and works with the UO’s Northwest Indian Language Institute, known as NILI.

Of the more than 300 languages spoken at the time of contact with Europeans in what is now the United States, more than half stopped being spoken as a result of colonization and state-building policies. These languages are considered to be dormant or sleeping. Many more are highly endangered today.

“The language communities recognize how critical the languages are and as a result have engaged in the arduous work of researching the languages in historical archives in order to reconstruct them and bring them back to use,” Pérez Báez said.

The Northwest Indian Language Institute provides training to Native American teachers working to revitalize many of these languages. Institute staff also partner with tribes to carry out on-site trainings and develop curriculum to teach highly endangered or sleeping languages in the classroom.

The institute’s efforts are being recognized with the announcement earlier in the fall that the National Breath of Life, of which the institute is a partner, has received support through a $311,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant was awarded to Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University, and Pérez Báez.

Since 2011, the National Breath of Life has provided training on the use of archival documentation for the revitalization of highly endangered and dormant languages to 117 community researchers from 55 language communities. With this growth comes the need for software to support the advancement of the research.

In response, the upcoming NEH-funded National Breath of Life 2.0 workshops are designed to provide participants with training in the use of the new indigenous languages digital archive. The archival system is the only available software that allows for the organization, storage and retrieval of digital copies of linguistic archival materials.

It directly links independent data derived from linguistic analysis to original manuscript pages. Pérez Báez said its powerful search function allows for the in-depth linguistic analysis required for the reconstruction of highly endangered or dormant languages.

The indigenous languages digital archive is modeled after the Miami-Illinois digital archive, also funded by a prior NEH grant and designed by the Myaamia Center to advance research for the revitalization of the heritage language of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.

Pérez Báez said the grant will support the refinement of indigenous languages digital archive. It will also provide funding to hold two training workshops for community researchers engaged in language revitalization to learn how to use the archival system. The community researchers will then have access to the software free of charge.

The grant “has had significant positive impact on our ability to utilize archival materials for our revitalization effort,” Baldwin said. “It is an important step in the development of National Breath of Life to be able to share this technology with other tribal communities.”

A National Breath of Life 2.0 workshop will be held at Miami University in July 2019. Applications to the 2019 workshop are being accepted at www.nationalbreathoflife.org. The deadline is Saturday, Dec. 15.

The UO institute will hold a second workshop in Eugene in 2020.

“NILI is excited to be partnering with the National Breath of Life in this important national workshop, and we look forward to hosting community language leaders from across the nation,” said Janne Underriner, director of the institute.

—By David Austin, University Communications

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CLLAS Common Reading Brunch with author Helena María Viramontes / Photos by Mike Bragg / Courtesy of the UO Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

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