Just a Note on Ethnonyms

Nunavutball

Every now and then I complain about ethnonyms. Here is an excerpt from a recent paper (Paleo-Eskimo Genetic Legacy Across North America) that demonstrates the difficulty:

Current evidence suggests that present-day Native Americans descend from at least four distinct streams of ancient migration from Asia1-3. The largest ancestral contribution was from populations that separated from the ancestors of present-day East Asian groups ~23,000 calendar years before present (calBP), occupied Beringia for several thousand years, and then moved into North and South America approximately 16,000 calBP2. To be consistent with the previous genetic literature we call this lineage “First Americans”, while acknowledging that indigenous scholars have suggested the term “First Peoples” as an alternative…

How do people not understand that “First Peoples” IS NOT SPECIFIC ENOUGH for genetic, ethnographic, or historical literature? Like, maybe there are multiple groups of people on the planet that phrase could refer to, making it completely useless for identifying anyone?

Besides, what if it turns out there were people there before them? Do we go back to all of the old books and papers, cross out “First Peoples” and replace it with “Second Peoples”?

The archaeological record in the Arctic provides clear evidence for the spread of Paleo-Eskimo culture, which spread across the Bering strait about 5,000 calBP, and expanded across coastal Alaska, Arctic Canada and Greenland a few hundred years later. Direct ancient DNA data has proven that the Paleo-Eskimo cultural spread was strongly correlated with the spread of a new people that continuously occupied the American Arctic for more than four millennia until ~700 calBP… Paleo-Eskimo archeological cultures are grouped under the Arctic Small Tool tradition (ASTt), and include the Denbigh, Choris, Norton, and Ipiutak cultures in Alaska and the Saqqaq, Independence, Pre-Dorset, and Dorset cultures in the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. … In this paper, we use the genetic label “Paleo-Eskimo” to refer to the ancestry associated with ancient DNA from the ASTt and “Neo-Eskimo” to refer to ancient DNA from the later Northern Maritime tradition. While we recognize that some indigenous groups would prefer that the term “Eskimo” not be used, we are not aware of an alternative term that all relevant groups prefer instead. The terms “Paleo-Inuit” and “Thule Inuit” have been proposed as possible replacements for “Paleo-Eskimo” and “Neo-Eskimo”, respectively19, but the use of “Inuit” in this context might seem to imply that individuals from these ancient cultures are more closely related to present-day Inuit than to present-day Yupik, whereas genetic data show that Yupik and Inuit derive largely from the same ancestral populations (see below). Moreover, the term “Thule” does not cover the whole spectrum of Northern Mar associated with the latest phase of this tradition. We therefore use the “Eskimo” terminology here while acknowledging its imperfections.

Yupik are Eskimo. Inuit are Eskimo. Inuit want to be called Inuit. Yupik probably want to be called Yupik but are happy with Eskimo and think those Inuit are trying to impose this “Inuit” name on them that they don’t use for themselves. There is no way around this that doesn’t involve too many words, which is why I just call them all Eskimo.

The term “Eskimo” is not even pejorative; according to Wikipedia, it means “a person who laces a snowshoe.” Snowshoes are very clever and useful inventions and there is no shame in being able to lace one properly. I mean, I’m an “American”, what’s that, a corruption of an Italian guy’s signature that got mistaken for a map label?

There is a claim that it means “eaters of raw meat.” This sounds like backwards or creative etymology to me, less sound than the snowshoe label. But even if it is true, so what? Eskimo do eat raw meat. So do the French and the Japanese. The traditional Eskimo diet is one of the best, most nutritious in the world and there is no reason to feel ashamed of it.

Maybe we should change “America” to “Burger Eaters.” We’d be the “Golden Arches Land.”

A rose by any other name would smell just as deep fried in oil.

(Also, since the Neo-Eskimo only show up in the archaeological records of North America around 2,000 years ago, a couple thousand years after the Paleo-Eskimo, they aren’t “First People.” More like Second or Third People. Numbering peoples is absurd.)

It is otherwise a good paper and I encourage you to read it; I just feel sorry for the authors for having to spend so many lines defending the concept of conveying information clearly.

Stolen Land

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I’m not actually against immigration, but I am pro-borders and prefer to live among people I find pleasant, and in this day and age, the two positions are treated as equivalent.

Why borders? Why can’t we all just go wherever we want? Why should a mere accident of birth condemn one person to live in a god-forsaken hellhole, and another to live somewhere peaceful and prosperous?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t like god-forsaken hellholes anymore than the next guy.

So I have a little garden. No trivial undertaking, by the way. Clearing out the brush, pulling up the weeds, digging holes, building rock walls and planting beds, and, of course, watering the darn thing has taken hours or work. Many of the plants are perennials started from seed, so I won’t even get to harvest them for several years.

There’s just one problem: the land isn’t mine. It’s an unattended lot that was a neighborhood eyesore. I’m trying to turn it into something nice, but the owners could come back at any point and mow it all down. For that matter, anyone else in the neighborhood could walk into the garden and take my turnips, pick all my flowers, or knock down my walls. These are problems I have had. And what can I do? Press charges against someone for vandalizing someone else’s property? It doesn’t work that way.

As a result, there are certain improvements that I’m not going to make. Why plant a tree that cold get chopped down? Or buy a pleasant little bench that could get thrown away? For that matter, even a decent lawn mower costs several hundred dollars. Who wants to invest money into something they could lose?

A proper garden requires ownership.

“Why bother at all?” you might be wondering. Because a garden is a lot nicer than as a bunch of dead weeds, and if I get lucky, some of the plants might survive to benefit the neighborhood for years to come.

 

Each country is a garden. Each country decides what to do with its own resources, how many people they can support, and how they want to conduct their lives. Sometimes countries need more people. Sometimes they need fewer. Sometimes the numbers are just right, but it wouldn’t hurt to switch a few people with another country, to the mutual benefit of everyone.

In no case does a country benefit from allowing in more people than it can feed. California produces a great percentage of America’s food, has had a drought for 1o years, and doesn’t have enough water for all of the crops and people already there. And yet the open-borders advocates want more people to move to California?

If California runs out of water, not only will the local farmers suffer (and no, an orchard someone’s been tending for decades is not something you can just stop watering for a few years,) but so will the rest of the country, especially those whose food budgets are already tight.

In no case does a country benefit from allowing in a bunch of people who are higher crime or lower IQ than the existing population. This should be obvious.

And then there is the more subtle matter of culture. Most people basically like their own cultures, and have little interest in radically changing them (else they would have already.) And culture, as I’ve noted before, is far more than superficial trappings of food and clothing. It’s values. It’s norms of appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Type-A New Yorkers stuck in Seattle often report being completely miserable because they just can’t cope with the laid-back Seattle attitude. What happens when peoples with radically different values or social norms try to live together? What happens, for example, when French people who believe in freedom of the press and anti-religious values and people who think that drawing pictures of the Prophet Mohammad’s testicles is a blasphemy worthy of death live in the same country?

There is really no solution to this conflict. Either one side has to not print dirty pictures of Mohammad, or the other side has to not kill people for drawing dirty pictures of Mohammad. Better, therefore, to avoid the conflict.

For a country to function, it must be able to select which immigrants it takes in.

For that matter, I believe that a country has a moral obligation to treat its immigrants well; if you cannot guarantee that your fellow countrymen will treat well the immigrants from a certain land, then you should not encourage those immigrants. People deserve to live in places where they are happy, after all.

 

There’s been a lot of debate recently in the US over Mexican (and more broadly, Hispanic) immigration. Some people would like more Hispanic immigration, perhaps because it appeals to their libertarian instincts, they want cheaper labor, or they love Hispanic people and culture. Others would prefer less immigration, perhaps because they want higher wages, less crime, or just aren’t keen on Hispanic culture.

The Left generally responds to anti-immigrant sentiments by pointing out that previous waves of immigration to the US were total disasters for the people already here. When Europeans arrived in the early 1500s, their diseases exploded through native communities like atomic bombs. The death toll is generally reckoned at 80-90 percent. This was followed, of course, by warfare, enslavement, and genocide.

This seems like approximately the worst argument in favor of immigration ever.

Other waves of immigration, like the 1910 Irish/Italian/Eastern European wave, were accompanied by rising crime; immigration since 1970 has been accompanied by stagnating wages, all of which we have discussed before.

Even Bernie Sanders thinks that full open borders is a capitalist plot to destroy the American worker by forcing wages down to third-world levels.

So why bother making the worst argument in favor of immigration ever?

To imply that whites have no right to their own land. If their land was stolen from someone else, if they are just illegally occupying it, then they have no legal right to it. (And of course, no claim of adverse possession can be made, since the Indians are still around and would prefer their ancestral lands back.) And even if the Indians weren’t around, what sort of precedent does letting people get land by shooting its current owners?

But are the Native Americans the original inhabitants of this land?

No, not in the least.

If you think the Indians arrived here 20,000-40,000 years ago, sat down, and didn’t move until Columbus arrived, you’re delusional.

Humans move around.

Modern Indians are most closely related to the peoples of north east Asia, a point in favor of the Bering Strait hypothesis.

But the earliest settlers of the Americas, before the Clovis Culture even began, appear to be a totally different group most closely related to the people of Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Melanesia. We now have skeletal remains, artifacts, and genetics (not to mention the timeline in which people otherwise made it from the arctic to the rainforest in record time), all of which point Melanesians as the first Americans.

The later invaders, ancestors of today’s Indians, wiped most of them out. Only a few groups with significant Melanesian DNA remain, most of them deep in the rainforest.

Peter Frost reports a similar finding from Mexico:

“Similar findings have emerged from analysis of skulls from Mexico dated to between 9,000 and 11,000 years ago and skulls from Colombia dated to between 7,500 and 8,300:”

And quotes from Gonzalez-Jose et al, 2005,(pdf)

“To summarize, analyses of individual skulls against reference samples suggest that the early Mexican fossils studied do not share a common craniofacial morphology with Amerindians or East Asians, as reported elsewhere for South Paleoindians, some North Paleoindian specimens […] and some modern groups like Fuegian-Patagonians and the Pericúes from Baja California.”

I know nothing about the Pericues, but the Fuegian-Patagonians are really interesting. IIRC, they’re a language isolate living in a very cold environment, and when Europeans first arrived, they basically had no clothes. They just carried fires around with them everywhere they went–in their canoes, while hanging out, everywhere. Hence the region’s name, “Land of the Fire.” One imagines they must have been cold a lot, but maybe they were perfectly happy with the temperatures.

Of course, people have been saying that the giant Olmec stone heads look like Africans for approximately forever, and they have a point:

Olmec_Head_No._1

Further north, a third (or fourth, or whatever Nth,) wave of people, the Dorset, survived in the arctic for over 4,000 years, until the Thule (ancestors of today’s Inuit/Eskimo) showed up. It’s unlikely that the Dorset suddenly forgot how to live in the arctic, nor do the Thule show any signs of having intermarried with the Dorset. The Dorset, as they say, were “replaced.” The Thule killed them.

The genetic prehistory of the New World Arctic
The genetic prehistory of the New World Arctic

Take a look around, and you’ll find conquering everywhere. The Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs created empires by conquering the people around them. The Aztecs marched home their prisoners of war and sacrificed them to their gods, ripping out their still-beating hearts. Lovely people, I’m sure.

Of course, the Americas are not the only places this has happened. The historical occupants of South Africa were the Bushmen, hunter-gatherers who’d been isolated from the rest of humanity for almost 100,000 years before anyone else showed up in the area. South Africa’s dominant group today, the Bantus, are more closely related to Koreans than Bushmen.

Compare:

Southern African Rock Art

Distribution of art attributed to the Bushmen vs:

Modern distribution of major African language groups
Modern distribution of major African language groups

Bantus are newcomers, having only arrived in northeastern South Africa within the past couple millenia, and having been largely absent from the cape when Europeans settled there. (That is, most of the people in the area of Cape Town were Bushmen, and after them, most of the people in Cape Town and its surrounding area were Dutch. Major Bantu presence in the area came later.)

The Chinese who moved to Taiwan following the Chinese Civil War are distinct from the Taiwanese Chinese, who displaced the ethnic Taiwanese, who have legends about the darker (perhaps Melanesian) people they displaced.

Replacement has happened virtually everywhere on Earth.

 

“There have been periods where the folks who were already here suddenly say, ‘Well, I don’t want those folks,’ even though the only people who have the right to say that are some Native Americans.” –President Obama, Nov, 2014

Which Native Americans? The ones who wiped out the Dorset? The ones who wiped out the Melanesians? Or maybe the folks in the Amazon rain forest and a few other isolated tribes should get to determine immigration policies for both continents?

Or maybe that sort of thinking is really fucking dumb?

The people who are in France right now have a right to their country and their culture. If they want to let in people from elsewhere, that’s their business. If they decided they don’t like Freedom of Speech anymore and they’d rather make sure no one produces dirty pictures of Mohammad, that’s their business. But if they want to have Freedom of Speech and decide to not let in people who would have an issue with this, that is also their business. If Americans decide they want more Hispanic immigrants to work in their fields and bake enchiladas, that’s their business. If Americans decide they don’t want more Hispanic immigrants, that’s also their business.

Bhutan is one of the hardest countries in the world to visit (much less immigrate to), because the Bhutanese government doesn’t want a bunch of outsiders ruining their way of life. The Andaman islands are even harder to visit, because the islanders have a habit of killing anyone who gets too close. (And well they ought, because after being isolated for so long, any outsiders would most likely be carrying diseases to which the Andamanese have no defenses. Contact with the outside world would probably kill them all.)

The fact that people in the past have waged wars and often lost them does not make me eager to lose a war. The fact that people in the past have been replaced does not make me want to be replaced. The fact that my ancestors might be related to some guys who won a war or might just look kind of like those guys does not mean it makes any sense to suddenly declare that we (by which I mean everyone currently here, regardless of ethnic background) do not have a right to decide where we should go from here.