24 mar 2011

The Seri of Sonora

Name: Seri (sometimes called Comcaac)
Living Area: Estado de Sonora, Mexico
Population: 716 (2006)
Language: Seri (518 speakers)
The Seris 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 part of their traditional territory, but some Seris also lived in various places on the mainland. They were historically seminomadic hunter-gatherers who maintained an intimate relationship with both the sea and the land. It is one of the ethnic groups of Mexico that has most strongly maintained its language and culture during the years after contact with Spanish and Mexican cultures.
The Seri people are not related culturally or linguistically to other groups that have lived in the area, such as the Opata, Yaqui, O'odham, or Cochimí. The Seri language is distinct from all others in the region and is considered a linguistic isolate.
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.) Their name for themselves is Comcaac (phonemically /komkɑɑk/, phonetically [koŋ’kɑ:k]); singular: Cmiique (phonemically /kmiikɛ/), phonetically [‘kw̃ĩ:k:ɛ])
The Seri were formerly divided into six bands. They were:
Xiica hai iic coii ("those that are towards the wind"), who inhabited a large area to north of the other bands.
Xiica xnaai iicp coii ("those that are to the south"), who inhabited the coast from Bahía Kino to Guaymas.
Tahejöc comcaac ("Tiburón Island people"), who inhabited the coasts of Tiburón Island, and the coast of Mexico opposite it, north of the xiica xnaai iicp coii.
Heeno comcaac ("desert people"), who inhabited the central valley of Tiburón Island.
Xnaamotat ("those that came from the south"), who inhabited a small strip between the xiica hai iic coii and the Tahejöc comcaac.
Xiica Hast ano coii ("those that are in San Esteban Island"), who inhabited San Esteban Island and the southern coast of Tiburón Island.
Three of the bands were further subdivided. Relations between bands were not always friendly, and internal fights sometimes occurred.
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.
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. 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) obviously did not come about until sometime in the early twentieth century. The singular form, Cmiique, was first recorded by French explorer and philologist Alphonse Pinart in 1879. He recorded the word as "kmike", which also obviously 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) did not come about until sometime in the mid twentieth century.

Known by their:
a) New year’s celebrations
It is also a custom to celebrate the New Year Comcáac each new moon of July. The empirical calendar is confirmed by means of certain changes in the vegetation, the weather and by the appearance of certain constellations. The celebration also includes dances of Pascola, games for men and women.

b) Celebration of the Basket
the celebration of the great basket takes place when a Comcáac woman concludes the weave of a basket or “corita” of great size. The celebration is organized by her godmother and the games and dances of Pascola are executed by the people of the community. The celebration culminates with the weaver throwing gifts.

To know more about them:

© Text: Wikipedia, Image: Lilycaziim

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