Tag Archives: out of Africa

Native Americans

This might be just my idiosyncratic definition so I’m admitting this now. I define native Americans as those people who inhabited the Americas before Christopher Columbus “discovered” it back in 1492. As such I include those in north America/ USA, central, Caribbean and south America. I may also include those in Hawaii & Alaska too.

Native Americans are believed to be an offshoot of the OOA emigrants who travelled to east Asia. These ones, rather than stay in east Asia, crossed the Bering Strait for whatever reason. The Bering Strait is a water passageway between the easternmost tip of Asia (Cape Dezhnev, Chukchi Peninsula, Russia) & the westernmost tip of north America (Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA). They didn’t sail or swim across it; back then the ocean levels were much lower and there was a land bridge that the migrants just walked across! This bridge is called Beringia but it doesn’t exist anymore; it disappeared due to the rise of ocean levels.

Disagreement exists over when this happened. 2 theories prevail today, short chronology & long chronology theory. The former says the migrants got there roughly 15,000 to 17,000 years ago, the latter says about 21,000 to 40,000 years ago (with a much later 2nd influx. More on this later).

You often hear these natives called Indians, or American Indians, ‘red’ Indians, Amerindians, Apache Indians, amerinds, Injuns or something similar. All of these names are complete cack because their ancestors never came from India and have no connection to Indians, past or present. The reason these names persist is because of Columbus; he was originally trying to reach India and went off course! When he reached land he thought it was India, which was kind of fair enough. However, he later realised he’d actually found a continent that ‘white’ people never knew about but didn’t bother correcting anyone! That’s why, over 500 years later, we make the same mistake despite knowing better! Even palaeontologists make this mistake, by calling the ancestral natives palaeoindians. I therefore call them palaeoamericans.

(This is the same reason the Caribbean is called the West Indies, as opposed to south Asia which used to be known as the East Indies. It’s also why the Americas were and still are called the New World, because it was new. To Europeans, that is)

However, native Americans are not one big homogenous group. In Namerica (north America, by which I’m lumping USA & Hawaii, Canada & Newfoundland together) there are:

  • Cree
  • Cherokee
  • Ojibwe
  • Algonquin (sometimes mistakenly called Algonquian)
  • Menominee
  • Mi’kmaq
  • Maliseet
  • Apache (they call themselves N’dee)
  • Salteaux
  • Inuit (plural of Inuk), used to be called Eskimos/ Esquimaux but they consider it offensive

In the Caribbean/ Mesoamerica (aka. central America) there are:

  • Carib (after whom the islands are named), aka. Kalinago
  • Arawak, which includes the Taíno & Igneri
  • Kali’na, aka. Galibi
  • Olmec
  • Ciboney (name means ‘cave dwellers’ in Taíno)
  • Ciguayo
  • Embera
  • Macorix

In Samerica (south America) there are:

  • Maya (yes they still exist. They didn’t die out with their calendar!)
  • Aztec
  • Bororo
  • Otavalo
  • Nahua
  • Selk’nam, aka. Onawo
  • Quechua/ Kichwa, a collective group name that includes others like the Inca, Chancas, Huancas & Cañari as they all speak Quechuan languages

Mayan girls, Guatemala

Embera children, Panama

Apache man, USA

Alejandro Toledo, 1st Quechuan president of Peru

Bororo men, Brazil, about to partake in the Indigenous Games
Ojibwe girl, USA

Carib man, St Lucia

Because of European colonisation & the TAST (trans-Atlantic slave trade), all natives have become the minorities in the lands where they used to be the majority. In north America the majority are ‘white’, in the Caribbean the majority are ‘black’, and in south America the majority are mixed (though their ‘white’ ancestry is most visible). Many natives intermixed with others; in the Caribbean for example you have the Garinagu (plural of Garifuna, half-African half-native, used to be known as Black Caribs), in much of south America there are mestizos (the majority – mixture of European and native, though some countries include African in that mix), and in north America there are the Melungeons (in USA, mixed African, native & European) & Métis (in Canada, mixed native & European).

Point of interest: there are some people nowadays who go around claiming to be native Americans but aren’t. In reality, they’re people (usually ‘white’ although I’ve heard of ‘black’ ones too) who either think their lives are boring & unexotic or want to push an agenda – to show mainstream American society how bad it is to be native because the stereotypes are true. They get away with it because many, maybe most, native Americans in the USA are mixed with ‘white’ (which goes back to slavery days. What, you didn’t think Africans were the only enslaved ones did you?) so heavily most ‘white’ people don’t know what full natives look like anymore!

Examples include:

David  A. Yeagley,

claims to be Comanche (has been disowned by real Comanches),

actually a ‘white’ supremacist with a Comanche adoptive mother

Iron Eyes Cody, real name Espera Oscar de Corti,

claims to be native of some kind (now settled on Cherokee-Cree),

actually Italian-American actor

Margaret B. Jones, real name Margaret Seltzer,

claims to be half-native and raised in a ‘black’ ghetto,

actually fully ‘white’ and raised in Los Angeles, California,

was exposed by her sister

Above I mentioned the long chronology theory and the 2 waves of migrants into the Americas. Recent research has uncovered what appear to be a different type of people who inhabited the Americas millennia before the present-day natives, which are probably the 1st-wave migrants. Their craniofacial types are australoid & negroid, but such people are gone now. What became of them is a mystery, but there are a few traces of them. There are a few accounts of what Columbian-era Europeans called the 2 races of natives: ‘red’ & ‘black’. On top of that, the Olmec colossal heads of ancient central America resemble the ‘true Negro’ look even more than many Africans. In Tierra del Fuego, an island group just south of Argentina & Chile, there are a people who may be the mixed descendants of the 1st-wave & 2nd-wave migrants.

La Venta Olmec head
Fuegian man


UPDATE: More information on the 1st-wave migrants. Now it’s believed they’re an offshoot of… Aboriginal Australians! It’s believed they wound up in the Americas by accident, though their boats had unusually high prows which suggests they had intended to travel out on the open sea in relatively rough waters.


Prow = the high point on the front of a boat

East & southeast Asians

They’re the people native to the eastern & southeastern parts of Asia. This sounds pretty straightforward, but the ones we’re used to are not the originals. The first ones were the ones we call negritos (Spanish & Portuguese for “little ‘black’ people”), or orang asli (Malay for aboriginal/ original people). They’re thought to have been among the OOA (out of Africa) migrants of ~60-70,000 years ago, and were the predominant people there up to about 5,000 years ago. However, only a few (~148,000 as of 2008!) remain across the region, and they’re the most disadvantaged & marginalised ones. Why is that not a surprise?

aboriginal man from Kuala Tahan, Malaysia
Orang asli meeting, 2012
Aeta woman, Philippines
Mangyan girl, Philippines. Blue eyes do not come as standard


According to geneticists their mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) contains the same DNA sequence groupings as found in the natives of New Guinea and Australia – haplogroup M. From this some reckon they were thus the ancestors of Dravidians (India), Papuans & Melanesians (New Guinea), Aborigines (Australia), present day negritos (south east Asia), and even the South American palaeoindians (more accurately called palaeoamericans). They’re called negritos because of their height – the men only just about reach 5 feet. This is similar to the pygmies of central Africa, and the first Europeans who met them assumed they were recently-arrived pygmies. Nevertheless, they are genetically among the most distant people to Africans thus the similarities are only superficial. It’s thought they became that short to cope better with limited food & resources, a phenomenon called island dwarfing.

It’s been shown that the first 2 dynasties of China were founded by ‘black’ people, specifically the Xia & Shang people. The latter were eventually beaten in battle by the Zhou, one of the ‘white’ groups originally from central Asia.* Other ancient ‘black’ Asians founded their own civilisations, kingdoms & ruling systems, including the Mon (Thailand, formerly known as Siam), Khmer of the Funan kingdom (Cambodia), Champa (Vietnam) and others.

* Yes, the ancient Chinese have descriptions of red/yellow-haired blue-eyed people entering their lands. They still exist here and there, especially the Hmong group (China, Thailand, Laos & Vietnam) for whom blond & red hair is common:

Hmong boy
Ginger Tibetan girl
Hmong girl
Chinese Kazakhs

The present-day Austronesians started arriving in southeast Asia and the Pacific islands about 8000 years ago, originating from Taiwan, and began to displace the natives. Same with the ‘mongoloid’ Han, who came to China from Tibet about 5000 years ago. Now China is almost 92% Han, Japan is 98.5% Nihonjin, and Vietnam is ~86% Viet. However, there was some mixing between the ‘mongoloids’ and negritos so every so often you’ll see some who more strongly resemble the aboriginals. That may explain why Thais are often darker than Chinese, who are often darker than Japanese. Funnily, just like India Thailand also has a general north-south colour division, the northerners (Kon nua) tend to be lighter than southerners (Kon thai) & north-easterners (Isarn).

Chinese Muslims. Most Chinese Muslims are  not Han but Hui,

said to have some Arab blood in them

Thai actor Tony Jaa flaunting his muscles

On top of that, you also have those with ‘white’ European ancestry from the days of colonialism. That’s why so many Filipinos have Portuguese/ Spanish names, and all Malaysians speak English (so said a taxi driver I met in Malaysia. He said English was the only thing the Brits left them with post-colonialism, and any Malaysian who claims they can’t speak English is lying).

A little known fact is that Austronesians also migrated to Africa about 1500-2000 years ago. That’s why the Malagasy people of Madagascar have southeast Asian ancestry in addition to Bantu, and their language is predominant on the island.

Merina Malagasy children

The present-day ‘mongoloids’ didn’t merely ignore the originals. They acknowledged their existence since they first encountered them. The Chinese call them Kunlun (which translates as “little ‘black’ people”). One appears as the hero in Kunlun Nu (The Kunlun Slave), a wuxia romance novel written by Pei Xing during the Tang dynasty. The Kunlun, named Mo Le, had supernatural powers – gravity defiance & immortality which he used to protect his slaver Cu’s lover from becoming part of a court official’s harem. (Wuxia means martial hero) Prince Liu-Nan who died in 122 BC spoke of a kingdom of ‘black’ midgets in south-western China. The very first samurai & shogun, Sakanouye no Tamuramaro, was a ‘black’ man though it’s uncertain of what ethnicity he was – maybe Champa or Jōmon? It’s from him & his achievements that this Japanese proverb came (note there are 2 versions of the proverb, both of which are listed here):

For a samurai to be brave, he must have a bit of black blood.

Half the blood in one’s veins must be black to make a good samurai. 

Google Sakanouye no Tamuramaro and you may find this pic.

But even in Japan (where his ‘blackness’ is often hidden) he’s depicted more like…


However, orang asli are not one homogenous group. There are several distinct tribes and subgroups. Malaysia recognises 18, grouped into 3 main groups according to their cultures & languages:

Semang, who mostly now live in the north. Their languages are in the Aslian branch of the Austroasiatic family. The ones in the lowlands are sometimes called sakai, meaning slave or dependent (because despite slavery officially ending in 1884 it still carries on today!), which they find deeply offensive;

Senoi/ Sengoi/Sng’oi, mostly in the centre at present. Their languages are also Aslian, and they’re believed to have originally come from Thailand ~4500 years ago;

Melayu asli/ Melayu purba, generally confined to the south. Despite their group name (which translates from English proto-Malay), they have mixed heavily with Senoi, Semang and other people for centuries. Their ancestors were known to have been avid seafarers, sailing between Madagascar and New Zealand, and had sailed and worked alongside Arabs, Persians & Chinese for almost 2000 years.

woman from Jahai, a tribe in the Semang group
Senoi children
proto-Malay woman

(pink stars added by me)

And those are just in Malaysia. Other negritos in east/ southeast Asia include the Mani/ Maniq (Thailand), Aeta/ Agta (Philippines), Ati (Philippines), Mamanwa (Philippines), Andamanese (Andaman islands), and many others. Other aboriginal groups exist, who probably wouldn’t be classed as negrito/ orang asli but are still worth mentioning – the Ainu (Japan, though most are now heavily mixed), Tsou (Taiwan), Bunun (Taiwan), Jōmon (Japan) and Koropokkuru (Japan, came before the Ainu).

Finally, there’s a Filipino drama called Nita Negrita. Though its intent sounds good (to portray a dark-skinned girl as a respectable protagonist with ambitions that she achieves despite discrimination), the title is a misnomer. She’s not a negrita, neither the character nor the girl who plays her (Barbara “Barbie” Forteza). The character is mixed Filipina & Afro-American, the actress is ‘mongoloid’ Filipina. Add to that the fact that Nita was originally portrayed as literally black-skinned, which caused viewers to complain because she too strongly resembled blackface. Thus she was toned down to dark brown – an actual human skin colour. As with south Asians, east/southeast Asians have a history of denigrating dark-skinned people (even their own). This might stem from the Zhou’s Mandate of Heaven, a decree that battle victors (Zhou) bear divine right to rule over “morally corrupt” losers (Xia & Shang), or from their history of associating dark skin with working outdoors on the fields & therefore being poor. Just like in south Asia.



REALblasian girl (half ‘black’ American half Chinese), model Lou Jing.Barbie, take note!


Indigenous Africans

Indigenous Africans are members of the human species that never left the continent nowadays known as Africa. According to the Out-of-Africa theory (which says the 1st humans came about in Africa and different groups of them left to inhabit different landmasses over thousands of years), indigenous Africans are the most genetically diverse of all human groups. This means that despite the existence of different skin colours, hair textures, eye colours and the like in other parts of the world, they still possess more genetic diversity than everywhere else.

(However, it’s interesting to note that despite this, humans are one of the least genetically diverse organisms on the planet. There’s more diversity among a single troop of chimpanzees than in all 6.8billion humans alive today, including Africans! Furthermore, contrary to common logic, there is more genetic diversity between humans of the same ethnic group [eg. 2 Hadzabe] than between members of different ethnic groups [eg. 1 Hadza & 1 Lapp]!)

Zulu men of South Africa, examples of what are typically thought of as “true Africans/ Negroes”

Most people think they know what a “proper African” looks like: extremely dark blackish-brown skin, thick lips, wide-set nostrils and kinky hair. However, this idea is based on racist propaganda promulgated from the days of the TAST. Not the fact that such people exist, but the belief that those are the only true Africans is racist. What European slavers did back then was find those Africans who looked most different to themselves and dub them “true Africans/ Negroes”. Any African who possessed features that more closely resembled what they considered typical European was considered mixed (and by extension superior to “true Negroes”). This explains why Somalis for example are to this day considered Arab or mixed with Arab, despite the fact that most Somalis have no non-African admixture and will tell you so. This is also partially why the Kemetics (ancient Egyptians) are believed to be ‘white’, despite the fact that they drew themselves with dark red-brown skin and said they originated from Punt, which equates to the Horn of Africa – ie. the extreme East side of “sub-Saharan” Africa* (Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia & Eritrea).

In fact, in many cases you can very clearly see the differences between different African groups. And there are different groups. Note – some of these terms more accurately refer to linguistic groups, but pre-TAST it was usually the case that languages followed specific ethnicities:

AFRO-ASIATICS: Originally from East Africa (especially the Horn), they now inhabit much of the Middle East & North Africa too. It’s believed that their homeland is where the very first OOA migrants came, thus making them the ancestors of all non-African humans. This group includes the Kemetics (ancient Egyptians), original Arabs (more on this later), Afar (aka. Danakil), Somalis, Hausa, Berbers (which includes Tuaregs, Kabyles & Moors), Harla (aka. Harala), Hamer (aka. Hamar), and Beja.

Rageh Omaar, Somali-British journalist
Ethiopian Hamer girl
Djiboutian women doing raks-al-sayf, traditional sword dance
Imuhagh (Tuareg) girl with decidedly non-afro hair

NILOTES: Their language group, Nilotic, is a huge subgroup of the Nilo-Saharan language group. They mostly inhabit the Nile Valley in the Northeast, the African Great Lakes region in the East, and southwestern Ethiopia. They include the Maasai, Turkana, Luo, Samburu, Nuer, Dinka and Shilluk (aka. Chollo). Out of all Africans, these & the Niger-Congo people are the closest in looks to the “true Negro”.

Salva Kiir Mayardit, 1st President of south Sudan
Sudanese model Angelique Deng. Personally I find her more attractive than Alek Wek

NIGER-CONGO PEOPLE: This group is split into two main subgroups – Niger-Congo A & Niger-Congo B (aka. Bantu). Most modern Africans all over the continent speak a language in this group, because of the Bantu Expansion when Bantu-speaking people spread across the continent from what’s now the southwestern border between Cameroon & Nigeria. This expansion is believed to have begun in 1000BC. In this group are the Wolof/ Jollof, amaZulu, Akan (which includes Asante/ Ashanti, Akuapem, Fante & others), Bakongo (aka. Congolese), Ndi-Igbo, Yorubas, Bubi, Fulani (aka. Fula or Fulbe), Makua, Kikuyu, Shona, NguniManden (which includes the Vai, Soninke, Dyula & Mandinka) and WaSwahili (despite their close cultural & linguistic ties with Arabs). Out of all Africans, these & the Nilotes are the closest in looks to the “true Negro”.

Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou
Woman of the Bororo people, a subgroup of Fulani
Tutsi man. Note:  there’s disagreement as to whether Tutsis are Bantus or Nilotes. I classify them as Bantu
Gorgeous Ghanaian model Teiko Dornor

Note there are Bantu languages spoken outside mainland Africa too: on the islands of Madagascar, Mayotte & the Comoros (off the Swahili coast, southeast Africa). These languages include the Comorian and Sabaki groups.

KHOISANS: Originating from East & Southern Africa, they now reside mostly in the South & Southwest. Their languages are famous for the click sounds. This group name is a fusion of 2 related groups, the pastoral Khoikhoi (used to be called Hottentots but this is now offensive) & the hunter-gatherer San (aka. Bushmen, also offensive). Nowadays they’re said to be the oldest human group, but that’s assuming better preservation of lineages (which they have) = greatest genetic diversity (which they might have) = genetically oldest, which has not been proven yet. Because of their eastern origins, it’s likely they also contributed to the gene pool of the first OOA migrants along with the Afro-Asiatics. They were mostly displaced by southward-heading Bantus during the Bantu Expansion, and many have mixed with them.

The Damara may be mixed (as they’re a Bantu people who speak Nama, a Khoisan language), or they could be among the first Bantu migrants to the Khoisans’ land. Anthropologists are still trying to work that out.

Group of San adults & cute baby. Khoisanids in general have epicanthic eyefolds like most Easians & native Americans
More San women, plus child

PYGMIES: This is a vague term as it really only means a group whose average adult height is less than 150cm. However in Central Africa, where they originate, there are specific terms for specific groups: Gyele, Efe, Mbuti (aka. Bambuti), Twa (aka. Abatwa or Ge-Sera), and Bayaka. In present-day Congo, Bantus possess pygmies as slaves.

Baka dancers in Cameroon
Mbuti pygmy Ota Benga. He deserves his own post, but for now just read his story here
The big orange strip in the north  is the Sahara desert. See Wikipedia for a more detailed explanation

AUSTRONESIANS: technically not an indigenous African group but I’ve included them for completion’s sake. This is represented by the Malagasy people of Madagascar. The traditional story says Madagascar was uninhabited until Austronesians arrived on canoes around 1500-2000 years ago, with native Africans arriving later, but that is being contested and revised.

* Now about the term sub-Saharan Africa, which you may hear bantered around a lot nowadays. It sounds innocent and rooted in geography, but it’s another Eurocentric and unnecessarily divisive term, a synonym for “black Africa”. It claims to demarcate a clear racial distinction between North Africa (currently inhabited by Africanised foreigners &/or their mixed descendants) and the rest of the continent. It also claims the desert somehow isolated ‘blacks’ from the rest of the world (the Saharan barrier theory, or as I call it  “true Negroes are scared of sand”). It’s inaccurate and misleading for at least these reasons:

1- There was once a time when the Sahara desert itself didn’t exist. It used to be forestland but over centuries became arid sand and spread further south, some of which the Kemetics & Nubians witnessed in their lifetimes.

2- Even after the desert came to exist Africans didn’t consider it a big deal. There were and still are native Africans living there (eg. Tuareg, Gnawa), and other groups who’ve travelled and done trade through it like any other piece of land. That’s why the African Union doesn’t consider it a barrier, more like a bridge.

3- Female circumcision originated in Egypt and spread almost all over the continent. If the desert were a barrier it wouldn’t have spread anywhere.

Then there are the stereotypes that go along with the term. Funny, that. If ‘sub-Saharan’ were so innocent why are stereotypes attached at all? It’s where HIV/AIDS is rampant, children die from starvation daily, destitute poverty is the norm and where Westerners are always chucking aid money with no results. None of this is the norm anywhere in Africa (except maybe the last one), but that’s how stereotypes of non-‘white’ people typically work. However, Africa is gaining economic strength and international prestige, and Africans are fighting the stereotypes, so they may just finally regain their previous glory in the world. I hope…

I hope to add more posts on specific African cultures, people, individuals, countries, empires, societies and the like. But later.