Tag Archives: pacific islands

Aborigines & other native Pacific/ Oceanic peoples

Aborigines are the descendants of the first people to arrive on the continent now known as Australia. According to current anthropological understanding they arrived there between 40 & 60,000 years ago, among one of the earliest-known wave of migrants out of Africa. From what’s currently understood they effectively “island hopped” to the region as a branch of their ancestors, the Africans who travelled along the coast lines of southern Arabia & India. Other similar people populated the nearby islands at around the same time, now known as Pacific islanders & Torres Strait islanders.

They typically look like this…

Trugannini, one of the last full-blooded Palawa

(Aboriginal Tasmanian; died 1876)

William Lanne, the last-surviving Tasmanian man (died 1869).

No-one knows his birth name, as he was 7 when he was taken

to Wybalenna during the Black War and given an English name

Fijian man and 4 boys

… or this…

Aboriginal Australians
Old Australian man

(Also see here for more pictures)

… although others are of Austronesian or mixed ‘mongoloid’-‘australoid’ ancestry (who arrived later) and thus look more like this…

Kānaka ‘ōiwi (Native Hawaiian) girl
Māori men from Northland, New Zealand
Mai, Tahitian Ma’ohi who visited Europe back in the early 1770s

These people were living their lives as normal, with their own customs & cultures… until 1788. That was when the British came to (read: invaded) Australia. As this was when the Europeans were conquering & colonising the world, the British felt entitled to treat the natives in all kinds of cruel. They hunted them for sport, killed many of them* and desecrated their graves**. Now many of the natives, especially in mainland Australia, are suicidal alcoholics. They live in squalor and are often unemployed, much more so than ‘white’ Australians. On top of that, they are also disproportionately targeted by police, just like present-day ‘black’ people in the USA & UK.

* In Tasmania every single full-blooded Aborigine was killed, and only mulattoes remain.

** There was even a point when ‘white’ people were paid to kill Aborigines. It got to the point that they cut off parts of dead Aborigines’ bodies to sell off – in many cases even if the bodies were already buried! As if that weren’t bad enough, they even beheaded Aborigines to have the heads displayed in English museums as “the missing evolutionary links between humans & apes”! In fact, it’s only since January 1967 that the Australian government regarded Aborigines as humans.

Funnily enough, the ‘white’ people didn’t mind not being natives to Australia but at the same time wanted to be the only non-natives. From 1901 to 1973 they had the White Australia Policy, which forbade non-‘whites’  immigrating to mainland Australia. This included not just Chinese but even native ‘black’ people from the neighbouring Pacific islands, collectively known as Kanakas. This was because since the 1870s the Queensland sugar industry required people willing to work in tropical conditions, so Kanakas were the go-to people, usually working as indentured workers. Their presence, it was argued, made it harder for ‘white’ Australians to get jobs or compete because they weren’t so willing to get their hands dirty for lower wages. The White Australia policy began to be dismantled in 1949 and was finally officially abolished in 1973, but because of it Christianity is still the predominant religion and ‘white’ people are still the most advantaged of Australians.

In summary, since ~60,000 BC Australians looked like this,
this,
and this,
and now they’re mostly displaced by people like this,
and this (claws included)

As with other people in the world, Aborigines aren’t and never were one big homogenous group. There are many different groups, including (but not limited to):

Aiabakan (Australia)

Darug (Australia)

Chamorro/ Chamoru (Mariana Islands)

Guugu-Yimidhirr (Australia)

Palawa/ Parlevar (Tasmania, now extinct except for half-‘white’ descendants)

Tagalag (Australia)

Ni-Vanuatu/ NiVan (Vanuatu)

Tagata Mao’i (Samoa)

Fijians (Fiji)

Māori (New Zealand)

Eora (Australia)

Rapa Nui (Easter Islands)

Kānaka ‘ōiwi (Hawaii)

Papuans (New Guinea)

Wurundjeri (Australia)

Torres Strait Islanders (Torres Strait Islands)

Ma’ohi (Tahiti)

‘White’ Australia badge from 1906

This post is still subject to editions as my knowledge of such people grows. If anyone has any further information on native Australians & Oceanians please feel free to comment below.

 

(also at: http://fleecyheadmilagrero.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/aborigines-other-native-pacific-oceanic.html)

About blond hair in non-‘white’ people

Most people equate light hair with light skin but for Melanesians in the Pacific Islands, a.k.a. Oceania, this  isn’t the case at all as Melanesians typically have skin as dark as many Africans. I’ve known about the existence of ‘black’ people with naturally blond hair for quite a while. I also knew it was an indigenous trait not caused by early European explorers, as was previously assumed.

However, I had no idea about the genetics behind it. According to research by S. Myles, N.J. Timpson and others (geneticists) the blond hair trait has a different genetic origin in Melanesians than in North Europeans. In North Europeans it’s mainly caused by variants in a gene called melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), while for the Melanesians it’s predominantly produced by variation of a gene called tyrosinase related protein 1 (TYRP1). There were other genetic variants as well but this TYRP1 was the most prevalent among blond Melanesians, accounting for about 26% of hair colour variation*. In genetics it’s unusual for a single gene to account for such a high frequency of an observable trait. Just like in people of North European descent this gene variant is recessive so a person has to inherit it from both parents to have blond hair.

* With age and sex accounted for (as women and young children possess blond hair more frequently).

Some samples of blond-haired ‘black’ Oceanian children 

This variant of TYRP1 seems to occur only in Melanesians. This completely debunks an old hypothesis that Europeans brought the blond genes to that region when they first ‘discovered’ it in the late 16th century (when Spaniards were searching for the Ophir of biblical King Solomon, hence how the Solomon Islands were named). In the light of current scientific understanding, this hypothesis was flawed from the start since Spaniards never were well-known for having blond hair. After Melanesians NORTH Europeans (which doesn’t include Spaniards or Mediterraneans as they’re from South Europe) are known to have the highest frequency of blond hair on Earth.

This research was published in the journal Science, 4th May 2012. Here’s the link: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6081/554.abstract

S. Myles, one of the researchers, made a telling comment about the current state of genetics and the implications of this research on it. He explained how in medical genomics research is done almost exclusively on people of European ancestry (i.e. ‘white’ people). This means most of the understanding of genetic disease risk comes from the smallest (and incidentally wealthiest) population on the planet. This inevitably ignores the vast majority of human genetic diversity and thus distracts from knowing of them. The comment can be seen at:

http://www.cultivatingdiversity.org/2012/05/03/melanesian-blond-hair-explained/

All very fascinating…