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Where did America’s First People come from and When? 13,000 Years ago?

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Butch McIntosh wears traditional Native American regalia at the Pow Wow of Champions on the fairgrounds in Tulsa, Okla. Saturday Aug. 11, 2007. VOA
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  • The first European explorers to reach the Americas looked to the Bible to explain the origins of the people they encountered and misnamed “Indians.”
  • Excavations in the 1970s pushed the date even further back, to as much as 16,000 years ago
  • Archaeologist James Adovasio dated artifacts found at Pennsylvania’s Meadowcroft Rockshelter to be up to 16,000 years old, to harsh criticism

US, June 20, 2017: It’s one of the most contentious debates in anthropology today: Where did America’s first people come from — and when? The general scientific consensus is that a single wave of people crossed a long-vanished land bridge from Siberia into Alaska around 13,000 years ago. But some Native Americans are irked by the theory, which they say is simplistic and culturally biased.

The first European explorers to reach the Americas looked to the Bible to explain the origins of the people they encountered and misnamed “Indians.” Biblical tradition holds that humans were created some 4,000 years ago and that all men descend from Adam — including indigenous people whom Europeans regarded as primitive.

Indians in Virginia. Engraving by Theodore de Bry, 1590, based on a watercolor by John White in 1585.
Indians in Virginia. Engraving by Theodore de Bry, 1590, based on a watercolor by John White in 1585. VOA

“Dominant science believed in a concept of superiority,” said Alexander Ewen, a member of the Purepecha Nation and author of the “Encyclopedia of the American Indian in the Twentieth Century.”

“And that created an idea that either people were genetically inferior or that there were stages of civilization, and Indians were at a lower stage,” he said.

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Since “primitives” weren’t sophisticated enough to have sailed the oceans, early scientists concluded Indians had reached North America by some unknown land route. They found their answer in the Bering Strait.

Map of eastern Russian and Alaska with a light brown boarder depicting Beringia, where archaeolosits believe ancient Americans crossed from Siberia into Alaska around 13,000 years ago. Courtesy, U.S. National Park Service.
Map of eastern Russian and Alaska with a light brown boarder depicting Beringia, where archaeolosits believe ancient Americans crossed from Siberia into Alaska around 13,000 years ago. Courtesy, U.S. National Park Service. VOA

Ewen says that theory cemented into dogma and persists to this day, even in the face of new discoveries and technology that suggests Indians arrived much earlier and by different routes.

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“In the first place, it’s simplistic,” said Ewen. “The people in this hemisphere were — and are — extremely diverse, more than any other place in the world.”

Chipping away at a theory

In the 1930s, scientists examined a pile of mammoth bones in Clovis, N.M., where they found distinctive spear points. Since then, tens of thousands of “Clovis points” have been found across North America and as far south as Venezuela. Scientists decided the Clovis people must have been America’s first peoples, arriving 13,000 years ago.

Excavations in the 1970s pushed the date even further back, to as much as 16,000 years ago. Archaeologist James Adovasio dated artifacts found at Pennsylvania’s Meadowcroft Rockshelter to be up to 16,000 years old, to harsh criticism.

The Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County, Pa., where archaeologists found artifacts dating back 16,000 years.
The Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County, Pa., where archaeologists found artifacts dating back 16,000 years. VOA

Other branches of science have weighed in: In 1998, University of California-Berkeley linguist Johanna Nichols argued that it would have taken up to 50,000 years for a single language to diversify into the many languages spoken by modern Native American groups. That meant ancient Indians would have to have arrived 19,000 years ago.

Geologists have complicated matters by suggesting that the Bering Strait wasn’t passable until 10 or 12,000 years ago. This gave way to theories that early humans might have sailed down the Pacific coast into the New World.

Meanwhile, in 2015, Harvard University geneticist Pontus Skoglund discovered DNA links between Amazon Indians and the indigenous peoples in Australia and New Guinea.

An elderly member of Brazil's Surui Nation. Researchers found the Surui bear a genetic relationship to indigenous peoples of Australia and New Guinea.
An elderly member of Brazil’s Surui Nation. Researchers found the Surui bear a genetic relationship to indigenous peoples of Australia and New Guinea. VOA

In the past decade, Smithsonian Institution anthropologist Dennis Stanford met scathing criticism for suggesting Stone Age Europeans paddled across the Atlantic thousands of years before Columbus. In April of this year, researchers in California analyzed crushed mastodon bones they said were butchered by humans 130,000 years ago, a theory the bulk of scientists, including Adavasio, rejects – not because it’s not possible, he stipulates, but because the data isn’t conclusive.

Native American accounts

Should science consider the origin beliefs of tribes themselves?

Montana’s Blackfoot tradition holds that the first Indians lived on the other side of the ocean, but their creator decided to take them to a better place. “So he brought them over the ice to the far north,” the account reads.

The Hopi people of Arizona say their ancestors had to travel through three worlds, finally crossing the ocean eastward to a new and final new world. And Oklahoma’s Tuskagee people believe the “Great Spirit” chose them to be the first people to live on the earth.

File--This July 23, 2008, photo was taken from inside the Paisley Caves near Paisley, Ore., where archaeologists found stone tools and human DNA dating back more than 13,000 years, evidence humans settled North America earlier than previously thought.
File–This July 23, 2008, photo was taken from inside the Paisley Caves near Paisley, Ore., where archaeologists found stone tools and human DNA dating back more than 13,000 years, evidence humans settled North America earlier than previously thought. VOA

Stories like these aren’t given much weight by science, said Joe Watkins, supervisory anthropologist at the National Park Service and a member of the Choctaw Nation.

“They are generally believed to be anecdotal,” he said. “The deep time depth and the possibility of multiple interpretations seem to make scientists uncomfortable.”

That isn’t to say Watkins believes every tribal tradition is “true.”

“But I do believe most of them carry within them kernels of truth of use to researchers. It seems imprudent to dismiss any possible line of evidence,” he said. (VOA)

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Trauma in Childhood is Linked to Negative Outcomes in Adulthood

"The participants who felt more optimistic or in control of their lives may have been better at waking up with pain but somehow managing not to let it ruin their day.

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The findings, published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine, suggested that experiencing trauma or adversity in childhood or adolescence was linked with mood or sleep problems in adulthood.
A Child in pain, Pixabay

Do you want your children to be happy when they grow up? If yes, then you have to make sure that they are not experiencing any kind of trauma as a child. A new study, including an Indian-origin researcher, suggests that childhood trauma or adversity may trigger physical pain in adulthood.

The findings, published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine, suggested that experiencing trauma or adversity in childhood or adolescence was linked with mood or sleep problems in adulthood.

“The findings suggest that early life trauma is leading to adults having more problems with mood and sleep, which in turn lead to them feeling more pain and feeling like pain is interfering with their day,” said co-author Ambika Mathur from the Pennsylvania State University.

But the connection was weaker in those who felt more optimistic and in control of their lives, the researcher said.

“The participants who felt more optimistic or in control of their lives may have been better at waking up with pain but somehow managing not to let it ruin their day.

“They may be feeling the same amount or intensity of pain, but they’ve taken control of and are optimistic about not letting the pain interfere with their day,” Mathur added.

The findings, published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine, suggested that experiencing trauma or adversity in childhood or adolescence was linked with mood or sleep problems in adulthood.
Childhood Trauma can lead to pain in Adulthood, Pixabay

The findings build on previous research that suggests a link between adult physical pain and early-in-life trauma or adversity, which can include abuse or neglect, major illness, financial issues, or loss of a parent, among others, the researcher said.

For the current study, researchers recruited a diverse group of 265 participants who reported some form of adversity in their early lives.

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They answered questions about their early childhood or adolescent adversity, current mood, sleep disturbances, optimism, how in control of their lives they feel, and if they recently felt pain.

The researchers also looked at how optimism or feeling in control could affect how much pain a person experiences.

They found that while participants who showed these forms of resilience didn’t have as strong a connection between trouble sleeping and pain interfering with their day, the resilience didn’t affect the intensity of pain. (IANS)