Education | World

Research ties Native Americans to indigenous people in Siberia





Researchers who analyzed indigenous languages in the U.S., Canada and Russia say their ancestors lived together in the Bering Strait before migrating to their present locations.

Mark Sicoli of Georgetown University and Gary Holton from the University of Alaska Fairbanks compared 37 languages in the Na-Dene family with two languages in Siberia that belong to the Yeniseian family. Their research indicated that a language spoken by the ancestors of both groups was used in the Bering Strait as long as 14,000 years ago.

From there, some groups migrated to Alaska, Canada and the U.S., where they now speak languages like Navajo, Tlingit and Dene. According to the researchers, other groups went to Siberia, according to researchers, where Ket is spoken.

The study comes on the heels of another one that claims the ancestors of Native Americans lived in the Bering Strait for a prolonged period of time before migrating to North and South America. Researchers believe the lengthy stay in Beringia might explain why Native Americans are different from Asian populations.

The language study, however, makes the case that some groups went "back" to Siberia and other Central Asian locations. A different researcher has proposed a Dené–Yeniseian family to include languages like Navajo and Ket.

Get the Story:
On the journey from Asia to North America, some turned back, say linguists (The Christian Science Monitor 3/13)
Pause Is Seen in a Continent’s Peopling (The New York Times 3/13)
Languages and People Bridged Across Bering Sea for Millennia (Nature World News 3/13)
Linguists: New-World Settlers Spent Millennia On Land Bridge (Live Science 3/13)
Ancient Migration Patterns to North America Are Hidden in Languages Spoken Today (Smithsonian Mag 3/12)
Language 'evolution' may shed light on human migration out-of-Beringia: Relationship between Siberian, North American languages (Science Daily 3/12)

Get the Study:
Linguistic Phylogenies Support Back-Migration from Beringia to Asia (March 12, 2014)

Related Stories:
Alex Ewen: Scientists test out another Native migration theory (3/10)