Migrations, group pride and attitudes

Image Image

It’s amazing to consider that the only remaining human race today, Homo Sapiens, developed in Africa ca 200 000 – 150 000 years ago. We had lost most of our body hair since we diverged from the other earlier great hominids and became what we are today. Some species lived alongside us in the beginning such as the Neanderthals in Europe and Homo Florisiensis on the island of Floris in Central Asia. To protect our hairless bodies from the dangerous UV-radiation from the sun and the risk of getting skin cancer we had to produce more melanin, the body’s sunscreen. So the humans developed darker skin, curly black hair and dark eyes as protection against the sun. About 100 000 years ago a group of people left Africa to settle in other parts of the world, and over the next odd 70 000 – 90 000 years our species migrated across the earth and settled here and there, changing languages, skin- and hair colour and habits along the way. It’s only 0,2% of our mitocondrial DNA that decides our skin-, hair- and eye-colour, which we ought to remember when we judge others and ourselves as being better or worse, simply because of those futile details. The last continents to be settled were the Americas, North, Central and South America. When these migrations occured the ice cap of the last Ice age still covered most of the northern parts of our globe. Between 30 000 – 13 000 years ago groups of people followed the big animals over the ice across Bering’s Strait from Siberia in Asia into North America. The latest research points to migrating routes along the coast at the fringe of the ice, and also migrations by boat to South America. Some groups also seem to have come from more southern parts of Asia into the Americas. Some scientists argue that groups of people may have come here as early as 60 000 years ago, but the main flows came much later, between 23 000 to 10 000 years ago. About 12 000 years ago the Clovis culture flourished in the inner parts of the USA. The different tribes were hunting buffaloes, mammoths, giant moose, sabre tooth tigers and giant wolves. The buffaloes were often forced down high cliffs and killed. The various groups of Native Americans dispersed and split up in even more tribes. They came to live in many parts of these vast continents, developing some impressive civilizations on the way, even though most tribes kept a rather down-to-earth lifestyle.

The Native Americans lived and fought on the American continents for thousands of years, and like among all people there were all sorts of personality types and destinies. All the same, this would not last. The first Europeans to arrive were Vikings. A Norwegian rich man called Erik the Red had fled Norway, settled first in Iceland, but after a fight there he was judged an outlaw and had to flee that country too. Erik moved with his people further west and came to Greenland, where he built his home on the West Coast and called it Brattahlid. Together with his wife he raised his sons and daughters there. This happened sometime between 970 and 999 A.D. One of their kinsmen, Bjarni Herjulfsson from Iceland, was going to visit them at Brattahlid. During his journey there he lost the course and happened to see flat land that couldn’t be Greenland. When he reached Erik the Red Bjarni told him what he had seen.

Some years later, around 1000 AD Erik’s oldest son, Leif the Lucky, or just Leif Eriksson wanted to explore the land that Bjarni had sighted those years ago earlier. Erik let his son take a ship with 35 men and sail off in south-western direction. The first land they reached was barren, which they named Helluland, (most likely Baffin Island). The next land was flat, wooden with great sandy beaches. Because of its natural resources Leif called it Markland, (Labrador). Two days later they sighted land again, cast anchor a third time and went ashore. They decided to stay for the winter and built houses. The Vikings spent a fairly good time there and returned back home bringing wild grapes from their expedition. Therefore Leif the Lucky had called this land Vinland. In 1960 they probably found the place where Leif and his followers had lived in Vinland, near the small fishing-village L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland, off the Canadian mainland. Later Leif’s brother-in-law Thorfinn Karlseffni decided to go back to Vinland and went with 60 men and five women. At Vinland they built more houses and during the following summer they met American Indians for the first time. According to the descriptions the Norsemen most likely met some Algonkin tribe, maybe the Beothuk or Micmac Indians. The Vikings called the Native people “Skraelings”, just as they had the Greenland Eskimos. The Indians in the region and the Norsemen started to trade. The Indians brought furs and pelts, while the Vikings gave the Indians red cloth and milk the first time they met again. Thorfinn Karlsefni and Gudrid got their son, named Snorri, during this period. The relation with the Indians eventually turned hostile, and a battle was fought in a clearing between the woods and the sea. This hostile encounter made the situation for the small group of Norsemen rather insecure, and after one more winter there they left, which happened around 1008 A.D. One more expedition would take place though. During this short time, ca 1000 – 1010 A.D. Norse men lived in Canada, but sources tell us that the Viking Greenlanders fetched timber there until 1347, most likely in Labrador. But there were no more European settlers for another 500 years.

We humans have always migrated and settled. The pride we feel of our own group heritage is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Still the animosity that develop time and again through the millennia between various groups of people creates a foundation for the destructivity in us. We humans are innovative, we are skilled, always look for viable outcomes, we compete and strife. However too often we sneer at our common traits, we neglect the human responsibility, we encourage and provoke the destructive forces, mock kindness or peaceful strifes. But the good forces are there. If we are to survive as a species the development ought to be aimed at evolving the societies we live in in such a way that makes our future viable. How can we do that without destroying our world even more? How can we become a better people?

Anders Moberg, February the 2d 2013



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s