The two, while outwardly similar in their material and other cultural appurtenances bear genomes distinct from one another. The Haida language is also distinct, not only from Tlingit, but from all of the rest of the Americas. It's what's called a 'language isolate,' a language for which there is no apparent linguistic relative in the world. Although such languages are not definitive evidence of a language's antiquity, the circumstances that obtain on Haida Gwaii suggest that, at a minimum, the Haida language had evolved in isolation from the languages of all the other indigenous people of North America.
The genetic results thus parallel the linguistic evidence, and make me want to connect them with some natural curiosities having to do with Haida Gwaii, the island archipelago traditionally inhabited by the Haida people (the island chain was formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) [and is the land where I was born--see below for some photos of the unassuming little town of Sandspit, where my family lived, across the saltchuck from the Haida village of Skidegate and the interlopers' town of Queen Charlotte].
First of these curiosities that I want to mention is the importance of Haida Gwaii in Knut Fladmark's famous paper, 'Routes: Alternate Migration Corridors for Early Man in North America.' One of the points Knut makes in this paper is that the coastal route for peopling of the Americas would have been open even while the proposed 'ice-free corridor' to the unglaciated parts of North America was closed. The ice-free corridor, you'll remember, is a long-hotly-debated ice-free north-south route between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets. Fladmark and others have always maintained that, even if it had been ice-free for some warmer periods during the last glaciation the way would have been forbidding to the point of impassibility with permanent pro-glacial lakes and outwash plains devoid of fauna or flora.
|This sketch of the ice-free corridor is a might optimistic. This is prolly what it looked like at the height of the deglaciation at around 12.5 ka.|
Thus, for lots of reasons it's very tempting to see the Haida people as potentially the earliest to live south of the Arctic Circle in North America, at a time when sea levels were much lower than they are today, and that they might have reached this southerly perch by making use of refugia on the shelf as stepping stones between Beringia and Haida Gwaii. By the time the post-Pleistocene marine transgression had taken its toll on waterfront property in that region, there was a 180 km stretch of Hecate Strait to navigate to reach the mainland. Although they were clearly some of the mightiest seafarers ever to eat the waves anywhere in the world, even the Haida might have chosen to make such crossings rarely, thus ensuring their continued genetic and linguistic isolation from the rest of North America.
Let me know what you think.
Here follows a series of increasingly larger scale satellite photos of the area of my birth--Haida Gwaii.
|Aleutians through the Gulf of Alaska to Haida Gwaii, the pie-shaped archipelago near the bottom.|
|Haida Gwaii and the mainland opposite. Hecate Strait in between.|
|Sandspit, on Haida Gwaii. Note the raised shorelines marching uphill to the south and west due to continuous and ongoing post-Pleistocene isostatic rebound.|
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