I. Introduction and Description.
The Seri Indians of coastal Sonora, Mexico have been named as some or perhaps the least known of the surviving Indian groups of North America
It remains a mystery when and where exactly the Seri tribe first appeared. It is believed by historians and anthropologists that their language the “Conca’ac” comes from the “Hokana”family which belongs to the clans of the “Coahuilteco” from northeast Mexico and the “Tlapaneco” both prehispanic tribes. Some historians say they are also from the “Yuman” group of the “Sioux-Hokana” clan. For at least 500 years, it is said that Seri Indians occupy the “Shark Island” and “San Esteban”, but currently live in camps that are found in “Desemboque" and “Punta Chueca”. All of theseplaces are located in the Gulf of Mexico, in the State of Sonora in the Sea of Cortes. The Seri territory takes up an area of 210,000 acres with around 100km of coastland. They live in small, nomadic fishing campsites which they set up along the coast according to the fishing seasons. The names of the most famous campsites are “El Sargento”, “Egipto”, “Paredones”, “La Ona”, “Las Viboras” and “ElTecomate (found on Shark Island). They speak their very particular and complicated language “Conca’ac”. They have their own government, and governor, a council of elders and a cooperative farming commune president, they are the owners of the Island of the Shark.
Due to their nomadic nature, the Seris would construct their campsites in a provisory manner. Their camphouses or “chozas” would be groupedup in small nuclei dedicated to hunting and fishing. Once the natural resources of a given area would be scarce due to the season, or the hunting, they would transfer to another space. They constructed their roofs with branches of “ocotillo” tree and Cahuama turtle shells and centers of pitahaya fruit to shield them from high temperatures.
They were never evangelized by the Catholic Church, incontrast to most other indigenous, prehispanic communities, which has permitted the Seri community to preserve a truly authentic prehispanic lifestyle in current time.
In the 17th century, the Seris were mentioned in the book of travels of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit explorer and missionary of the Southwest who came into contact with the Seris in his travels along the coast of theGulf of Mexico. He mentioned that at the time the Seri population was an estimated 5,000 people.
Since the beginning of the Spanish conquest in Mexico, the missionaries have tried several times to convert the Seris into farmers and Christians. Trying to group them and confine them to missions. The Seris have never been and even today refuse to be agriculturers. As with most of the prehispanictribes in Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors and missionaries tried to force the Seris to their way of life and tried to take control of them so the Indians who left the missions were pursued by the Spanish military and punished. Many Seri families were arrested and many women deported to Guatemala. Thus began the history of the Seri and Spanish conflicts. The Seri community was often forced to changecamps and flee. Over the years much of their territory has been abandoned they, have been forced to live on the shores, in nomadic fishing and hunting campsites. By the 1930s there were around 300 Seris and this decrease is mostly due to the war, foreign diseases brought into the clan since their contact with outside civilization and malnutrition. Since then Seris are mostly confined to “SharkIsland” and “El Infiernillo Strait” (Little Hell Strait, this strait is considered very dangerous since the waters are full of sharks, manta rays, whirlpools and changing currents).
Since the 1930s the Seris began to come into contact with the Mexican non-indigenous society in Kino Bay creating fishing cooperatives. With this new lucrative activity for the Seri, throughout the century more and...