Genetic studies have revealed a DNA link between the Indigenous peoples of Australia and those of the Americas. It seems some 15,000 years ago, humans began crossing Beringia, a land bridge that once connected Eurasia to modern-day Alaska. Theories differ as to whether these early migrants arrived all at once or in waves. What is clear, however, is that Native Americans from Anchorage to the Amazon share distant ancestry with the Aboriginal people of Australia.
In fact, these two geographically distant groups share much more than genomes:
Wide Diversity – The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs currently recognizes 574 American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages, while nearly as many Aboriginal clan groups or nations can be found Down Under. Nearly all of them claim their own languages, cultures, and beliefs. Geographic location, natural resources, and climate have influenced this rich diversity for both Indigenous groups.
Oral Traditions – Neither Native Americans nor Australian Aboriginals have written creeds. Rather, they both pass along knowledge, cultural values, and other important ideas orally from one generation to another. Storytelling, song, dance, and symbolic artwork (see below) are all used to communicate these traditions.
Rock Art – Ancient Indigenous peoples in both Australia and the Americas conveyed information through rock art, namely pictographs (painted images) and petroglyphs (etchings). Rock art discovered in Nevada is estimated to be more than 10,000 years old, while images found in Australia are upwards of 30,000 years old. (See blogpost, “Why Ancient Rock Art Totally Rocks.”)
Complex Family Structures – The cultures of both Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians revolve around complex relational structures that extend far beyond the typical nuclear family. Kinship units commonly include not only spouses and their children, but also grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even non-blood relations. These extended family members often interact daily, sharing meals, chores and other activities. Elders are revered in both cultures, and often play a significant role in child rearing and group decision making.
Belief of “Oneness” – Indigenous societies in Australia and the Americas are rooted in the concept of “oneness,” that all things in the universe – both animate and inanimate – are interconnected. Even more, this belief holds that all things are interdependent on each other, as well. So when one aspect of life is out of balance – be it the environment or our individual psyche – the rest of life is as well.
Reverence for Nature – This sense of a universal oneness cultivates an intimate relationship with the land and a deep respect for the natural order of life. The traditional lifestyles of Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians work in balance with their respective environments; both groups consider nature to be sacred, and express gratitude for her many gifts. They are Mother Earth’s greatest stewards and fiercest defenders, tirelessly working to combat land exploitation, water pollution, and climate change.
Images: Aboriginal girl: Leigh Harris/cnn.com; Native American girl: americanindian.si.edu/nk360