Gene Flow and Counter Current—Hopi Sea Voyages From the Lost Continent of Mu
To the layperson genetics can seem like a foreign language. Phylogenetic trees look somewhat like schematics for electronic circuit boards. I can read neither. However, if one can manage to decipher the academic literature, certain clues about population migration become apparent.
Gene flow is defined as the transference of genetic variation, or alleles, from one population to another. When we map similar genetic traits at different places on Earth, we can reasonably trace migration patterns of different groups of people during various historical time periods. It is a complex science, and much speculation can accompany the data. However, using a few genetic indicators, I believe that certain definitive statements can be made about Hopi migration myths that describe an epic journey from the Western Pacific to the American Southwest.
Hopi legends describe their ancestors escaping on reed rafts from a great island in the Western Sea. This deluge ultimately destroyed the previous Third World (or Era) and initiated the current Fourth World. Some people refer to the landmass that was submerged) as Mu, or Lemuria. This reputed continent measured 5,000 miles in length from east to west and 3,000 miles in width from north to south. Its northern boundary was the Hawaiian Islands; its southern boundary was a line roughly between Easter Island and Fiji. Mu supposedly possessed an enlightened and highly civilized society with a population of 64 million. Until about 12,000 years ago it functioned as the world’s center for education, trade, and commerce. At that time cataclysmic earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes destroyed this great continent, leaving only the remnants of those archipelagos we see today—or so goes the myth.
One consistent genetic marker that is distributed over a hypothetical Hopi migration route from west to east (that is, from Polynesia to North America) is manifested by the condition of albinism. In a 2010 article published by the Journal of Human Genetics , Helene C. Johanson describes her research on the very high numbers of albino people found in the South Pacific. “In this study, we investigated a form of OCA [Oculocutaneous albinism—“oculo-” means eyes, and “-cutaneous” means skin] in a Polynesian population with an observed phenotype characterized by fair skin, some brown nevi [birthmarks] present in the sun-exposed areas and green or blue eyes. Hair presented with a unique red coloration since birth, with tones ranging across individuals from Yellow-Red to Brown-Red, or Auburn.” Johanson’s research focused on the Tuvalu Islands, where she discovered an exceedingly high rate of albinism. “She found 1 in 669 people are born with albinism, which is one of the highest recorded rates in the world. By comparison, the rate of albinism in America is 1 in 17,000. She furthermore found that this greater percentage of albinos was the general trend across the Pacific Island nations.
However, the Hopi and other Southwestern tribes have even higher rates of the disorder than what Johanson found. Studies done by Charles M. Woolf in 1962 and 1964 uncovered the following: statistics: Hopi, 1 in 227; Zuni, 1 in 247; San Juan, 1 in 500. An earlier study of the Hopi done in 1900 had obtained an even higher rate: 1 in 182. Woolf discovered the highest rate of all was among the Jemez: 1 in 140. Among the Hopi albinos are known as good rainmakers. The Navajo, on the other hand, showed a rate of only 1 in 3,750. Still, all of these figures are very much higher than the European rate for albinism: 1 in 20,000. The Navajo statistic is probably the result of interbreeding with the Pueblo People.
Albino Hopi Flute Priest, second from the right.
Another ethnic group, the Kuna of the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean coast of Panama, also have a high rate of albinism. Two studies done by Woolf in 1925 and 1940 obtained the following rates: 1 in 146, and 1 in 213, respectively. In Kuna culture albinos belong to a highly intelligent, elite shamanic group called the “Children of the Moon.” Their supernatural powers include the ability to heal snakebites, cure headaches, remove fish bones stuck in the throat, and foretell the future. The Kuna believe that God sent his albino son to Earth in order to teach humans how to live.
There appears to be a genetic link between the Hopi and the Kuna. Sheldon C. Reed writes in a 1965 issue of The Journal of Heredity : “Some thousands of years ago, though not long in terms of generations, all these Indians probably had some ancestors in common and it is quite possible that one of these ‘Founding Fathers’ was a carrier of the gene for albinism.”
One quintessential question remains: Is there a physical mechanism between these three geographic pockets of albinism –the Tuvalu Islands, Panama, and the American Southwest– that would link them and thus allow for migration?
Between Oceania and the western coast of South America, the equatorial counter currents produce a steady stream flowing west to east. Located approximately 5° north and south of the equator, these surface currents would have provided ocean-going outrigger canoes or reed rafts an easy eastward ride, much like the horizontal conveyor belts in airports. These north and south equatorial counter currents are in turn sandwiched between the north and south equatorial currents, which flow in the opposite direction, east to west, and are located between 10° and 20° north and south of the equator. Hence, round trips as well could have theoretically been made by boat.
The ancient mariners could have conceivably sailed the vast distances across the Pacific to northwestern South America, followed the currents’ loop northward up the western coast to Panama, Central America, and finally southwestern Mexico. From there the proto-Hopi could have trekked northward on foot along the western coast of Mexico to the mouth of the Colorado River, then fanned out across the American Southwest to arrive at their ultimate homeland. A monumental journey, for sure, but it did not necessarily have to be made all at once. It could have taken decades, centuries, or even millennia.
A Hopi-Tewa man named Albert Yava from the Water Clan (also known as the Houseboat Clan) once remarked: “One thing you hear from the Patki [Water] people is that in ancient times they were white, not Indian color. They say, ‘My ancestors had white skins, but because of evil things that happened, we lost all that.’ They also say, ‘The Patki people are the ones who are supposed to teach the Hopis good moral values, how to lead good lives.’”
For more on genetic evidence for the Hopi migration from Mu, read Gary A David’s book ‘ Star Shrines and Earthworks of the Desert Southwest’ , or visit his website.
A map of the Pacific Ocean currents upon which they Hopi may have travelled
Copyright © 2014 Gary A. David
Featured image: Mural artwork about Hopi emergence and migration, Museum of Northern Arizona. Image source .