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Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

By David Yamaguchi

OUR RETRACING of the roots of the Japanese people to eastern Siberia (June 22) left a few threads unresolved. One is what do the native peoples of this region look like? When we choose from the short list of such groups specifically mentioned by geneticist Hideo Matsumoto as similar to us, we find that the people indeed resemble us.

Many could be plopped onto the streets of Tokyo without anyone noticing, other than perhaps to inquire on where they got their cool clothes.

Today, the Yakut’s, the Evenks, and the Koryaks are not peoples that we hear about. Nonetheless, they are represented by 524,000 in the 2010 Russian census (478,000, 38,000, and 8,000, respectively). It was the ancestors of people like them that began the long walk south, and whose descendants ultimately became Korean and Japanese.

When, and under what circumstances, did that migration happen? How does it intertwine with the long arc of Chinese history? Perhaps we can pursue these fascinating questions down the line, after we address more pressing questions in Eurasian anthropology.