Polynesians in South (and North) America

This article is interesting from LiveScience.com (h/t Kealoha):
Popular history, and a familiar rhyme about Christopher Columbus, holds that Europeans made contact with the Americas in 1492, with some arguing that the explorer and his crew were the first outsiders to reach the New World.

But chicken bones recently unearthed on the coast of Chile—dating prior to Columbus’ “discovery” of America and resembling the DNA of a fowl species native to Polynesia—may challenge that notion, researchers say.

“Chickens could not have gotten to South America on their own—they had to be taken by humans,” said anthropologist Lisa Matisoo-Smith from the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Polynesians made contact with the west coast of South America as much as a century before any Spanish conquistadors, her findings imply.

It always just seemed common sense to me that master voyagers who could sail with precise knowledge in multiple directions between remote islands across the entire Pacific could manage to find the continent of South America. The article concludes:
"There is increasing evidence of multiple contacts with the Americas," [Matisoo-Smith] said, "based on linguistic evidence and similarities in fish hook styles." Physical evidence of human DNA from Polynesia has yet to be found in South America, she added.

I'd be interested in learning more about the linguistic evidence. I have one isolated example that caught my attention when I first heard it. The language of the Huaorani people is Huao Terero. Take the common interchange of t/k and r/l in Polynesian languages, and consider how Hawaiian words commonly use an 'okina in place of t/k (e.g. kava = 'awa, vaka = wa'a), Terero is not far from 'Olelo. They say Huao Terero is a "language isolate" with "no demonstrable genealogical (or "genetic") relationship with other living languages," so perhaps it is just coincidence, but it does make me wonder. (I know this is stretching it, but Huaorani itself almost sounds like a Hawaiian word. Hua = seed, egg, offspring; rani/lani=heavenly, chiefly. Hmm...)

Update 6/6: Advertiser had an article on the topic yesterday with more details, noting that "repeated voyages seem likely."

Star-Bulletin editorial mentions that "the Chumash and nearby Gabrielino Indian tribes learned how to build sewn-plank boats from the Polynesians sometime between 400 and 800 A.D, after thousands of years of using less seaworthy boats," which clicks something else into place for me. Kekula has a story in her family told by her great-grand-uncle David Kaonohiokala Bray, who visited the Hopi repeatedly from 1958 to 1968, after finding a migrational connection between Hawaii and Hopi that also involved the Chumash. The Hopi told of a group of their Sun Clan who had travelled to the Chumash, and then some of them had sailed off into the ocean and were never heard from again. Until Daddy Bray showed up and sang an old chant from his heritage that turned out to be the Hopi song the Sun Clan were to sing when they returned. Seriously. And he had a story of a people who had arrived after the time of Pa'ao and had helped to preserve aloha (Hopi are "people of peace"). They had migrated around I think 24 generations previous, or about 500 years. Now when I read about Polynesians visiting the Chumash several hundred years earlier, improving their sailing canoes, it makes sense that the Chumash would not only be capable of open-ocean navigation, but knew where Hawaii was.

Posted: Tue - June 5, 2007 at 08:01 PM    
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Published On: Jun 06, 2007 11:49 PM
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