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Doña juanita.jpg
Total population
Slightly below 1,000 (2006)[1]
800 (2000)[2]
215 (1951)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Mexico (Sonora)

Seri, Spanish


traditionally animists, currently primarily Christian

The Seris are an indigenous group of the Mexican state of Sonora. The majority reside on the Seri communal property (Spanish, ejido), in the towns of Punta Chueca (Seri Socaaix) and El Desemboque (Seri Haxöl Iihom) on the mainland coast of the Gulf of California. Tiburón Island (Tahejöc) and San Esteban Island (Cofteecöl and sometimes Hast) were part of their traditional territory, but some Seris also lived in various places on the mainland. They were historically seminomadic hunter-gatherers who maintained an intimate relationship with both the sea and the land. It is one of the ethnic groups of Mexico that has most strongly maintained its language and culture during the years after contact with Spanish and Mexican cultures.

The Seri people are not related culturally or linguistically to other groups that have lived in the area, such as the Opata, Yaqui, O'odham, or Cochimí. The Seri language is distinct from all others in the region and is considered a linguistic isolate.

The name Seri is an exonym of uncertain origin. (Claims that it is from Opata or from Yaqui were nineteenth-century speculations based on similarity to words in those languages and not with clear evidence.) Their name for themselves is Comcaac (phonemically /komkɑɑk/, phonetically [koŋˈkɑːk]); singular: Cmiique (phonemically /kmiikɛ/), phonetically[ˈkw̃ĩːkːɛ]).[3]



The Seri were formerly divided into six bands. They were:

  • Xiica hai iic coii ("those that are towards the wind"), who inhabited a large area to north of the other bands.
  • Xiica xnaai iicp coii ("those that are to the south"), who inhabited the coast from Bahía Kino to Guaymas.
  • Tahejöc comcaac ("Tiburón Island people"), who inhabited the coasts of Tiburón Island, and the coast of Mexico opposite it, north of the xiica xnaai iicp coii.
  • Heeno comcaac ("desert people"), who inhabited the central valley of Tiburón Island.
  • Xnaamotat ("those that came from the south"), who inhabited a small strip between the xiica hai iic coii and the Tahejöc comcaac.
  • Xiica Hast ano coii ("those that are in San Esteban Island"), who inhabited San Esteban Island and the southern coast of Tiburón Island.

Three of the bands were further subdivided. Relations between bands were not always friendly, and internal fights sometimes occurred.

After the Seri population was greatly reduced by conflicts with the Mexican government and the O'odham, and epidemics of smallpox and measles, the remaining Seris grouped together and the band divisions were lost.


  • The autoethnonym of the Seri people, Comcaac, was first recorded by United States Boundary Commissioner John Russell Bartlett, who was in the area for a short visit in early 1852.[4] The word was included in the list of approximately 180 words that Bartlett archived in the Bureau of American Ethnology (now part of the National Anthropological Archive, housed at the Smithsonian). He recorded the word as "komkak", which reflected the pronunciation of the word at that time (although he missed the vowel length and did not indicate stress). Other word lists, obtained by other people during the last half of the nineteenth century, confirm that pronunciation. The phonetic rule by which the consonant /m/ is pronounced as a velar nasal in this context (after an unstressed vowel and preceding a velar consonant) obviously did not come about until sometime in the early twentieth century. The singular form, Cmiique, was first recorded by French explorer and philologist Alphonse Pinart in 1879.[5] He recorded the word as "kmike", which also obviously reflected the pronunciation of the word at that time (although he also missed the vowel length). The phonetic rule by which the consonant /m/ is pronounced as a nasalized velar approximant in this context (after a velar stop) did not come about until sometime in the mid twentieth century.


  1. ^ Marlett (2006).
  2. ^ a b Ethnologue (2005).
  3. ^ Marlett, Moreno & Herrera (2005).
  4. ^ McGee 1898:96ff.
  5. ^ Alphonse Pinart. 1879. [Vocabulary of the Seri]. Manuscript. Bureau of American Ethnology collection, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.


  • Bowen, Thomas (1983). "Seri". Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor. Southwest. Alfonso Ortiz, volume editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: 230–249. 
  • Bowen, Thomas; Mary Beck Moser (1995). "Seri". Encyclopedia of world cultures, David Levinson, editor in chief. Middle America and the Caribbean. James W. Dow (volume editor) & Robert V. Kemper (associate volume editor). Boston: G. K. Hall.: 232-235. 
  • Bowen, Thomas (2001). Unknown Island: Seri Indians, Europeans, and San Esteban Island in the Gulf of California. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 
  • Davis, Edward H.; Dawson, E. Yale (March 1945). "The Savage Seris of Sonora—I". The Scientific Monthly 60 (3): 193–202. 
  • Davis, Edward H.; Dawson, E. Yale (April 1945). "The Savage Seris of Sonora—II". The Scientific Monthly 60 (4): 261–268. 
  • Johnston, Bernice (1980) [1970]. The Seri Indians of Sonora Mexico. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. 
  • Felger, Richard; Mary Beck Moser (July 1973). "Eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in the Gulf of California: Discovery of Its Nutritional Value by the Seri Indians". Science 181 (4097): 355–356. doi:10.1126/science.181.4097.355. PMID 17832031. 
  • Felger, Richard; Mary B. Moser. (1985). People of the desert and sea: ethnobotany of the Seri Indians. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 
  • Ives, Ronald L. (July 1962). "The Legend of the “White Queen” of the Seri". Western Folklore 21 (3): 161–164. doi:10.2307/1496954. 
  • Marlett, Stephen A. (2006). "La situación sociolingüística de la lengua seri en 2006". Situaciones sociolingüísticas de lenguas amerindias. Lima: SIL International and Universidad Ricardo Palma. 
  • Marlett, Stephen A.; F. Xavier Moreno Herrera, Genaro G. Herrera Astorga (2005). "Illustrations of the IPA: Seri". Journal of the International Phonetic Association 35 (1): 117–121. doi:10.1017/S0025100305001933. 
  • Moser, Edward W. (1963). "Seri Bands". The Kiva 28 (3): 14–27.  (online Spanish version)
  • Moser, Mary B.; Stephen A. Marlett (2005) (in Spanish and English) (PDF). Comcáac quih yaza quih hant ihíip hac: Diccionario seri-español-inglés. Hermosillo, Sonora: Universidad de Sonora and Plaza y Valdés Editores. 
  • McGee, W. J. (March 1896). "Expedition to Papagueria and Seriland: A Preliminary Note". American Anthropologist 9 (3): 93–98. doi:10.1525/aa.1896.9.3.02a00010. 
  • McGee, W. J. (April 1896). "Expedition to Seriland". Science 3 (66): 493–505. doi:10.1126/science.3.66.493. PMID 17751332. 
  • McGee, W. J. (1898). The Seri Indians: Seventeenth annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C.. 
  • Nabhan, Gary (2003). Singing the Turtles to Sea: The Comcáac (Seri) Art and Science of Reptiles. University of California Press. 
  • Template:Cite book last=Spicer first=Edward H. year=1962/1986 title=Cycles of Conquest . The Impact of Spain, Mexico and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533 - 1960 publisher: The University of Arizona Press, Tucson

See also

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


Seri or Seris

Seri (plural Seri or Seris)

  1. A member of an indigenous group of Sonora, Mexico.


Proper noun




  1. The language of this group.
Wikipedia has an article on:




  • 1829, R. W. H. Hardy, Travels in the Interior of Mexico
    The Céres, like the Malay pirates of India, neither gave nor received quarter.


Seri (comparative more Seri, superlative most Seri)


more Seri

most Seri

  1. Of the Seris or their language.


  • 1829, R. W. H. Hardy, Travels in the Interior of Mexico
    It is believed that the Céres Indians have discovered a method of poisoning their arrows.

Derived terms

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