Native American Nations in Mexico

Updated on February 16, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on Indigenous Peoples for over four decades.

Indigenous Peoples of Mexico

When speaking about ethnic peoples in anthropological terms, the indigenous tribes and nations from Canada through America and southward to Mexico are called Native North Americans. Each country's indigenous populations can be called First Nations, Native Americans, and Native or Indigenous Mexican Americans.

At least 60 separate native Mexican American nations (or "Mexicas", in their own language) have existed.

Huichol Museum in Mexico.
Huichol Museum in Mexico. | Source

Indigenous populations found from Mexico northward to the North Pole in the Western Hemisphere are known as Native North American Nations.

Evidence of Indigenous Origins

Archeological evidence supports that the forbears of the Mexican people came across the Bering Strait on foot, but also across the Pacific Ocean by dugout and other watercraft. Once in North America, waves of immigrants seemed to have intermixed with each other, and later with Europeans, according to in-depth DNA analyses by National Geographic via the The Genographic Project.

The indigenous peoples of Mexico still living today are called:

  • Purepecha
  • Tarascan
  • Huichol

The Huichol are a very interesting people. Huichol Indians live in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Mexico and are well known for wonderfully intricate yarn paintings and for their beautiful bead work.

Before doing one of their yarn paintings, they take peyote, a drug made naturally in a cactus-type plant. This hallucinogen is so powerful that it allows them to have an alternate experience in which they travel with spirits and speak with them about their art.

show route and directions
A markerState of Michoacan, Mexico -
Michoacán, Mexico
get directions

B markerSierra Madres, Mexico -
Sierra Madre, Lomas de Chapultepec, Miguel Hidalgo, 11000 Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
get directions

C markerState of Nayarit, Mexico -
Nayarit, Mexico
get directions

Population Origins: Huichol Reindeer Visions

When using peyote for visions, the goal of the Huichol people is to have a vision of a reindeer as it travels to the spirit world. This is unusual, since there currently are no reindeer in Mexico.

To envision a reindeer indicates that they have made contact with their gods and that their communications are sacred. Australian aborigines call such experiences, "The Dreamtime." Indigenous Russians call it, "The Other World."

Scientists have discovered a DNA link between most tribes and nations of North America with ancient Siberians, Northern Eurpoeans (Laplanders), and Northern Asians. The cultural icon of the reindeer seems to have followed their migration to the Western Hemisphere.

"Rites of Spring" by Woody Crumbo (1912-1989), a Potawatomi painter.
"Rites of Spring" by Woody Crumbo (1912-1989), a Potawatomi painter. | Source

According to legend, the reindeer pulls up the sun each morning near the People of the North in Russia. Then, the reindeer becomes a Blue Dragon in parts of Asia. Finally, the animal becomes a reindeer again in Mexico.

Such stories may contain hints pertaining to the genetic heritage of these peoples, supporting the belief that the People of the North migrated through Northeast Asia into Alaska, Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and southward all the way to the tip of south America–and probably back up into the Ohio Valley.

According to a 1996 research study, at least one member of the Iroquois Confederation was found to be related to the Zulu Nation of Africa. Another piece of evidence that supports this relationship is that they have the same word for "cousin" in both languages.

Blue Deer Historical Fiction

So Sings the Blue Deer
So Sings the Blue Deer

This book is based on the true story of the Huichol Indian's 600 mile pilgrimage to save the Earth. Native North American histories are perhaps not promoted as fully as are those of other ethnic groups on our continent, but this book gives a compelling portrayal of the culture and beliefs of the Huichol and their desire to re-populate their forests with native animals.

 

Re-population of Endangered Species

The Huichol Indians wanted to populate their forests with deer, believing the reindeer once roamed free in those areas. They traveled 600 miles to find the deer they needed.

The Mexico City Zoo gave 20 blue deer to the Huichol People in 1986, and the people started a wild herd on their own lands in the forests.

Two years after the project began, in 1988, the Mexican government recognized the Indians' re-population of forests with deer by giving them the National Ecology Prize.

The government of the state of Nayarit, Mexico, where the Huichol live, signed an agreement with the Cousteau Society to preserve their area for ecologically safe tourism. The blue deer is the intuition that speaks to their heart, if they just listen.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Huichol beaded art piece.A Huichol gathering.Huichol brightly embroidered art piece.
Huichol beaded art piece.
Huichol beaded art piece. | Source
A Huichol gathering.
A Huichol gathering. | Source
Huichol brightly embroidered art piece.
Huichol brightly embroidered art piece. | Source
Source
Huichol beaded skull.
Huichol beaded skull. | Source

Purepecha and Tarascan Peoples

A markerMichoacan, Mexico -
Michoacán, Mexico
get directions

Purepecha and Tarascan Indigenous Mexicans

The Purepecha live in the Sierra Madres in the State of Michoacan. They still speak their native language and keep many ancient customs, like making sculptures from local clay and paint.

They combine Catholicism with their native beliefs in surreal and imaginative folk art. Purépecha are also called "Tarascans" or "Tarscos", and "Porhé." Their ancient empire rivaled the Aztec Empire during the 15th and early 16th centuries (1400 - 1500 AD).

Their language is classified as an isolated language, spoken along southern fringes of south Jalisco.

These folks make colorful cars studded with skeletons and devils in order to warn about the dangers inherent in reckless driving.

Artistic masks frighten away evil.
Artistic masks frighten away evil. | Source

Mayan People

show route and directions
A markerMayan Museum Mexico -
Blvd. Kukulcan km 16.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
get directions

B markerCalakmul Biosphere Reserve -
Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Campeche, Mexico
get directions

Additional Mayan Cities

Archaeologists found the ruins of another large Mayan city that was lost for centuries on the Yucatan Peninsula. The ruins were located near the Mayan Museum of Mexico.

The uncovered city includes 54 acres of pyramids, plazas, Mayan ball courts, and stone slabs engraved with various inscriptions. Among the 15 pyramids found, one stands 75 feet tall.

The city is 75 miles west of Chetumal in the southeastern region of the State of Campeche on the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, and is named Chactun, meaning "Red Stone" or "Great Stone."

In addition to this historic site, another 60,000 Mayan structures were discovered underground near Guatemala in early 2018. Indigenous Mexican peoples may have been more prolific than previously thought, at lest in architectural accomplishments and population sizes.

Mayan Sun God.
Mayan Sun God. | Source

Mayan Wall Sculpture

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Copan ruins/MayanNotice how this looks very Eastern, much like Thai art.
Copan ruins/Mayan
Copan ruins/Mayan | Source
Notice how this looks very Eastern, much like Thai art.
Notice how this looks very Eastern, much like Thai art. | Source

Sources:

  • Berke, J. Archaeologists found thousands of hidden structures in the Guatemalan jungle — and it could re-write human history. Business Insider. www.businessinsider.com/60000-lost-mayan-structures-found-beneath-guatemalan-jungle-2018-2 Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  • Cohen, Luc. Archaeologists discover lost Maya city in Mexican jungle. Reuters. June 30, 2013.
  • Russell, Steve. "Restoring Deer to the Huichol: Sacred Animals Return to Jalisco, Mexico" in Indian Country Today Magazine. May 25, 2016.

Questions & Answers

  • Does any people group in Mexico speak the Zuni language today?

    No such group is recorded, but the possibility exists because extensive preservation work and tape recordings of the Zuni language were submitted to and accepted by the US Library of Congress in 2006. Those records could be accessed so that other groups of people might learn the language. In fact, Google has an ongoing language preservation project as well. Otherwise, the Zuni language is not related to the languages of the other indigenous groups and ancestor groups that have long been found in northwestern New Mexico. To my knowledge, Zuni is not spoken in the country of Mexico.

© 2007 Patty Inglish

Comments & Additions

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes, an overview of names and locations. The original HubPages question asked how many Native American Tribes exist and the questioner was not expecting several thousand! Little by little, I add Hubs about the various nations and communities. Thanks for reading!

    • unvrso profile image

      Jose Juan Gutierrez 

      5 years ago from Mexico City

      Interesting, although brief view of the Mexican indian communities.

      Voted interesting!

    • GinaCPocan profile image

      GinaCPocan 

      6 years ago from Chicago

      Interesting

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Amazing course, emeraldkell. The Native history of Mexico is indeed vast and fascinating.

    • profile image

      emeraldkell 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting article. My hubby is Mexican American. A few years back I took a class called Mesoamerican Archeology. I studied Mexico's indegionous population from teh Olmecs to the Aztecs. What a vast, colorful native history Mexico has. I told my hubby he should be proud of his heritage. Thanks for writing this piece.

    • profile image

      To'nal gide 

      8 years ago

      Why do ALL my Border Brothers say:

      "Yo soy Azteca."

      Why don't they know that there are almost one hundred OTHER

      Cogent Nations there?

      But, then again, here, we are mostly told:

      "I'm Cherokee."

      Um hummm...

      We are To'chini, And We're still here. My children are too.

      Just like Gomer used to say:

      "Surprise, suprise, suprise!"

    • AndyBaker profile image

      AndyBaker 

      9 years ago from UK

      I'm really interested in ancient clutures, and particularly ones still existant today that haven't been "destroyed" by western influence.

      I humanity today wasn't so blind we may all be living a bit more like this.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Berta - read this link for Otomi at Britannica.

      http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/434758/O...

    • profile image

      Berta  

      9 years ago

      I need to know if there were any atomi indians in mexico, if so.....

      How do you spell the name and where did they originate

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Check the two on the Amazon.com link above called Tribal Spirits and look at:

      Rainbow Tribe: Ordinary People Journeying on the Red Road by Ed McGaa & Eagle Man

      Tiger-men and tofu dolls: Tribal spirits in Northern Thailand by Jon Boyes

      Twin from Another Tribe: The Story of Two Shamanic Healers from Africa and North America by Michael Ortiz Hill (he has written several)

    • profile image

      leon 

      9 years ago

      i would love if you could recommend a book about tribal spirits if there is even such a book out there thanks leon

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks; I'm glad you like it.

    • gabriella05 profile image

      gabriella05 

      10 years ago from Oldham

      Thanks Patty is a pleasure to read your hubs

      Great hub fantastic historical story

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      O that is wonderful! Happy Holidays to you and to them! I hope they send us more information about Mexico... :)

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 

      10 years ago

      Dear Patty, Thank your for this marvelous hub. I plan to send to all my relatives and friends in Mexico!!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      A book? About this? Thank you O Great 1000-Fans-in-One. Excuse me while I lie down for a while first at the thought, though ...heehee

      There is an encyclopedia of 4 voumes each 3 inches thick or so that does not even include the updates from the last 4 years! I think an online Directory of Links would be just the ticket and I think I might start a webpage and blog about it! I think you just gave me a good idea.... :)

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 

      10 years ago from Scotland

      Patty, another great addition to the series, I wonder though shouldn't you publish this as a book,YOUR BIGGEST FAN.....JIMMY

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