Seri Indians of Sonora

The Seri, the name given to them by the Spanish, are known by several names, including Comcaac (the people) also spelled Komcaac, among at least 10 other spellings and pronunciations, and Gente the La Ariena (People of the Sand). Some of the Seri people are believed to have migrated to the peninsula of Baja California, crossing the Sea of Cortez in balsas, or reed boats.

Primarily, the Comcaac settled on the East shore of the mainland, extending from Guaymas to about 75 miles north of Tiburon Island in Kino Bay, and as far inland as Hermosillo. At some point, it is believed, they were several thousand strong. Fishing, hunting and gathering provided their substance in the arid Sonora Desert, which averages just over 2 inches of rainfall annually. At no time have the Seri been cultivators of crops.

Fiercely independent, they have never truly integrated into Mexican Society. Besides Spanish, they still speak their own native language, characterized by song-like intonation patterns and staccato delivery. The Comcaac language belongs to the Hokan language stock, however, since it is not closely related to any of the known languages, it is presently classified as a language isolate within that group.

        The Seri are very proud of their heritage and have strong love of bright colors, evident in the traditional full length skirts worn by women.

Sometime in the late 17th century, the Jesuits priests tried to confine the Seri to small agricultural developments around the missions, intent on converting and making them into good citizens. Tragically, the Seri were not inclined to conform. They fled, abandoning their ancestral lands to avoid suffering the consequences of Spanish despotism. Fortunately, due to the lack of rainfall and the absence of rich mineral deposits in the area, the Spanish moved on the greener pastures. However, the Seri population dwindled down to approximately 300 or less by the 1930s. survivors were mostly concentrated on the Isla el Tiburon. In 1965, the Mexican government established a protected game preserve on the island; since then, the Seri have not been allowed to hunt there.

They have been credited with the knowledge of over 400 species of desert plants and their uses. They are the only known people in the world to have harvested grain from the see (eelgrass), and eaten the nutritious seeds. Expert fishermen, they have contributed extensive knowledge to modern science on the sea turtle’s biology and behavior.

The Seri are famous for their exquisite ironwood carvings. The artist use a hatchet, a hacksaw, a wood chisel and a wood rasp, shaping and filing the figure before finishing the piece by hand with different grades of sand paper, followed by polishing.

If you are interested in learning more about the Seri, you can find several books for sale at

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