I wouldn't be surprised that somebody else thought of the same idea -- that happens all the time. The canonical example is that two people independently invented calculus :)
I also found that the academic projects Morbig/Colis and Smoosh independently did some of the same things I'm doing Oil, at pretty much the exact same time (2016-2017).
Links here: https://github.com/oilshell/oil/wiki/ExternalResources
Some things are just "in the air". I think there are probably a lot more precursors to what you were doing than you were aware of (some of which may be on that wiki page -- I also have a private wiki page called "Avoiding Pointers" with some more academic papers, if you're interested).
I mention Ken Thompson's encodings of regexes, and that was in the 60's. He didn't motivate it by "avoiding pointers", and it's specific to a particular application rather than a general purpose language, but the idea is the same.
The code I wrote was inspired by capnproto to a large extent, and the author chimed in here with the similarities to this language. protobufs/capnproto are basically a language-independent type system, and it's not that big a jump to go from a type system to a general programming language.
Pointers are a junk-food abstraction that needs to go away.