Nineteenth-century History

George Custer on the Origins of the Indians

George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer

It is really quite amazing to read through some of the theories produced during the 19th century about the origin of the Native Americans. As I talked about in my last post, I am currently reading the memoirs of George Custer about his life on the plains and his personal experiences with the Indians.

The second chapter in the book Custer uses to paint a picture of some of the various theories of his time on the origins of the Native Americans. He briefly mentions the most widely accepted theory today: they were migratory groups that followed the game into North America from eastern Asia over a land bridge between modern day Russia and Alaska. A couple of other theories he briefly mentions is that they came directly from Africa and that they are simply autochthonous.

Although he briefly mentions these, he spends most of the chapter discussing and giving proofs for a theory in which the Indians are directly descended from the Hebrews. He argues that scientists during his time period had gathered enough behavioral evidence from the Indians to prove that this theory is the most probable. One such proof was that a scientist studying the origins of the Native Americans “once heard an Indian apply the following expression to a culprit: ‘Tschi kaksit canaba‘ — ‘Thou art like unto a Canaanite sinner.'”1

I find this theory to be quite ridiculous. All of the evidence Custer provides is merely circumstantial and behavioral. I have no way of proving whether or not the translation of the above quote in the Indian language is accurate or not, but I am very skeptical. One hundred and thirty years from now they may be laughing at our theories as well, but I think they are based on much more solid ground that those of one hundred and thirty years ago.

——

1. George Armstrong Custer, My Life on the Plains: Personal Experiences with the Indians (New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc, 2009), 19.

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Explore History Rhymes
Random Featured Articles
Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Trends in the Design of Domestic Façades

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Trends in the Design of Domestic Façades

Façades in Fin-de-Siècle Britain changed quite significantly. Early in the period they were very similar to their High Victorian counterparts, but through the designs of architects such as Morris, Webb and Shaw, they began to transform. By the Edwardian era, however, they had become enough differe...
Nineteenth Century German History: Conclusion

Nineteenth Century German History: Conclusion

Germany in the nineteenth century was a place of unimaginable political unrest. The collapse of the Holy Roman Empire at the beginning of the century set the precedent for how the political scene of most of the rest of the century would play out. It would be chaotic, unnavigable and yet somehow the ...
The Modocs – History and Culture of the Modocs (Part 1)

The Modocs – History and Culture of the Modocs (Part 1)

In the woods in southern Oregon, a man quietly stalks a deer. The summer weather is brutally hot and he sweats profusely. The man is careful to avoid making any sort of noise and is weary not to let his game out of sight. The deer stops in a small clearing and it is the...
Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: The Interior in Fin-de-Siècle Britain

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: The Interior in Fin-de-Siècle Britain

Middle class families, like their upper-class peers, took the interior of their houses very seriously. It was the primary means with which they could put their financial and social status on display for the world to see. As such, interior design was arguably the quickest developing part of the house...