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
Kings of Bavaria: King Ludwig I

Kings of Bavaria: King Ludwig I

King Ludwig I was the second king of Bavaria. Although, like his father, King Maximilian I Joseph, he was born outside of Bavaria before the establishment of the Bavarian kingdom, his legacy is still felt to this day with no place being as strongly impacted as his capital city, Munich.
The Role of Prince Albert in the Monarchy

The Role of Prince Albert in the Monarchy

In the first two decades of Queen Victoria’s reign, there was no one who played a more influential role in British affairs as Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. Upon the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne, the state of the Monarchy was already in question.1 After his subsequent marriage to ...
Who were the real cowboys? (Part 2)

Who were the real cowboys? (Part 2)

The history of the cowboy is a story that begins long ago. What we now think of as a uniquely American tradition is not solely American at all. Cowboy tradition first originated in mediæval Spain with the hacienda, or estate. The haciendas belonged to wealthy landowners and were generally, but not ...
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...