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
Death and the Navajos

Death and the Navajos

The Navajos struck fear into every person living in the American southwest since the first Spanish settlements until the American conquest of the southwest in the mid-nineteenth century. Their raids on the small villages and towns of present day New Mexico and Arizona were constant and were always d...
Indians and the Imperial Powers of Europe

Indians and the Imperial Powers of Europe

At the university library, I came across a book by the title A Companion to The American West, edited by William Deverell, and have been slowly working my way through it. The book is a series of essays that talk about what the American west is, how the west is defined and how the definition...
Nineteenth Century German History: Consequences of the Fall of the Holy Roman Empire (1806-1848) – Part 1

Nineteenth Century German History: Consequences of the Fall of the Holy Roman Empire (1806-1848) – Part 1

The fall of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 had drastic consequences for nineteenth century German history. For about a millennium a loose conglomeration of several different semi-autonomous German-speaking kingdoms under the Latin name of Sacrum Romanum Imperium 1 had controlled a vast region in Cent...
Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Floor Plans and the Layouts of Houses

Houses in Fin-de-Siècle Britain: Floor Plans and the Layouts of Houses

The floor plans of Late Victorian and Edwardian houses began to reflect the continually increasing standards of living and the rise of new domestic technologies throughout the periods. Whilst working-class houses and the homes of the wealthy did not change much in terms of style or size, houses targ...