Native Americans or The Indians of North America and the Americas “Correlation between the Turkic People and the Native Americans: Common Roots?”
A panel discussion that lasted close to four hours was held at the Turkish Center in New York City on January 26, Saturday evening from 18:00 PM to 22:00 PM. The topic of the conference, organized by the Istanbul University Alumni Association of USA, was : “Correlation between the Turkic People and the Native Americans: Common Roots?” . .
For years, many articles and books have been published with claims that the Native Americans had migrated from the central Asia crossing the Bering straight 15,000 to 25,000 years ago when the waters had seceded. Prof. Dr. Reha Oguz Turkkan even published a book on his studies and findings on the link between the Turkic people of Central Asia and the Native Americans. Therefore, this was a timely and a very well organized conference where over 300 Turkish-Americans, turks and their friends, including many young students, listened to the speakers and to beautiful music of Central Asia and the native Americans.
Who are the Native Americans, or Indians, named as such by Christopher Columbus when he thought he had landed in the West Indies after arriving at in 1492 (1). In his book, “The Indian Heritage of America”, (2) Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. states that “it is accepted as certain that Indians are of Asiatic origin.”
Where in Asia did they come from and when is still debated. One theory suggests that they are “proto-Mongoloid”, separate from the “Asian Mongoloids” According to this theory, the descendants of these immigrants to the Western hemisphere multiplied and spread across the Americas, evolving differently not only from the people who had remained behind in Asia but also among themselves, depending on various influences, including environment, ways of life, and unions among groups (P. 11).
Another theory proposes there were two or more migrations from Asia. According to many books, there is little relationship between language groups and culture among the Indians. Eskimos, Mayas, Aztecs, Sioux, Crows, Navahos, pueblos are only the major tribes among perhaps that inhibit North America. Some estimates state that in 1492, there were close to 75 million Indians in the Americas, others write only 15 to 20 million. Then tragedy after tragedy, the population of the Indians diminished. According to the book, “The Vanishing Americans”, the population of Indians in North America over the years is given as follows:
1860 - 340,000, 1910 – 220,000, 1950 – 571,784 (including those with a quarter Indian blood), 1960 – 552,228 (including Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts) and in 1968 – 600,000 plus (380,000 on reservations and mainly in Arizona and Oklahoma.) Today their number is estimated to be around 2.5 million.
The conference was opened by two young presenters, Cahit Oktay, a renowned photographer, and Sinem Saniye, born in Germany, but raised in USA, and recipient of first prize in a song competition, one speaking English and the other Turkish, with brief information on the panel participants.
Prof. Turker Ozdogan, acting as the Moderator, stated that they were not the pioneers in the study of correlation between the Turkic people and the native Americans and made reference to Ataturk’s interest in the subject back in the 1930s. Ataturk sent Cemil Tanju to the United States who wrote a book, “Tunc Devirleri” on the link between the peoples that had origins in Central Asia. Ozdogan commented that before the times of the DNA, these subjects were ignored and locations were not mentioned. DNA has shown the obvious connection which, he said, was also discussed during a conference last year on the correlation between the Meluncans and the Turks. Ozdogan also showed several books that have been written on the subject, including “Dine Bahane – Creation Story”.
There was a surprise guest at the conference. Cahit Oktay introduced Prof. Dr. Reha Oguz Turkkan, who presented a copy of his book to the Federation of Turkish-American Associations, represented by its new President Kaya Boztepe. Dr. Turkkan returned to Turkey in late 70s after spending many years in the USA and publishing “Turkish-American Encyclopedic Digest” together with his ex-wife, Guntekin Turkkan. Dr. Turkkan was also among several Turks, including Prof. Talat Halman, who had donated many books to the Federation which established the first Turkish – American Library in New York in 1973.
Prof. Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer of Georgetown University made a presentation primarily on the migration that took place after Cengiz Han’s expeditions, “Extending Turkish Identity? Siberian Turkic Peoples, Ancestral Migrations and Native American Roots.” She began with a comment that “Not all Native Americans are Turkish.” She also stated that some Native Americans resist scholarly research on the Asian connections and mentioned that correlation can be studied under legend, linguistic ties, biology, material and spiritual topics, with references to the shaman practices in Central Asia.
Assoc. Prof. Carol Chiago Lujan of Arizona State University spoke about the Navajo Indians, first commenting that the link between the Turks and the Native Americans is news to her. The title of her presentation was: “Visual Overview of Navajo and American Indians.” She mentioned that identification among the Indians are according to clans, her mother side being from the “Big water Clan” and her father from a different clan. She stated that there are 563 separate nations in the US, 229 in Alaska and 334 in the other states, and the total population today is around 2.5 million, which she said is growing faster then the US population. Then she spoke about the differences between the nations and the commonalities, making reference to the harsh treatment that they have been exposed to since the 1600s. She put the number of Navahos to 300,000 which her students thought was actually more. She showed slides of her students as well as her family members and friends. She said that the most important things for the Navajo Indians were land, kinship, religion and right to govern themselves and read a short poet that began with “In beauty (happily) I walk.”
Prof. Timur Kocaoglu, a visiting scholar at Michigan State University, made a presentation, “Searching for the Possible Linguistic Correlation Between the Turks and the American Indian Peoples.” He began his speech by referring to a Kazak proverb: You are not a good Kazak if you can identify your 7th forefather. In determing the links, Prof. Kocaoglu stated that comparative studies can be made in the areas of linguistics, arts and handicraft, customs, folk-literature and linguistics and presented examples in each area.
Unfortunately I missed the second half of the program where there were two music presentations scheduled in between two presentations., one by Ilham Sami Ozulu (Melodies from Central Aia) and Evren Ozan, a fourteen year old Native American flute musician whose compositions are heard on CDs, radio, independent films and in concert (www.ozamusic.com
The title of the presentation that I missed by Mr. Frank Keel, Director, Eastern region of Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, was “Potential Business and Cultural Advancement between Turkic Nations and Native American Nations / Experience in Turkey?” The title of the presentation by Mr. Brian Paterson, President of the United South and Eastern Tribes & Bear Clan representative to the Oneida Indian Nations’s Men’s Council and Clan Mothers was “Cultural value and Identity in 21st Century.” I hope a summary of these presentations will be made available by the organizers of this very timely and excellent event. Congratulations to the Istanbul University Alumni Association of USA and all of the members who did a wonderful job with organizing and conducting the panel discussion.
“Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian”
Before heading to the Turkish Center to attend the conference, I visited the “Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian” located at the magnificent Customs House near the Battery Park. The Museum opened on October 30, 1994, in the historic George Gustav Heye Center. The current exhibition was, “Listening to our Ancestors – The Art of Native Life Along the North Pacific Coast” with over 4,000 objects. One of the many quotations displayed is by Chief Robert Joseph: “Our tribes, known by ancient, magical names, have lived on these lands for more than 10,000 years, protected by natural barriers of ocean and mountains. In this beautiful place, our ancestors crafted elaborate institutions and structures of rights and responsibilities based on kinship and history.”