Are American Indians Turkish?
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
NEW YORK Turkish Daily News
On a quest to determine whether kinship exists between Turks and Native
Americans, a New York-based Turkish group organized a conference last
weekend searching for similarities between the two peoples.
The main question at the conference last weekend titled "Commonalities
between Turks and Native Americans" dealt with the possibility of American
Indians coming from a Turkish bloodline.
The Istanbul University Alumni Association (IUMEZUSA) organized the
conference.Although the question might seem absurd to many, participation
in the conference was very high.
Over 400 people, including the director of the Eastern Region Bureau of
Indian Affairs of the U.S. Department of the Interior attended the
conference. The panelists were Brian Paterson, United South and Eastern
Tribes & Bear Clan representative to the Oneida Indian Nation's Men's
Council and Clan Mothers, Professor Timur Kocaog(lu, visiting scholar at
Michigan State University, Professor Türker Özdog(an, George Washington
University, Professor Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Georgetown University's
Anthropology and Archeology of Eurasia Department and Associate Professor
Carol Chiago Lujan, Arizona State University's founding director of the
American Indian Studies Program.
"This conference was an attempt both to strengthen our relations (as
Turkish Americans) with the American Indians and also to call for
furthering serious academic studies in the related area," said Ali Ç?nar,
the president of IUMEZUSA.
For many years, there were occasional stories related to the commonalities
between Turks and Native Americans in the Turkish media. For example
language similarities were always portrayed as the strongest link between
the two groups' association.It is widely known in Turkey that French
linguist Dumesnil found more than 300 Turkish words in native Indian
languages: Türe and Töre (Tradition), Yanunda and Yan?nda (Near), At?s, and
Ates, (Fire) to name a few.
For some groups, the commonalities of Native Indian languages and Turkish
are normal because some regard all human languages as descendants of one
Central Asian primal language. One group supporting the Sun Language Theory
are the ultranationalists. The theory further proposes that the only
language remaining more or less the same as this primal language is
Turkish. For others, the connection between Native Americans and Turks is
far-fetched and they argue that these kinds of stories are stretching the
Although many Turks know these kinds of stories, they were quite surprising
to many American Indians attending the conference. The Native American
academics at the panel claimed that although there are several cultural and
linguistic similarities between Turks and Native Americans it is not
scientifically possible yet to say that Native Americans are of Turkish
descent. The panelists also drew attention to a study that was undertaken
by a leading Russian geneticist, Ilya Zakharov, who in his 1998 study
claimed that he had taken a giant step toward identifying the precise
origin of Native Americans, based on his genetic studies of the Tuvan
people in Siberia.Zakharov, deputy director of Moscow's Vavilov Institute
of General Genetics, said he found a DNA link between American Indians and
the Tuvan people. He also pointed out that the Tuvans are mainly Turkic
speaking nomadic farmers who herd camels, yak, sheep, goats, and reindeer.
Academics said more work is needed in this area.
Paterson, on the other hand, claimed that maybe Turks are of Native Indian
"This conference did not intend to make a statement. We are not suggesting
that all Native Americans are of Turkish descent," said Ç?nar. "However
what came out of the conference is that the link between the groups needs
to be studied in a more serious way."
Ç?nar also mentioned the main purpose of the conference was to strengthen
relations between Turkish Americans and Native Americans. "In the U.S.
Senate there are 15 Native American senators. Therefore I see this
conference also as an important element in strengthening the Turkish lobby
and increasing its supporters in the U.S. Senate."