Jews and Indians
By Matys Weiser
attempt to find links and relations between Native Americans and Jewish people
is not the first in history. It will be more a long essay than a complete work
on this fascinating topic. There is only one purpose to it: to give the reader
information about the people we meet over nearly the entire western United States. It will be a trip through time, as we
follow the first settlers on this continent and then all those who followed.
to the Young Earth Creationist model of the history, the American continents
separated from the Euro-Asio-African land mass at the time of Great Flood of
Noah, as the result of the movement of continental tectonic plates which became
fractured at the beginning of the Flood.
1657 years from the Creation of the world according to Jewish calendar
when the animals came to this separated land first. Some of them have relatives
on other continents; others are unique to the Americas, or to specific regions in the Americas. This resembles the distribution model of
the fauna on other continents as well. It is highly possible that a solid land
connection existed between Siberia and Alaska for some time after Noah’s Flood. Without a doubt, an ice
bridge connected America and Asia during the Ice Age.
unclear when the first people came to this continent, but it was certainly
after 1996 when
Hashem confused the languages of nations of the world. The Dor Hafluga was the
last generation of people who all inhabited the same land and spoke the same
Americans resemble the nations of East Asia physiologically. If we assume that those nations are descendants
of Yufes (Japheth), the son of Noah, we may assume Native Americans are, too.
They were here first.
interesting that many Indian nations, in their oral traditions, have a memory
of the Great Flood. Like the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh, it only roughly resembles the story known from
the Bible. However, the fact that all those stories from around the world speak
of a flood of global proportions is significant. One detail told in some of
those Indian tales is especially interesting: the role of the dog in saving of
people surviving the Flood.
tradition, the dog was one of the passengers of the Ark, but was a rather negative character of
the narrative. The dog broke the covenant of survival and is cursed with
spiritual contamination for all of its descendants. Our tradition emphasizes
the animosity between the dogs and chosen people. In Indian stories, it is the
dog that informs humans about the coming Flood and, in some variations of the
stories, helps them to survive. Among all the animals, it is dog that is
remembered as the animal playing a significant role in the history of the Great
element of Native American tradition is of great importance: They have an oral
tradition of coming from one place. We will come back to this topic, IYH.
Meanwhile, lets dwell shortly on other different traditions. One American
nation claims they came from the northwest, crossed the land of ice, then
traveled south, and then again traveled in the direction of the sunset. Some of
the Indian nations, including the Hopi, have a tradition of coming to these
shores from the direction where the sun goes down:
[In] small boats of the reeds... Again they entrusted themselves
to the water and the inner wisdom to guide them. For a long time they drifted
with the wind and the movement of the waters and came to another rocky
island... Alone they set out, traveling east and a little north, paddling hard
day and night for many days as if they were paddling uphill.
At last they saw land. It rose high above the waters, stretching
from north to south as far as they could see. A great land, a mighty land,
their inner wisdom told them... Before long they landed and joyfully jumped out
upon a sandy shore....
Looking to the west and the south, the people could see sticking
out of the water the islands upon which they had rested. [Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi]
Rocky Pacific Coast
It is almost certain
that some of the people came across the Pacific Ocean, perhaps first settling
on some of the islands on this biggest of oceans. The earliest American Indian
nations divided, but sometimes also merged. Consequently, they have different,
sometimes conflicting, stories about the way how they arrived to this land--even within the same tribe. Some even
claim they emerged from underground. Needless to say, those stories have no
historical value. We can say the same about similar stories from Meso and South
know of the American holiday called Columbus Day. How many of us know about the
other discoverer of America—Leif Erickson, also called Leif the
Lucky? How many know that October 9 is officially Leif Erickson Day? Erickson
left his father’s Viking settlement on the Greenland and sailed along northern east coast of
Viking Dwellings - at L'Anse aux Meadows - Canada
He established a
temporary settlement called Leifsbudir (“Leif’s storages”) on the land which he
named Vineland. At least two
archeological sites can be possibly identified as Leifsbudir, one in Canadian
New Foundland and the other in Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Vikings remained on Greenland for approximately five
hundred years, and left the island after climate cooled. They did not
established steady settlements on the continent—at least not Leif’s group.
Other Viking group under the command of Þorfinnur Karlsefn also attempted to
establish settlements but sagas describe these efforts as unsuccessful. Leif’s
nickname, Lucky--Hinn Heppeni, in Norse--emerged from the story
when he rescued another group of Vikings sailing along the North American
continent. Did any of them settle on the coast permanently? Not even Norse
sagas provide such information. However…
the eastern Indian nations like Choctaw, Chickasaw, and—perhaps better
known—Cherokee have in their traditions that some lighter skin people were
living in east part of today’s U.S. They were called Nahoolo, Nani, and Ishta,
and according to tradition, they were descendants of priests and shamans
equipped with extraordinary spiritual powers. Were they descendants of Vikings,
living in America for five hundred years before Columbus came to these shores? No one knows.
Jew and Indians
however, comes a twist.
of researchers, especially those among Native Americans, suggest that the
lighter skin people called Ishta (tribe in
Native American language) and Nani (people), are the children of the
first white European voyagers, and perhaps even settlers from the time after Columbus’s discovery. According to this account,
many of them were Conversos: Jews who converted to Chrisitanity under Spanish
those adventurers came from Anglo-Saxon lands and supposedly were also of
Jewish blood. It is necessary to remember that from 1492--the year of Spanish
Expulsion and the discovery of America by Christophoro Colon-Columbus--until the
time when British colony Jamestown was established in Virginia in 1607 and the Mayflower anchored at Cape Cod in 1620, there were more than one hundred
years of voyages and research expeditions by Spaniards, Portuguese, French, and
Britons. Pirates also penetrated this land before any settlement had set root.
Some of those people are documented to be Jewish and some remained in the land
for some time.
and his Jews
There is a
serious suspicious that Columbus himself came from an Italian Jewish family
that converted to Catholicism just a generation before he was born. Others insist that his family was
originally Spanish and only moved to Genoa, Italy for business. Either
claim could be true. At the time when tens of thousands of Jewish families were
pressed to convert, changed their names, and often emigrated, it is impossible
to trace most of the genealogies. It is documented, however, that some of the
crew members on Columbus’s vessels were Jewish:
Columbus's connections with the Jews, New
Christians, and Marranos, was not limited to court officials. There is the
controversial matter that some of his shipmates were of Jewish stock.
Five crew members are generally singled out for this distinction:
Alonso de la Calle, a bursar, who eventually settled in Hispaniola and whose
very name indicates that he was born in the Jewish quarter; Rodrigo de Sanchez
of Segovia, who was related to Gabriel Sanchez, the high treasurer of Aragon;
Marco, the surgeon; Maestre Bernal of Tortosa, a physician who had been
reconciled by the Inquisition in 1490, but was forced to witness his wife's
death at the stake of an auto-da-fe; and Luis de Torres, the official
interpreter of the expedition, who had been baptized a few days before the
Torres had been specifically appointed by Columbus as interpreter because he knew Hebrew,
Chaldean, and Arabic. This knowledge was expected to prove useful if the
voyagers came across “Asiatic” descendants of the Ten Last Tribes of Israel.
[Joseph Adler, Christopher
Columbus's Voyage Of Discovery:
Jewish and New Christian Element]
also certain that after the arrival of the first Portuguese immigrants, Jews
spread across America from the very beginning of the new
conquest by western Europeans. Did they leave descendants among Native
Americans? Some natives believe so.
in the West
a few hundred years.
the American Revolution, the Louisiana Purchase, the cession of the western part of the U.S. from Mexico, the Annexation of Texas, and the
acquisition of the Oregon Territories, masses of settlers moved west. Gold
fever was one of defining moments in American History. This is how it is
described by Jerry Klinger in his work, Jews
& American West:
White men, black men, Oriental men, Christian, Buddhist, and Jew
went to California to follow the golden opportunity. Some
Jews were miners, but most were small businessmen and merchants. Some were
doctors, some were lawyers. By 1870, 1/6 of San Francisco was estimated to be Jewish. By 1880,
there were more Jews living in more small towns in California than in New York State.
Permanent Jewish houses of worship are visible physical facts of the
Jews’ presence and participation in a community. If there was a minyan,
a quorum of ten men, synagogues grew. Newspapers of the West were filled,
especially around the Jewish high holidays, with advertisements for synagogue
services. The hunger to maintain a Jewish link and worship G-d, whether in San
Francisco or the dangerous silver mining community of Virginia City, Nevada,
were a part of the Jew of the West.
Jew helped Jew on the frontier. A Jewish merchant network
developed, evolving from itinerant backpacking peddlers to storefront
merchants, eventually reaching from the frontier to New York to Europe.
1880 Town – South Dakota
quote further from the work of Jerry Klinger, as his talented pen describes an
Solomon Bibo arrived in the 1860's, joining his brothers and went
to work for the Spielgelbergs in Santa Fe. He soon moved to Acoma, New Mexico, an Indian reservation south of Albuquerque. Bibo established a trading center that
was respected for honesty and fair dealings by the Indians. Marriageable Jewish
women were rare on the frontier. Most of the immigrants were single, young
Jewish men. If a man wanted a wife he would have to try and send for a match to
the East or even Europe.
For many Jewish men this was not realistic. For Solomon Bibo that
was the case--he married a woman from the Acoma Indian tribe. Her name was
Juanna. Unlike some tribes, the Acoma Indians elected their tribal chiefs to
represent their interests against the encroachments of the outside world. They
chose whom they felt would do the best for them. The Acoma Indians elected
Solomon Bibo to be their Governor, to be their Chief in 1885. It was an
extraordinary choice--a man who spoke Yiddish, Spanish, and Queres--their
language. A man who had studied Talmud and Torah stood on the Acoma Pueblo Mesa
and looked out over the Indian lands of the Acoma people had become an American Indian
Conflict soon arose between greedy, white land speculators and
Bibo. Bibo was forced out of his position as Chief. He and his wife moved to San Francisco where he set up a small tobacco shop.
Juanna converted to Judaism.
Indian Castle in the Neighborhood Where ‘Reb’ Bibo Ruled over the Indian
Americans raised on old Hollywood movies believe that the original inhabitants of this land were
primitive nomads living in the huts and tee-pees.
It is not well
known that those movies were part of a propaganda campaign justifying the
extermination of those nations or resettling them in reservations. Certain
groups of white men saw themselves as the beacon of civilization and considered
other people as unworthy of existence. (We Jews have experienced this first hand.) Beliefs such as these were based on the fact
that some of the American nations were technologically unsophisticated. This
was not however the case of some Southern-West indigenous nations.
Indian masonry-stone settlements north of the Rio Grande are those of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. However, all over the
southwest there are ruins of villages and cities build by Ancestral Pueblans also
called Anasasi. Some of these towns may have housed as many as 5,000
Group of Ancestral Pueblan’s
visiting one group of such settlements, we were guided by the park rangers.
Each village has rangers trained and taught information to share with visitors.
Some of the explanations are aimed especially at elucidating what happened to
those Native Americans who at a certain point in time left their villages. It
is quite confusing to hear conflicting stories about villages located just few
hundred yards apart--all told with the same confidence and certainty. Only in
the last of the places we visited, the ranger started his explanation saying,
“Today’s theory is as follows… but, I have to tell you that yesterday the story
went… and I don’t know what I will be telling you tomorrow.”
by his honesty, we understood that there is no agreement among researchers and
archeologists regarding the interpretation of their discoveries. It is simply
impossible to tell a consistent story about civilizations without a written
history, in particular when those nations were displaced or even exterminated.
Such is the case of some of European civilizations, like Druids or people
living in Slavic lands before Christianity, the same applies to American
cultures. Viking sagas are an exception to this rule, due to fact that
descendants of Vikings are living on the same land, speaking similar language,
and the sagas--their oral tradition--was put on paper relatively early.
Face of the Rock
Called ‘Newspaper’ covered with pictographs.
In our travels
we may encounter a number of nations of "Original
Americans" or “First People” as they like to be called.
Four Corners – Interstate
and International spot in USA
In the Dakotas, it will be Cheyenne and Sioux people; in Montana, Crow, and Blackfoot; in
Wyoming, you may say hello to
the members of Shoshone and Arapaho nations. In Oregon and Washington, we meet several, small
in number coastal nations, but also twelve nations of the Colville reservation and Yakima people. Colorado and central Utah are home to Ute people,
for whom the state Utah takes its name. Most of
American Nations, however, live in the southwest part of the country.
Hualapai, and Tohono are only few of the nations which are lesser known. Hopi,
Paiute, Apache and their close cousins, the Navajo, are better known. Three of
these peoples we encounter on a journey around the Grand Canyon. Those three distinguished nations once
embodied three different modes of civilization.
Ferry across Lake
Powell operated by Native Americans
Southern Paiute, as their name suggest, are a branch of a larger nation. In
fact, most of the Paiute Indians are still living in northern Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, and all the way to Oregon. It is probably the most territorially
dispersed Indian nation.
southern branch, living by the northern border of Arizona, today number only few hundred people.
Decimated by their Navajo neighbors and later by Mormon settlers, those hunters
gatherers were not warlike people. Many of them were captured and sold as
slaves to Spaniards and later Mexicans. Others became slaves of Mormons. It was
the Mormon invasion which finally brought them nearly to extinction.
came with tens of thousands of their cattle, land which previously provided
food for the Indian was quickly overgrazed and today what once was grassland
with the beautiful tall grass waving on the wind, is desert overgrowth with dry
sagebrush. After the U.S. government took over Utah territory, the quarrel
over ownership of the land between Paiute and Mormons was ultimately solved.
The land was taken away from the Mormon Church and later privatized or became
federal or state land. The Indian reservation was created, where Paiute people
today enjoy self-government. It is interesting that some of the traditional
Mormon families are protected these days within borders of this reservation.
However I cannot reveal more here (so as not to reveal their secrets).
the largest Indian nation by population, and occupies the largest reservation.
Navajo warriors were, since their earliest days, a threat to their neighbors
and to white settlers. Those times are long past.
Jew and Indian
Navajo people demonstrated their war skills during the WWII, when they served
in the American army in the Pacific war theater as communicators. Japanese
decoders were able to capture any American communications almost immediately
after new codes were created for the Army. Cleverly, the army used American
Indians, speaking their coded language, between army headquarters and field
units, as well as between army units.
action can not be overestimated. By some opinions, the aid of the Navajo
Indians helped turn the scales of war in America’s favor. And it is necessarily to recall
that all the Navajo had from the American government in the past was
persecution, massacre, and attempts at genocide. Today Navajo people enjoy
semi-independence and make their living from tourism, mining, crafts, and farming.
the the country’s most beautiful natural features are located within the Navajo
reservation and surrounding areas. The Navajo are rather friendly people, but
they turn away when they feel someone wants to exploit them in any measure. In
business deals, they usually switch from their southern English dialect to
their native Navajo language. Yiddish speakers lose their advantage.
to most of the claims, Anasazi people (those who were before, in Navajo)
are extinct. So we were told in when we visited some Indian ruins. In other
places, however, we hear that no such thing happened. Anasazi are Hopi, and
they still exist. Exist where? In the middle of the Navajo reservation,
surrounded by it, there they are: Hopi, Moqui, or Moenkopi territory.
researchers claim the Anasazi are ancestors of several Southwest nations.
Whoever compares Anasazi and Hopi architecture, pottery, and other art crafts,
can see the similarities with a layman’s eye. Anasazi architecture varies. It
would be more correct to call them rather Anasazi peoples than people. However,
what can be found in Mesa Verde National Park or Navajo National Monument--the building styles, tools, and pots
with their characteristic design--all resemble those used by Hopi people today.
Mesa Verde National Park
builders of this rich and ancient culture came probably ages ago from the
southern part of our continent and, before that, from across the Pacific. Today
Hopi people number only a few thousand. In their recent history, they
experienced some painful divisions resulted from the approach of American
culture and civilization. Some of the Hopi saw Americanization as the threat to
their own existence; others sought to use modernity for advancement of their
people. This kind of quarrel seems to be common not only for the world’s oldest
nation, but also among the younger ones.
the Native American which I encounter on my journeys were very friendly and
welcoming. While most of the Americans confuse me, with my Hasidic appearance,
for Amish, many times after explaining to Indians that in fact I belong to one
of the Jewish groups of people, they greet me with smile and “Shalom.”
written and pictographic material can be used for free by anyone, however it
would be a propriety to mention from where it was taken and who the author is.