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Bering Strait Theory
Why do American Indians get so mad when you say their ancestors migrated across the Bering land bridge from Asia?
Well, there are several reasons. First of all, that contradicts the religious tradition of
many native peoples, which claim we have always been here. Surely you know some white people
who claim that the earth can't be thousands of years old because it conflicts with the Bible.
It is the same principle--except that the Christian fundamentalists get a lot of attention
and even nice mentions in textbooks, whereas the Indians are ignored. That gives them an extra
reason to be mad.
However, though there is a wide spectrum of native religions
in the Americas, most of them
tend to be less hierarchical and more flexible than Christianity. If you asked most Indians
in some respectful manner, I think you'd find most of them wouldn't have a problem
reconciling a philosophical belief that we have lived here since time immemorial with
natural evidence that we arrived here at least 20,000 years ago. Why shouldn't they both
be true? The Creator is great, we don't always understand the whole world.
But now the problem is, most of us have not been asked this in a respectful manner.
Instead, a lot of people have used this Bering Strait bridge theory to belittle Native Americans
as "not really native" (a claim that is stupid as well as insulting, since the same
scientific facts they use to show the immigration theory also clearly show we have been
here at least 20,000 years--longer than men have inhabited England.) Furthermore, missionaries
in the past commonly ignored our religious traditions and oral history as inferior to scientific findings--
while at the same time touting their own religious traditions as superior to science. Is it
any wonder that this sort of hypocrisy makes Indians angry?
So, if some native people disagree with my conclusion that the Bering Strait theory is
probably true, that's fine with me. I respect the religious beliefs of people who believe
their ancestors were here since the beginning of time, and I respect the scientific
knowledge of the world that suggests we inhabited our homeland more than 20,000 years ago.
What I do NOT respect are:
1) people who insist that we are a lost tribe of Israel who
immigrated here, no matter what science says, because their religion says so.
If we are using religion as our measuring stick, then our religious traditions about
where we came from matter much more than someone else's. Use your religion to tell
your own story and leave us out of it.
2) people who insist that we have been here only 700, 1000, or 2000 years. If we are using
science as our measuring stick, then all the scientific evidence is that the Americas have
been inhabited for at least 20,000 years. There are even ruins which are known to be 12,000 years
old. To use science to prove we are immigrants here and then ignore how long science says
we have been here is hypocritical.
If you don't fall in either of those categories, then your respectful decision to believe
in the Bering Strait migration theory or not is of no consequence to me. As long as we are all agreed
that Indians have lived on these lands for at least 20,000 years, about twice as long as
anyone has lived in England, then I don't think we have anything to quarrel about.
Books on the Bering Strait theory:
The Bering Land Bridge: Here's the full case for the Bering Strait theory by the scientist who brought it to popularity.
(Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links)
Red Earth, White Lies: Lakota author Vine Deloria Jr.'s book criticizing the Bering Strait land bridge theory
and its proponents from an indigenous perspective.
Bones, Boats, and Bison: Scholarly text by archaeologist E. James Dixon rejecting the Bering bridge theory
in favor of coastal migrations from Asia.
Websites on the Bering Strait theory:
Bering Straits Theory: Concise explanation of what the Bering land bridge theory suggests.
Theories about the Bering Strait: Discussion of the Bering land bridge and other theories about American Indian origins.
First Nations Migration Theories: Discussion of the Bering land bridge and other theories about American Indian origins.
Paleo-American Origins: Discussion of the Bering land bridge and other theories about American Indian origins.
Ancient Bones May Rewrite Theory: Article on sea-route alternatives to the Bering Straight theory.
Rewriting American Prehistory: Article discussing archaeological finds that predate the "ice-free corridor."
Journeys of Our Native Tongues: Linguist Johanna Nichols' analysis of Amerindian language families suggests
American Indians have inhabited the Americas for at least 35,000 years.
Did First Americans Arrive By Land and Sea?: Article disputing the single-migration theory.
Discovery Casts Doubts On Bering Land Bridge Theory: Synopsis of a Science article reassessing Siberian migration theories.
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