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Are Indians the first Americans?

Updated on December 11, 2016

The Kenniwick Man

Native American

Native, means, belonging to a particular place by birth, as in native to Wisconsin, (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary), making anyone born in the United States a Native American.

In, 1996, the remains, of a 9000 year old fossil of a man, dubbed the Kennewick man, was found near the Columbia River, in Kennewick Washington State, causing a brewing controversy, to stew over who legally own it, and whether it was of Indian (Native American) origin or not.

More fuel was, thrown on the fire, when, Anthropologist Jim Chatters and sculptor Thomas McClelland, created a sculptured image of the fossil’s face, that looked like a white male, (resembling the actor Patrick Stewart of Star Track Fame) although it was also pointed out, that the image also looks like, the 1833 portrait, of Chief Black Hawk.

Chief Black Hawk

Fight Over The Remains

Four Indian tribes, The Nez Perce, Umatilla, Yakama and Colville, immediately, claimed the fossil as their ancestor, the “ancient one”, and filed a claim in July 31, 1996, for the right to possess and rebury the fossil, according to their religious laws.

It, seems, as long as the fossil was thought to be, “Native American” (which has come to mean virtually anyone of American Indian descent), the tribes didn’t have a, problem with, scientific analysis being done on the remains, to determine their age. But, war clouds, started rising, when the fossil’s age, and its accompanying artifacts, were found, to be older, and unlike any previous “Native American” fossils, or finds, explicitly, challenging the long held idea, that Indians, are the first Americans.

The, scientists involved, ostensibly, sought the right to examine the fossil, to further help extend the knowledge, of when and whom, the first humans were, to arrive on this continent. But, since the race of the fossil, has became an underlying issue, some scientists, may have a conscious or unconscious investment, in “seeing” the fossil, as white or non-Indian, (just as the tribes want to see it as Indian), although there is nothing, apparent, to suggest that’s the case. But, the point has been made, by Knute Berger, (a white male writer), that that may be partly what’s going on here.

A conscious or unconscious investment

Berger paints the interesting scenario that, whites, including some scientists, may have long been intentionally and unintentionally, attempting to justify, forcefully, taking the land from the Indians, with ideas, like manifest destiny, being descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, and now, through the fossil, descendants of the first Americans, as a way of staking a deeper, claim, to the land other than through, the history, of brute force.

The, ensuing court battle, was essentially about, whether Indians tribes, who saw the fossil as the remains of one of their ancestors, could legally lay claim to the fossil, or any human fossils for that matter, discovered in the United States, predating 1492, when the first Europeans, were thought to have arrived on the shores of the Americas.

The, US Circuit Court, subsequently ruled against the tribes, citing that, there’s no evidence, to support the fossil, as being a direct ancestor of the Indians, since, nothing is known, about the race or culture of the Kennewick Man, which seems a reasonable conclusion to me.

But, when peoples egos, sense of self, self-pride and sense of cultural identity are questioned, it turns, what should be a search for objective truth, about the fossil, into a subjective search, for ways to maintain one’s cultural, self-image, and to reject, anything, that will tarnish its illustrious glow.


So, are American Indians, the first Americans?

According to a, 1999 BBC documentary on the program, “Ancient Voices”, the answer is no. The skull, of a woman, was found at, Serra Da Capivara, in remote northeast Brazil, dating between 9000 to 12000 years ago. Although, stone tools, and charcoal from the site, show evidence of human habitation, as long ago, as 50,000 years ago.

The, shape and dimensions of skull and the face, that was recreated from it, show it to be the face, of a black woman, descended from Australian aborigines. Forensic, artist, Richard Neave, from the University of Manchester UK, who created the face for skull and named it Lucia, stated that, the result was surprising: "It has all the features of a negroid face," said Dr Neave.

I guess, at this point, (unless further evidence comes in), this answers the question, are “Native Americans” the first Americans, in the negative. That people considered to be of the so-called, black race, are the first Americans.

I’ll end by, reiterating that, in relation to the term Native American, anyone born in America or the Americas, is by definition, a Native American.


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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Really interesting look into my country's beginnings through human habitation.

      You bring to mind that concept that really race is a misnomer. Common ancestry really makes more sense. Usurping and making PC the term Native American really bugs me.

      When I grew up there were Navajos and Hopis mainly. We recognized these native Americans by tribe. Lumping them all together is strange at best. I think of Germans and Frenchmen, not Europeans.