'This conference did not intend to make a statement. We are not suggesting that all Native Americans are of Turkish descent,' says Ali Çınar. 'However what came out of the conference is that the link between the groups needs to be studied in a more serious way'
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 Kocaoğlu, visiting scholar at Michigan State University, Professor Türker Özdoğan, 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 Çınar, 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 Yanında (Near), Atış and Ateş (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 imagination.
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 descent.
“This conference did not intend to make a statement. We are not suggesting that all Native Americans are of Turkish descent,” said Çınar. “However what came out of the conference is that the link between the groups needs to be studied in a more serious way.”
Çınar 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.”
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