Reframing Columbus Day
By Jessica Crabtree
Historians and scientists have long understood that the genetic origins of most Native Americans lie in Central Asia, where they lived before crossing into the Americas sometime during the last Ice Age, and where their nearest living relatives can be found today. There are already observable parallels in language and culture that demonstrate this link. But in the case of the Athabaskan peoples (a linguistic group encompassing an extended range from Alaska to the Southwest) a much later entrance onto the historical stage supports a more recent connection.
The spread of Athabaskans—in particular the Navajo and Apache—is documented by archaeology and by the ancient records of Pueblo peoples who witnessed their arrival to the region around 1400. They were originally warlike migratory peoples seen by others as outsiders. While this alone does not prove a recent origin beyond the Americas, the striking congruities between Athabaskan and Yeniseian languages pose important questions first asked by scholars as early as the 1800s. Why would one ethnic branch of Native Americans have such a well-preserved connection to an ancestral Asian tongue?
The research into this area has since evolved far beyond linguistic analysis to include technologies such as modern genetics and physical anthropology that further corroborate the recent timeline, and have helped to hone in on a more exact point of origin. The evidence points towards a conglomerate of Central Asian peoples in what is today Tibet who absconded from the region under the scourge of Genghis Khan's Mongol invasions in the 13th century. The examination of Native oral accounts describing an exodus from a dangerous world, and an exhaustive comparison of ceremonial/ritual practices, all bear this out in astonishing clarity.
For more on the subject, see Were Indians "Colonists" Too? and Did Indians "Colonize" America?