The Conspiracy

Study links Jewish and Native American genes

Joseph Smith preaching to Native Americans

Where can you find the Jews? Thanks to the Diaspora, pretty much everywhere – and, according to recent genetic testing, there might be members of the Tribe in places we had never imagined. A new study of Colorado Native Americans has found that many of these individuals have the so-called “Ashkenazi mutation,” described as “deleterious modification in BRCA1 gene which increases risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.” Apparently, the Jewish people has long-lost cousins amongst the Native Americans: more specifically, a Jewish individual that came to America from Europe 600 years ago. Surprisingly, Jews and Native Americans go way back – both in genes and scholarship.

This idea raises many questions. It’s one thing to have cousins, but it’s another item entirely if you have something practical in common. The study found no cultural commonalities between those examined in the study, who once lived in Mexico several centuries ago before moving to Colorado, and the Jews. There don’t seem to be any visible similarities that tie these two societies together, other than this shared genetic marker. Does this make us real cousins, then, or just sharers in an unfortunate tendency to contract feminine cancers?

Years ago, scholars posited that Native Americans were more than just peoples to conquer, but also members of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Jewish and non-Jewish scholars alike supported this theory, which probably gained popularity because of the European preoccupation with the Bible.  The idea also gained religious credence in the Book of Mormon, which suggests that Native Americans were descended from the Jews.

Both groups were minorities in the face of rapid colonization. The Native Americans faced off against the westward-expanding European colonists, while the Israelites were crushed by the powers of the Assyrians and Babylonians. It is noteworthy, though, that the Native Americans themselves did not choose to identity themselves with the oppressed Jews, but outside powers did that for them. For the European colonial powers, identifying the Jews with the Native Americans served as a type of religious justification for their conquest.By identifying the Native Americans with the Jews, Europeans may have see “their colonization of New England as a reenactment of Israel’s journey into the Promised Land,” David Koffman concludes on MyJewishLearning.

If anything, though, I would think that the incoming colonists would be seen as the evil Assyrians or Babylonians, encroaching on the sacred land of the natives. Why would the colonists position themselves as the “bad guys”? As previously mentioned, perhaps they were interested in the Bible to the extent that they cast some people in the wrong roles. I do agree with Koffman’s suggestion that America was meant to be the new “Promised Land” – see “Manifest Destiny” – and maybe the Europeans got so caught up in making the colonies into ancient Israel that they forgot their own self-cast roles.

Ironically, the Europeans don’t seem to have been that far off – at least in the genetic sense. Next Passover, let’s all sit down with matzoh of maize meal and pay homage to our new-found cousins.

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4 Older Responses to “Study links Jewish and Native American genes”

  1. andrewg
    June 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    The Native Americans who share the ‘Jewish gene’ came to Colorado from Mexico. Jews and Crypto-Jews escaping Spanish persecution were among the earliest European settlers in Mexico, arriving in the 1500s. They also migrated north over the centuries, specifically to areas of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The simplest answer to this ‘mystery’ lies right there.

  2. David Z
    June 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    You don’t need to agree that the colonists saw themselves as Israelites — it’s self-evident. The biggest mark is all the biblical names for places. Your terrible phrase “preoccupation with the Bible” shows your bias against religion. Yech. I have a preoccupation with the Bible too.

    As to the gene — is it really impossible for this mutation to occur without having a Jewish ancestor?

    As to the Indians (the ones who aren’t on college campuses find the “Native” term offensive, as one Hopi elder put it, it sounds like they’re running around in loincloths), many of them have now voluntarily come to view themselves as Jews. At an introductory talk I gave to a committee of the Oglala Sioux when I was drafting legislation for them in 2005, I directly compared the state of the Indians to the state pf the Jews after the Destruction. We only survived because of our Elders’s wisdom in making the religion and culture relevant outside Israel and without a Temple. I gave them the same blessing. They need it badly.

    Another interesting thing I took away from the visit was that they have a lot in common with Jews: disunity. They have reform, secular, traditoonal, Orthodox, and n’ture karta (who won’t recognize the reservation government or vote in elections). They also have the Christians, which we don’t have to deal with as much because we don’t all live together on a small reservation if someone converts to Christianity. But still interesting to see similar communal problems.

  3. Kathleen O'Donnell Grone
    July 27, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    Why is Joseph Smith even mentioned or referred? He has nothing to do with this!

  4. Ryan Link Ralston
    September 7, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Why is this such a dark corner of history when there is literally millions of pages from colonial times attesting to the fact that there were many secret Jews who migrated from Spain and who were later persecuted by the Mexican Inquisition which lasted 250 years. The facts are straightforward and well documented. After the arrest of Governor Carvajal in northern New Spain in 1590 for practicing Judiasm Gasper Castano de Sosa, Carvajal's Lt. Governor, made an illegal atempt to colonize New Mexico, at the time, the farthest reachest of the known world. Later, after Carvajal and many others had been burnt at the stake, and after Costano de Sosa had been aprehended, many of the same families traveled north in an expedition with Juan de Onate who is a known descendant of Solomon Halevy, chief rabbi of Burgos a century or so earlier. For almost four centuries the isolated and endogamous diapora from New Mexico have known they were Jews, and have carried on many traditions, contrary to what this article asserts. Even in 1610 when Villagra was documented the conquests of the Onate expedition, he draws parallels between Israel and the Nueva Mejico, namely that Jerusalem is on the same latitude as El Paso. He even alludes to the Jews of whom he says should not be allowed entry into the New World if they are not in the Spain. Later, in the 1650's, the Spanish Inquisition even arrives in New Mexico and deposes a governor and accuses several of my grandfathers of having tails, discovering that they were circumcised, and shipping them to Mexico City for trail. But this is only the history. Much has been made of the BRCA1 gene because of its improbablity to turn up, but even more improbable are the nearly identical HLA types we share with Askenazi Jews (meaning we have enough similiarity to even donate organs), not to mention the occurance of Bloom's disease and several other diseases. In fact we cluster with the Sephardim autosomally as well, anywhere from 5 to 50%. None of this is ever mentioned. I suppose this is the product of keeping secrets too well. you eventually erase yourself, but many of us know who we are. it turns out that it wasn't just our grandmother's who were crazy, but the population geneticists as well.

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