NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY
Native American Orthodox Christian Fellowship (NAOCF)
NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY
Native American Orthodox Christian Fellowship (NAOCF)
NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY
Native Americans and the Bible
AMERICA OF MY HEART
How did Native American peoples get to North America after the Flood reduced mankind to eight people in the mountains of Ararat? Historically, the origin of all people groups begins at the Tower of Babel. Genesis 10:32 says:
“These were the families of the sons of Noah, according to their generations, in their nations; and from these the nations were divided on the earth after the flood”.
All humans came through Noah and—prior to the Flood—ultimately Adam, which means we are all one family. However, this also means we are all sinners and in need of Jesus Christ. For a more detailed look at the Babel dispersion, see the Table of Nations (PDF). But after the Tower of Babel, it becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain where everyone went. Generally, from the Middle East in the land of Shinar (modern day Iraq, where Babel was), Japheth’s descendants went toward Europe, Ham’s went toward Africa, and Shem’s remained in the Middle East, moving into the surrounding areas. Of course, there were exceptions to this. For example, Ham’s descendant through Cush (Nimrod) remained in the land of Shinar (Genesis 10:8–12). Also some of Japheth’s descendants remained in the Middle East (Madai’s descendants became known as the Medes and were often associated with the Elamites—otherwise known as the Persians). For years, I’ve been trying to trace some the routes of Noah’s descendants who left Babel based on a number of factors.
First, names of places and people groups tend to be concentrated in various places, which is a strong indication that a people group occupied a particular area early on. For example, the region known as Ararat by the Hebrew tongue or Armenia by the Greek tongue also contains the Araxes/Aras River. The ancient Urartu people also dwell in a portion of this land area. This name goes back to a common people group with these variations.
There are some that are easy to place, such as Noah’s grandson Javan, which is still the Hebrew name for Greece, or Noah’s grandson Mizraim, which is still the Hebrew name for Egypt.
However, when it comes to North America and even portions of South America, European settlers have usurped many names and places and provided new names. Although some native names still exist [e.g., Nebraska (Sioux word for flat river, which they called the Platte River), Illinois (the French variant of the Illini tribe)], the bulk have been lost and forgotten. But this is still where correlations could help.
Another issue here is that many geographical names may be derived from various descendants well beyond the names given in Genesis 10. In other words, these places may be named for great-grandsons of Noah’s great-grandsons! If this is the case, there is no direct tie to a family unit leaving Babel without more information.
Logically, the farther away from Babel people traveled, the more likely the descendants were to “pick up the torch” and continue moving about and filling the earth as per Genesis 9:1. Certain descendants of Noah, perhaps those listed in Genesis 10, would travel only so far, but their descendants were the ones to pick up tent and keep moving. So some names that do not appear in the Babel account become harder to trace back unless they were written down and documented, which many American tribes did not do.
Language Family Correlations
A second factor is based on language families. Of course, due to wars and migrations of people, languages often intermingle with other families. For example, because of Roman occupation, the Latin language infiltrated many areas, and so Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese, French, and modern-day Italian all belong to the same language family (these are called Romance Languages)—even English has extensive Latin influence.
Nations well beyond Rome’s grasp offer a different story. In India, a whole host of languages and a number of language families exist, which is a strong indication that numerous descendants from Babel likely ended up in that area. This makes sense considering that the geography funnels people toward India on their way to Asia, Australia, or the Americas. It is simply an easier route than crossing mountains. Of course, a far northern route through Russia/Siberia could have been taken—which is possible, but the Ice Age may have made migration more difficult and dangerous.
With regards to Native North Americans, a handful of language families seem to dominate, and this can give us clues (see this off-site map of major North American language families). A language family consists of a number of languages that are all similar and have a common origin—ultimately dating back to Babel. Of course, languages are always changing.
One roadblock with determining Native Americans’ heritage is the scarcity of a written language.1 Such languages were passed on orally, which allowed for many changes.
Even in written language, consider that the English of 1,000 years ago is hardly recognizable to the modern English speaker. Consider also that Australian English did not even exist 200 years ago! So, although the language family may help identify relationships of various tribes and nations, it still may not be enough to tie these language families directly back to an ancestor from Babel.
Some rare cases may have a connection to Babel, though. The Olmec, who may have been the precursors to the Mayans (or possibly conquered by them), did have an ancient written language that has not been entirely deciphered yet.2 And there is controversy at this stage as to whether this language is of African descent—specifically West African, as some linguists are claiming.3 If this claim is verified, then it has a Babel connection. Many in West Africa are descendants of Phut, Noah’s grandson through Ham, who settled along the northwest of the African continent and spread around the coast (for example, the Moors of old and modern Mauritania, Morocco, and so on came from Phut). Others of Ham’s descendants also inhabited Africa, such as Cush (Ethiopia) and Mitzraim (Egypt and Libya), and their descendants settled other parts of Africa too.
What we can learn is that there were several language families, which means that there were likely several family groups (or at least their descendants) that made it from Babel to North America. But without much written history over the past 4,000 years or so, although this is helpful, we need other angles.
Histories and Mythologies
From here, we need some discernment in evaluating the various oral histories of Native tribes and nations. Sometimes there is a nugget of truth waiting to be rediscovered behind the accounts—even in some of the mythologies.
For example, in Norse and Germanic mythologies, there is a person named Oden (Woden), and he happens to be found in post-Flood genealogies to lead to many royal houses throughout Europe.4 In Greek and Roman mythologies, there are a few correlations to the biblical Table of Nations, such as Chronos (or Saturn) being Kittim/Cethimus under Javan. So mythologies often have a remnant of truth in them, but the stories are embellished.
This would be an exciting area of study for Native Americans to evaluate their historical traditions and to pick out the nuggets of truth in them—especially looking for any connections back to Genesis 10. Keep in mind language variations and the possibility that some of these traditions are farther removed from Babel.
A number of Native American legends are posted on the Internet, but well-versed individuals may be familiar with others. Some of these legends obviously have ties as far back as creation, which we would expect. Naturally, the stories have deviated over several thousand years. This is where discernment is needed. And since God, the true Creator, was kind enough to provide a revelation to mankind as to what really happened when He created (the Bible, specifically Genesis), this invariably helps as the ultimate standard of truth and real history. And Genesis has not undergone changes—being written by Moses and ultimately the Holy Spirit. I encourage interested parties to study these legends and folklore in more detail in light of what Genesis says.
So, the short answer is that Native Americans originally came to North and South America as a result of the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. But to connect the migration route dots will require more diligent research, which, naturally, we encourage.
ANSWERS IN GENESIS
NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY
Native American Orthodox Christians
My new site
Native Americans met Orthodoxy
MEXICO, CUBA, GUATEMALA, HAITI, PANAMA, VENEZUELA, COLOMBIA, COSTA RICA OF MY HEART…
Latin America: Peoples in search of Orthodoxy
by His Eminence Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico
Thirteen years ago, when I undertook the (then newly-established) Holy Metropolis of Mexico with only three priests and three mainly Greek-speaking communities, in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, I would never have expected, let alone conceive the miracle that is unfolding today for our Orthodox Church in Latin America. We all lived the miracle of Cuba, when Fidel Castro’s government undertook the construction of the Sacred Temple of Saint Nicholas in Havana and officially received Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who officiated the inauguration of that Holy shrine in January of 2004. In the decade that passed, we experienced the propagating of our faith in the states of Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, etc… just as we experienced – and continue to experience – the continuing drama of the people of Haiti, after the catastrophic earthquake of last January. A drama which unfortunately will heal, only after several years have passed.
Orthodox children of Cuba
Greece became acquainted with Christianity and lived its own Pentecost around two thousand years ago, through the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles. Greece is the most blessed country in the world. And this is because – as I point out to our priests – whichever stone you lift, underneath it you will find the relics of a Saint, a Martyr, a holy man, a fighter for the Orthodox faith… We, however, in Latin America are living our Pentecost today. For us – with the exception of the few Greek Orthodox Communities – Orthodoxy has only just arrived in Latin America. I recall six years ago, when our Ecumenical Patriarch visited Cuba to officiate in the inauguration of the Holy Temple of Saint Nicholas, there were only four Orthodox Cubans, whereas now, more than one thousand Cuban families have been baptized and have embraced Orthodoxy. And every day, there are more – many more – who seek to acquaint themselves with the Faith of our Fathers. Six years ago, with the inauguration of Saint Nicholas’ church, the first Orthodox Community in the land began to function. Now, with the grace of God and the untiring labours of our five priests (one Colombian and four Cuban), some very significant and impressive missionary work is under way in three other cities of this Land. And this, in spite of unfavourable and financially difficult conditions. At this very moment that I am writing, the Hierarchal Commissioner of Cuba, fr. Athenagoras, is in Greece trying to secure vestments and cassocks and chalices for our needs there. Even though the Cubans have given us the exceptional privilege of acquiring our own property (something that is not permitted by their Constitution), unfortunately, there are no funds for us to purchase a suitable building with the necessary thirty-five thousand Euros, to convert it into a Temple for the worshipping needs of the neophytes. We are hoping for God’s grace and are praying for a donor to be found.
Orthodox Mass in Guatemala
When I visited President Fidel Castro seven years ago, to obtain the official invitation with which he was inviting the Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Cuba, I thanked him for that courteous and hospitable gesture of his. I will never forget his response: “No, Your Eminence, the people of Cuba thank you and the Ecumenical Patriarch, for bringing Orthodoxy to our country.” Cuba, indeed, is “ours”. Haiti is “ours”, Mexico, Costa Rica, Santo Domingo and Colombia, where now, thanks to a lady donor of the Missionary Association “Saint Kosmas the Aetolian”, the first Holy Temple is being erected in the city of Cúcuta of Colombia, in honour of the Supreme Archangels. And now, another miracle: Guatemala….
Orthodox Mass in Guatemala
As in the eras of persecutions, when Christians used to live in catacombs in anticipation of the day they could freely worship the Triadic God, so it is with us here, in all of the countries of Central and South America; for entire decades, innumerable groups of people – who had abandoned the Roman Catholic church – were waiting for the embrace of Orthodoxy. One such large group in Guatemala knocked on the door of our Metropolis several months ago, asking us to accept them in the bosom of the true Church. I didn’t know them. I didn’t even know they existed. And indeed, in this vast region of the twenty states under the jurisdiction of the Holy Metropolis of Mexico it is impossible to know everyone. However, twenty years ago, they had established their own (anti-canonical) Orthodox Church, naturally without knowing full well what they had done, and had endeavoured to survive. They lived incorrectly, in their own particular manner, an “orthodox” worshipping life. They knew and they desired Orthodoxy. They knew that our Church has the true faith – that they had a right to Orthodox teaching and its way of life. They believed that only there would they find the Saviour and Redeemer Christ. So, for twenty years. they walked along a path with the hope that they would eventually reach the truth. Knowing also that it was imperative to commemorate a Bishop in all of their liturgies, during the last ten years they would commemorate our Ecumenical Patriarch.
Orthodox church in Guatemala
Twenty years later came the “fullness of time”. After searching, they learnt a few months ago that in Mexico there is a canonical Metropolitan and a Metropolis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. They found me, and they knocked on my door, asking me to receive them. I sent two priests to go and meet them so that we could determine who they are and if their request is serious and valid. I was stunned. It was a “group” of more than 500.000 people, with 338 churches and chapels, most of whom were natives of Guatemala – and in fact of the ancient race of Mayans! They live in the mountains and the vast plains of the land and even in the southern cities of Mexico. I crossed myself and gave thanks to the Holy Mother for that miracle. I fully understood now what the great byzantinologist and historian of the previous century – Steven Runciman – meant, when he wrote that “the third millennium belongs to Orthodoxy“. Now I also understand the words of a noble Mexican, a University Professor and a faithful member of our Church, when he said to me: “Your Eminence, Orthodoxy is like a shoe that fits us Latin Americans, provided you know how to put it on us.” So I accepted that group and as a first step, I ordained the two leaders of the group. Now begins the long road of catechism for the hundreds of thousands of those people. It will require several years and a lot of hard work – but a blessed work – to teach those new faithful of ours what the Orthodox way of life involves, and how each of us experiences his own path towards Calgary, which leads to one’s personal Resurrection. By training suitable indigenous clergymen, they will learn to live the worshipful life of the Orthodox Church and, after being baptized and receiving Holy Chrismation, to receive the Immaculate and Sacred Mysteries (Sacraments) – the Body and Blood of our Lord and Redeemer Christ. You must realize however, that for all this project that is now unfolding before us, we need your help. We need the necessary financial means to send our own priests to Guatemala, to instruct the catechist teachers there how to catechize the faithful. The financial means are necessary, in order to print hundreds of thousands of catechist texts, for children and for adults. In the meantime, many of those people are illiterate. Money is also needed, to prepare videotapes in Spanish, and even in the local dialect of the Mayans, so that they might familiarize themselves with the Divine Liturgy, the Baptism, the Chrismation and all the Services of our Church.
Orthodox Baptism in Guatemala
Can you imagine what this means for Orthodoxy? And this is just the beginning. The struggle has only just begun. We truly “own” Latin America. The third millennium truly belongs to Orthodoxy. With the meagre means at our disposal, but with the wide-open, vast and endless Grace and presence of the Holy Spirit, we will continue with our endeavours. We do however ask for your support. As I outlined above, we need a donation of thirty-five thousand Euros for the purchase of the property in Cuba, where we will establish a Temple and areas for the congregating and the catechizing of the faithful. We will also need another donation of twenty-five thousand Euros, in order to begin catechizing the new faithful of Guatemala: to print catechism texts, prepare videotapes of Divine Services and to send suitable priests of ours to that Land, in order to undertake this very important work. It is our belief that the Missionary Association “Saint Kosmas of Aetolia”, which has been the main support of our labours and our endeavours all these years, as well as all you pious donors and the members of the Association, will support us in this new venture that God has placed before us. The Lord God lives, for all eternity!
With wishes and infinite thanks Athenagoras of Mexico
My Spanish site about Latin America:
LATIN AMERICA OF MY HEART