Scholars have debated the Dalai Lama’s suggestion that certain elements of Hopi Indian culture are too similar to Tibetan culture to be merely off hand chance occurrences. However, University of Pennsylvania anthropologists have unearthed new evidence which sheds new light as to the origins of the first influx of Native American migration to this continent 20 to 25,000 years ago.
A tiny mountainous region in southern Siberia at the corner of Russia, Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan may have been the genetic source of the earliest Native Americans. “The region known as the Altai is a key area because it’s a place that people have been coming and going for thousands and thousands of years,” said Theodore Schurr, an associate professor in Penn’s Department of Anthropology.
This was an area pervaded by Tibetan culture. Though we treasure the culture of Tibet today as one of the world’s great wonders, in ancient times it was even more so. According to Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D., “Tibetan Culture extends far beyond Tibet, stretching from Kalmyk Mongolian areas near the Volga River (in Europe where the Volga Joins the Caspian Sea), Outer and Inner Mongolia, the Buryat Republic of Siberia, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, and parts of Nepal. In all of these areas, Buddhist ritual and scholastic studies are conducted in Tibetan. Youths came from these vast regions to study in Tibet, especially in and around its capital, Lhasa, but also throughout its three provinces, usually returning to their own lands after completing their studies (until Communist takeovers in many of these countries).”
As more research is done, the genetic markers of other later migrations may become apparent, so the possible genetic relationship between the Tibetans and the Hopi can be examined. Until then one can’t help but be overwhelmed with the similarities between the two cultures.
Besides their common physical appearances, their braided hair for both males and females, etc, the Hopi and Tibetan people share many more cultural similarities. Both cultures have extensive use of turquoise jewelry to ward off evil spirits., Both cultures exhibit similar use of silver and coral, as well as similar colors, materials and woven patterns of their textiles.
When the Dalai Lama first met with the Hopi tribal leaders in 1979, they said “Welcome Home!”
To which the Dalai Lama responded, “Where did you get your turquoise?”
Since the Chinese takeover of Tibet, many Tibetan families have relocated to the New Mexico. According to Antonio Lopez, “As exchanges become increasingly common between Native Americans and Tibetans, a sense of kinship and solidarity has developed between the cultures. While displacement and invasion have forced Tibetans to reach out to the global community in search of allies, the Hopi and other Southwestern Native Americans have sought an audience for their message of world peace and harmony with the earth.”
The mingling of these two cultures has led to questions about a possible common ancestry as well as other quizzical observations. For example, the Hopi language is different than any other Native American people. Yet, the Hopi word for ‘moon’ is the same as the Tibetan word for ‘sun’ and the Hopi word for ‘sun’ is the same as the Tibetan word for ‘moon.’ The same is true for the Hopi and Tibetan words for ‘love’ and ‘hate’ each with opposite meanings in the other language.
Other commonalities between Tibetan Buddhist ritual and Native American culture of the Southwest are unmistakable. For example, Pueblos also engage in intricate sand painting and destruction. Writer Frank Walters observed that The Navajo and the Pueblo perform a ritualistic dance which symbolically mirrors the Tibetan Journey of the Dead, from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Furthermore, The understanding of interconnectedness (the web of life) is unsurpassed in Native American culture and is nowhere pronounced with more beauty and poetry than by Chief Seattle and select other Native Americans. Of course, today the Dalai Lama is champion of interconnectedness and the reduction of suffering worldwide reaching out to all people of all religions.
But perhaps it is this intrinsic feeling of interconnectedness that makes the Dalai Lama and others believe in a connection. He has been right enough often enough, that I wouldn’t bet against him. Genetics aside, as pictures from around the world attest, the Dalai Lama truly has a brotherhood with all mankind. He is especially ready to harmonize with any religious tradition sharing the same basic principles of compassion and kindness.