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South East Asian Migration from Russia to America – an essay by Mats Vederhus

When John Smith from Lincolnshire first landed in what would become known as Virginia, he probably had no idea that the people he met there, including the woman known as Pocahontas, were themselves descendants of settlers from a distant past. Who were these people, and how did they end up in North America?

It turns out that the Americas were conquered not by Columbus, not by the Spaniards, or the English, but by Russians. Not Russians in the traditional, indo-European sense, but Russians nonetheless. Russia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries on earth, with its population comprised of Russians, Tatars, Ukrainians, Bashkirs, Chuvashs, Chechens, Armenians, Avars, Mordvins and Kazhaks, amongst others. (Various, 2007)

More specifically, Pocahontas’ forefathers likely came from southern Siberia. More specifically, from the Altay mountains. (Dell’Amore, 2012)

This is a very impressive migration, seeing as the Altay mountains are thousands of miles from the land bridge traditionally thought to have existed between Russia and Alaska (North America).

Screenshot from Google Maps

There are a few possible scientific explanations for this geographic oddity. Technologically, the only reasonable assumption is that they arrived either by foot, by horse or by raft. The distance, at a glance, seems to be roughly the same traversed by land or by sea from the nearest shore. However, the distance traversed by sea would be shorter if approaching Alaska from the Near Islands through the Rat islands, especially if sailing from Kamchatka.

Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl proved with the Kon-Tiki expedition (Museum, 2017) in 1947 that Polynesia could have been settled from Peru by sea. It was later proved that Polynesians and native Americans intermingled – meaning that contact was established across the sea. (Alleyne, 2011) Assuming that contact was established by native Americans from the coast of South America, it would not be far fetched to conclude that they were simply practicing behavior and using technology already established by their forefathers. This seems to suggest people from the Altay mountains could very well have settled North America by sailing across the Okhotsk and Bering seas.

But whether they sailed, walked or rode, the people from the Altay mountains must, at some point, have been very prominent across large swathes of what is today Russian territory, in order to make it as far as North America. Recently, two men found at the Yana Rhinoceros Horn Site in Northern Siberia seems to suggest that the earliest known migration happened as far back as 32,000 years ago. Migration then happened in waves, 25,000 and 10,000 years ago. (Price, 2019)

As it turns out, the commonly accepted “first” discoverer of the Americas, Christopher Columbus, was just following in a long line of brave, adventurous settlers from Russia. Whether they were following migration patterns of animal herds, or looking for better places to live, the original ancestors of Pocahontas were discovering the globe much earlier than anyone had previously thought possible.

Alleyne, R., 2011. The Telegraph. [Internet]
Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/8582150/Kon-Tiki-explorer-was-partly-right-Polynesians-had-South-American-roots.html
[Found 27 12 2019].

Dell’Amore, C., 2012. National Geographic. [Internet]
Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/2/120203-native-americans-siberia-genes-dna-science/
[Found 27 12 2019].

Museum, T. K.-T., 2017. Kon-Tiki (1947). [Internet]
Available at: https://www.kon-tiki.no/expeditions/kon-tiki-expedition/
[Found 27 12 2019].

Price, M., 2019. Sciencemag.org. [Internet]
Available at: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06/closest-known-ancestor-today-s-native-americans-found-siberia
[Found 27 12 2019].

Various, 2007. Ethnic groups in Russia. [Internet]
Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_Russia
[Found 27 12 2019].

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