Over on Ancient Origins, we find that David Naef, who wrote an earlier article about the “mysteries” of Mount Shasta, has a new article in which he relates a 1916 account of giants. The story comes from Lucy Thompson, a Native American who in 1916 published a book called To the American Indian: Reminiscences of a Yurok Woman. Naef selectively quotes part of Thompson’s account, eliding uncomfortable details that point toward a polemical purpose behind her story.
It’s a bit long, but it’s worth looking at Thompson’s account in full:
When The Indians first made their appearance on the Klamath river it was already inhabited by a white race of people known among us as the Wa-gas. These white people were found to inhabit the whole continent, and were a highly moral and civilized race. They heartily welcomed the Indians to their country and taught us all of their arts and sciences. The Indians recognized the rights of these ancient people as the first possessors of the soil and no difficulties ever arose between the two people. Their hospitality was exceedingly generous in the welfare of our people and all prospered together in peace and happiness, in their pursuit of human existence (sic). After a time there where inter-marriages between the two races, but these were never promiscuous. For a vast period of time the two races dwelt together in peace and honored homes, wars and quarrels were unknown in this golden age of happiness. No depredations were ever committed upon the property of their people, as the white people ruled with beacon light of kindness, and our people still worship the hallowed places where once they trod. Their morals were far superior to the white people of today, their ideals were high and inspired our people with greatness. After we had lived with these ancient people so long, they suddenly called their hosts together and mysteriously disappeared for a distant land, we know not where. We have no memory of their reason or cause why they abandoned their ancient homes where they had dwelt for untold centuries. Wars did not drive them forth, for we loved them more than brothers, and difficulties were unknown between the two people. On leaving they went toward the North from whence we came, and disappeared from our land beyond the northern seas. It was a sad farewell when they departed from this land, for our people mourned their loss, as no more have we found such friends as they, so true and loyal. In their farewell journey across this land they left landmarks of stone monuments, on the tops of high mountains and places commanding a view of the surrounding country. These land-marks we have kept in repair, down through the ages in loving remembrance. I have seen many of these land-marks myself (and often repaired them) that they left as a symbol of the mystic ages and the grandeur of a mighty nation that passed in a single season. Oh, how little we know of the depths of the ages gone, how wide, how profound and deep is the knowledge we seek; a monument of stone, a stone bowl, a broken symbol, a hallowed unknown spot, a lodge of ruins, all this makes a golden page glittering with diamonds that trills the emotions with mysterious longings for truth and light in the depths unknown.
Fringe writers, including David Wilcock (who misunderstood this as referring to an “indigenous white-skinned group of giants known as the Wagas” in The Ascension Mysteries) and Richard Dewhurst, take this story at face value as evidence of giants and a lost white race, but there are clear indications that all is not as it seems. Thompson was heavily influenced by Christianity. Her account of the Creation bares striking evidence of contamination from Christian sources. It tells of an idyllic garden, the creation of sinless man and then secondly woman, of a snake that caused them to learn about sex, and of their subsequent shame at their nudity and creation of clothing from leaves. Oh, and the snake was also cursed to crawl on its belly. Yes, it’s the account from Genesis. She even explicitly names this place as “the mystic Eden of long ago.”
Similarly, we see here a reworked version of the myth of the Nephilim from Genesis 6, combined with a political polemic about Anglo treatment of Native people. The story purports to relate primeval history, but instead it sets up a contrast between the harmony Natives had with the original race of white people and the enmity of the new invaders, effectively reversing the then-common Mound Builder myth that America’s lost white race had been viciously murdered by savage Natives. We find similar polemics in other late accounts that purport to be ancient traditions. Nelson Lee’s (probably semi-fictional) Three Years among the Camanches (1859) purports to have a Native American tell the story of a lost race of white savage giants, destroyed by God for immorality, which similarly combines Genesis with an inverse of the Mound Builder myth.
Thompson’s version is suspect because it bears clear traces of Biblical contamination, but to this we must also add Thompson’s own political and social views. Thompson was married to a white man, and she expressed criticism (however muted) of white Americans’ treatment of Native Americans and the natural world. She was particularly incensed by whites over-fishing, and she said as much in her book, and she sought to find ways to unite white and Native people for the common good. The connection between her beliefs and the story should be sufficiently plain. The references to the giant animals of the past seems to bear a close resemblance to the picture of earlier geological epochs that had emerged in the early twentieth century, and Adrienne Mayor has cataloged ways that Native oral traditions embraced and incorporated paleontological discoveries to tweak earlier myths.
It is probably worth noting that the story that Thompson tells does not appear in anthropological and ethnographic collections of Yurok myths, such as Alfred Louis Kroeber’s Yurok Myths (1976), which was a posthumous work of stories compiled from interactions with the Yurok dating back to 1900. In the more typical version of the story recorded in Kroeber and other sources, the elder race was called wogè (= Thompson’s Wa-Gas) but were pygmies, not giants (or knowledgeable about giants), and were not described as white. Where Thompson has them ascend to heaven, traditional stories have them as semi-immortals who transformed into birds, animals, or even landmark geological formations to escape the coming of human beings. Interestingly, Kroeber did record one version, from a man known as Informant B, in which the wogè were described as “large men,” though not exactly the Nephilim of Genesis. (Folklorist Alan Dundes suggested that Informant B offered an “idiosyncratic” interpretation, though this was only an educated guess from comparison with other known accounts.)
The bottom line is that fringe writers don’t bother to consider context, but since when is that news?
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