Journal of Book of Mormon Studies


This paper probes the theories of the origin of the American Indian up to the time of the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. It covers some three hundred years of development, looking at many different theories, including the predominant theory of the lost tribes of Israel, which was in decline among most leading scientific observers in the early nineteenth century. The paper covers new ground in showing that Professor Samuel L. Mitchill, formerly of Columbia College, had concluded that two main groups of people once dominated the Americas—the Tartars of northern Asia and the Australasians of the Polynesian islands. Furthermore, they fought one another for many years, culminating in great battles of extermination in what later became upstate New York. This New York theory has much in common with the Book of Mormon. While visiting Professor Charles Anthon in New York in 1828, Martin Harris also met with Mitchill, an encounter that lent support to Harris’s work on the Book of Mormon.