Finds Dark Indians in Isolated Tribe
New York Times; Mar 6,1928; researched by Alan Schenker, digitized by Doug Frizzle, October 2011.
A. H. Verrill, Museum Agent, Tells of Visit to Hostile Group in South America.
SAYS THEY CROSSED PACIFIC
Men Are Expert Marksmen With Huge Bows and Arrows—Tribe Has Melanesian Traits.
The discovery in South America of a tribe of dark Indians, resembling some of the black Pacific Islanders or Melanesians, was reported by A. Hyatt Verrill, field agent of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, who arrived here yesterday on the Grace liner Santa Luisa.
This tribe, which is called the Siriono, occupies a territory about two hundred and fifty miles east of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Mr. Verrill, who was doing archaeological work in Bolivia for the museum, decided to visit these Indians, who, it is said, had never been visited by white scientists before. The reason for their long isolation is that they have bows ten feet long and arrows eight feet long and an inch in diameter, and are of an inhospitable turn.
Mr. Verrill contrived, however, to meet a few of the Siriono with the help of Indian guides living on the fringes of the Siriono country. Through his guides he carried on some conversation with them.
"The Siriono are considerably taller and different in other respects from the other South American natives," said Mr. Verrill, "and my idea is that they are Melanesian stock and not greatly modified.
"After a long study of the question, it is my belief that the native South Americans, especially those of the west, are immigrants who have crossed the Pacific. There is geological evidence that a great archipelago once existed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America, so that this continent was connected by a series of island stepping stones with the South Sea Islands.
"The tribe which I visited on this trip seems to have isolated itself and avoided intermingling, so that it preserves the Melanesian characters, which are less distinguishable in other tribes because of the mixing of racial stocks.
"I don't understand why the men stick to their enormous bows and arrows. Bows of six feet or more are common in South America, but these were larger, I believe, than any others in use in any part of the world. They are remarkable marksmen, killing tapirs, peccaries, deer and other game, as well as large fish, some of which weigh forty pounds."