Turks, Looking To Do Business with Native Americans, Say They're Related

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Is it Indian or Turkish?
As it looks for business opportunities in the U.S., Turkey has been wooing Indian tribes. Colville Reservation Business Council Chair Michael Finley was one of 20 Indian leaders brought to Turkey last year. He says he heard that the Turks feel "related" to Native Americans. "Literally."

It's true, says Lincoln McCurdy, president of the D.C.-based Turkish Coalition of America, which coordinated the week-long trip of Indian leaders to Turkey, where he says they met with the foreign minister and were "treated like royalty."

"The Turks come from Central Asia and migrated toward Europe," McCurdy says. And Native Americans, he says, are also thought to have migrated from Asia (heading in the other direction and crossing the Bering Strait into America).

While the precise origins of Native Americans is still hotly debated, McCurdy finds new proof of a Turkish connection in a Scientific American article last month that reports on DNA testing that "strongly indicates that the ancestors of the first Americans came from an East Asian homeland."

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Beyond that, McCurdy says "there are so many similarities in the customs and traditions." Take the designs in Native American and Turkish carpets, he says. (Take a look: the carpet above is Indian, at left Turkish.)

You might think this is just the art of schmooze. But Sedat Uysal, the Turkish-born proprietor of Pioneer Square's Cafe Paloma, lights up when asked about this affinity. He says he was struck by the same thing when he immigrated here 26 years ago.

"It's amazing," he says, mentioning a visit he paid to the Makah Reservation museum at Neah Bay. He says he saw a fishing boat with inlaid shells at one end forming a crescent and star--the historical symbol of the Turks and many Muslim nations.

He says Turks also see a kinship with Native Americans because both cultures have roots in shamanism.

This perceived connection might not enter into the debate that's currently underway in Congress about a bill that would allow Turkey a streamlined process to start businesses in Indian country. But it does answer a question on some Congress members' minds.

"I have no idea why they're being so nice to Native Americans," Rep. Frank Pallone said of the Turks at a recent House hearing, according to McClatchy Newspapers."I'm sure there's some bad underlying reason or something that they're trying to gain."

They hay have something to gain, but their interest in Native Americans appears to run deeper.

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