3,000-Year-Old Connection Claimed : Siberia Tie to California Tribes Cited

Times Staff Writer

A California State University, Fullerton, anthropology professor, after 25 years of research, claims he has proved that California has a 3,000-year-old Russian connection.

Otto von Sadovszky says his studies prove that two tribes immigrated from northwestern Siberia about 1000 BC and became the forebears of 19 California tribes of Indians. The Siberian tribes still exist in what is now the Soviet Union, and about 10,000 of their words are identical or very similar to those used by the now-extinct California Indian tribes, Von Sadovszky says.

In an interview Sunday, Von Sadovszky said that one significant impact of his studies is that the ancestors of some major Indian tribes were relative late-comers to California. Von Sadovszky noted that scholars, decades ago, had concluded that the native California Indians were descended from Asians who came across what is now the Bering Strait at least 20,000 years ago.


Crossing by Boat

“But these tribes from Siberia came much later,” he said. “I think they were following salmon, and they came by boat during the summer months across the Arctic Ocean and down to what is now California.”

Some of the California Indian tribes that are descended from Russian Siberians, Von Sadovszky said, are the Wintu-an, of the Sacramento Valley, the Miwokan, of the area north of San Francisco, and the Costanoan, of the area south of San Francisco.

Spanish colonists--and later the Russian colonists at Fort Ross--found these Indians when they arrived in the 18th and 19th centuries. Most of the Indians died as the result of diseases caught from the Europeans, and their cultures virtually disappeared, Von Sadovszky noted.

The similarities of the Siberian-California Indian words include some well-known places, he said. “Petaluma (a city in Northern California) would be understood in Siberia even today,” he said. “It means ‘flat back,’ as in the flat back of a hill.”

Translation of Name

Another word with current Siberian translation, he said, is Tamalpais, the name of the mountain that is a landmark in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Pais” means place, he said, and “tamal” is a word used to describe one of the Siberian tribes.

The California Indians’ name for what is now San Francisco, Von Sadovszky, was “awas-te.” He said that expression “would be understood today by the Siberians” and means “place at the bay.”