Nephite-type Writing

Native American Writing

Birch bark letter pdMounting evidence is surfacing to prove that the Native Americans of the northeast had a written language, a language with ties to Egypt. Pat Morgan claims their mixed or reformed Egyptian hieroglyphs depended on their European or Mediterranean origin.1 Literally hundreds of inscribed tablets and birch bark scrolls have been found in the northeast, many of which are inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphics. Unfortunately, most have been deemed frauds by the academic world who find them impossible to decipher. Now, this fact alone should raise eyebrows among the LDS community, for they know from the scriptures that the writing of the Nephites would not be discernible by anyone without the aid of the Urim and Thummim. Mormon writes: “But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34).

Joseph Smith informs us that the Urim and Thummim, or interpreters, would be needed to decipher the records of the ancient Nephite people.He said:

Also, that there were two stones in silver bows and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. 2

In an effort to learn what we can of the language and writing of the Nephite Nation we must once again turn to the scriptures. Both Nephi and Mormon say their language was patterned after the learning of the Jews and language of the Egyptians. Nephi said:

Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians (1 Nephi 1:2).

Mormon informs us:

And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.
And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record (Mormon 9:32-33).

Interestingly, the epigrapher Barry Fell, author of America B.C. notes a definite connection between the Algonquians and Egypt which made him speculate that perhaps certain colonies of Egyptians visited ancient America. In fact, so remarkable is the connection between the hieroglyphic writing of the Algonquins and the Egyptians that he was surprise that no one until now seems to have noticed it?

His first encounter with the similarities between the writings of the Algonquins and the Egyptians came about as he studied a document found on a sheet of paper in a book written by Eugene Vetromile, containing The Lord’s Prayer written in Micmac Hieroglyphs.

The Micmac are a tribe of the Algonquin Indians that inhabit eastern Canada and are closely related to the Wabanaki tribes in Maine. It is now believed their writing system and also part of their language is derived from ancient Egyptian. Being an authority on ancient languages, Fell was not only surprised but mystified to note that the meaning of the signs in Egyptian matched the meaning assigned them in the English transcript of the Micmac text given on the document.(3)  He had been informed earlier that many of the missionaries to the Indians had invented such signs in an effort to teach them more effectively, but the evidence before him convinced him that someone with a definite understanding of Egyptian had taught the Micmac how to write. Unfortunately, in Schoolcraft’s great work on the American Indians, mention was made that the Algonquins could neither read nor write. This, coupled with the claim by a priest named Pierre Maillard, that he invented the Micmac hieroglyphics, laid the foundation for the continuing supposition that none of the tribes could read or write before his time.

Fell was not convinced however. After studying literally hundreds of Egyptian hieroglyphics Fell was totally convinced the Micmac writing system, (and also part of their language), was derived from ancient Egyptian. Yet how could this be, Fell wondered? Surely Maillard had not deciphered the Egyptian language himself, for he had never even been to Egypt nor had ever been involved in any such activity. Moreover, Maillard died in 1762, a full 61 years before Champollion published his first decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Further, it was quite apparent that the Micmac writing system was not a modern invention but had been among the natives for “who knows how long.”

When the first Christian missionaries began their instructions to the Micmacs, they noticed the children were making signs on birchbark, which they explained was an attempt to record what the priests were saying. The Wabenaki Indians in Maine were apparently doing the same thing. The Indians claim that by these signs they could express any idea with every modification, just as we do with our writings. They were informed that all the various Indian tribes used this same method of writing to communicate with others, both sending and receiving back answers in the same way. It was said their chiefs often sent circulars to various regions to either ask for or give advice to other chiefs, especially in time of war.

The mystery of how the Micmacs and others came to read and write in Egyptian hieroglyphics so intrigued Fell, that he began an intensive study of the matter. After careful study of everything available, Fell concluded that: “When the missionaries arrived in this country they made use of these signs as they found them, in order to instruct the Indians. Father Mainard {Maillard} and Le Loutre improved them, and others were added in order to express the doctrine and mysteries of the Christian religion. (4)

Fell went on to say that; “From this evidence it is clear that we have for long been mistaken in thinking the Micmac writing system as a modern system, and hence unworthy of serious study by epigrapher interested in the history of the writing systems in ancient times.”

Father Vetromile records that similar writing was employed by all the northern Algonquin tribes not just the Micmacs, the Wabanakis, including those in northern New England such as the Etchemis. He says that he has met older people among the Indians at Oldtown, Maine, who remember a time when the writing was inscribed vertically, and also horizontally (as today) but in either direction. (5) Warren said {1852} that in 1842 he saw a circular copper plate that Ojibway chiefs kept buried which recorded their family history in hieroglyphics.(6)

In responding to the next obvious question as to whether Micmac and related Algonquins were the descendants of ancient settlers from Egypt, Fell had to say no, for their language was uniquely Algonquin, although there were certain vocabulary similarities with the Egyptian. (7) In regards to the writing system of the Algonquin he could only conclude, after extensive research, that it was very ancient, especially for those in the northeast.

Because the Nephites wrote in the manner of the Egyptians, or in other words in hieroglyphics, we should not be surprised to learn the Algonquin language is alike in many ways to the Nephites, for the Algonquins appear to be a mix of both the Nephite and Mulekite populations who moved north from Zarahemla into the lands further north where they lost their religious moorings and all became Lamanites.  Neither should we be surprised to discover that many of the artifacts found in the northeast appear to have been written in Hebrew. While such writing matches in every respect both ancient and modern Hebrew, not many can be deciphered. This also parallels the scriptures which tell us the Nephites altered the Hebrew just as they had their Egyptian script.

© Phyllis C. Olive

Nephite - Mi'kmaq

Writing comparison courtesy Vincent Coon

Notes:

1- Pat Morgan, Algonquin Traditions and Other Ancient American Enigmas, Ancient American # 60, p. 27.
2- Joseph Smith History 1:35.
3–Barry Fell, America B.C. p, 253.
4–Ibid., p. 259.
5–Ibid., p. 259.
6–Cyclone Covey, Ancient American # 53, p. 30.
7–Barry Fell, America B.C. p. 260.