Cross-cultural similarities in giant mythology are often cited as evidence that giants actually existed. The Comanche were included on a list of Native American societies that reportedly had "legends of a race of white giants" in a story that was reprinted by several prominent "fringe" websites in 2015 and 2016 (e.g., here, here, here, and here). Did the Comanche really have such a legend? What is the source of this claim?
The Epoch Times story printed the following "account of an ancient race of white giants in 1857:"
“Innumerable moons ago, there was a race of white men, ten feet high, and far more rich and powerful than any white people now living, who inhabited a large range of country, extending from the rising to the setting sun. Their fortifications crowned the summits of the mountains, protecting their populous cities situated in the intervening valleys. They excelled every other nation which was flourished, either before or since, in all manner of cunning handicraft—were brave and warlike—ruling over the land they had wrested from its ancient possessors with a high and haughty hand. Compared with them the palefaces of the present day were pygmies, in both art and arms."
The story gives credit to a Dr. Donald "Panther" Yates for documenting the story and provides a dead link to a blog post on the DNA Consultants website (the primary business of DNA Consultants seems to be providing genetic "ancestry" tests). A 2012 blog post on the site titled "Giants with Double-Rowed Teeth, Flattened Heads and Six Fingers" contains the passage reproduced in the Epoch Times article but does not provide a citation.
Where did this account come from?
Entering the quote into the Google search bar quickly returned an answer. It comes from an 1859 book by Nelson Lee called Three Years Among the Comanche (a pdf is available here; the account of the giant legend is on page 141).
Apparently Lee was a Texas Ranger who fought in the Indian war. He became a cowboy in 1844 and in April 1855 he was with a group of cowboys who were attacked by the Comanche. Lee was the the only survivor and was taken prisoner.
Lee's book purportedly relates his experiences following his capture. According to this summary by John Simkin,
"some historians have questioned the reliability of this book. Some writers have pointed out they have been unable to find evidence that Lee was a member of the Texas Rangers. The anthropologist, Melburn D. Thurman, has argued that some of Lee's descriptions of Comanche life appeared to contradict that of other evidence available.”
The stories that Lee relates, then, are of dubious reliability. There are no other sources that back up his accounts (he reports that he killed Rolling Thunder, the chief who told the story, to escape capture) and some of the events he describes may not have happened.
The setting of Lee's tale about "white giants" provides another dimension to the story. In the paragraph prior to the one reproduced in the recent "white giants" stories, Lee writes the following (pages 140-141 in the pdf):
"The Rolling Thunder, in order to convince me of the correctness of a belief, universal throughout the Comanche nation, conducted me to the western side of this strange valley, where I saw, with infinite astonishment and surprise, the dilapidated ruins of a large town. In the midst of the falling walls of a great number of buildings, which, in some remote age, beyond doubt, had lined spacious streets, was what appeared to have been a church or cathedral. Its walls of cut stone, two feet thick, and in some places fifteen feet high, included a space measuring two hundred feet in length, and, perhaps, one hundred in width. The inner surface of the walls in many places was adorned with elaborate carved work, evidently the labor of a master hand, and at the eastern end was a massive stone platform which seemed to have been used as a stage or pulpit. In my surprise at beholding so unexpectedly these evidences of civilization in that wild region, I turned to the Rolling Thunder and asked if he could explain it.”
And then Rolling Thunder explains that the ruined city was built by "white giants" (i.e., the part that is quoted in the recent "white giants" articles). This is followed by Rolling Thunder's explanation of what happened to the builders of the city:
". . . At length, in the height of their power and glory, when they remembered justice and mercy no more and became proud and lifted up, the Great Spirit descended from above, sweeping them with fire and deluge from the face of the earth. The mounds we had seen on the tablelands were the remnants of their fortresses, and the crumbling ruins that surrounded us all that remained of a mighty city.
In like manner, continued the Rolling Thunder, the day will surely come when the present white race, which is driving the Indians before it, and despoiling them of their inheritance, and which, in the confidence of its strength, has become arrogant and boastful and forgotten God, will be swept from existence."
The whole point this story, if really told to Lee by a Comanche chief, could be to illustrate the belief that the material power of white invaders/occupiers will be transitory.
If Lee made up the story, he could have been doing it in the context of a claim for an earlier European ownership of the land. Remember that in this story, these giants are white. He also implies that these giants had “church or cathedral” which would give the impression that these giants were Christian.
Lee's book was written during a time when the United States was expanding westward. Lee's story about Rolling Thunder's "white giants" can be read in a number of ways related to expansion and the resistance to it.
Lee's book was written at a time where people could not just go on the internet to fact check. To check if what Lee was saying was true one would have to go to the exact spot he was referring to. Is there anywhere in region ruins with "walls of cut stone, two feet thick, and in some places fifteen feet high"?One would think that if these ruins were real we would have heard of them by 2016.
So can we say that this was a myth that was actually told by the Comanche? It's possible, but seems unlikely. The source (Nelson Lee) doesn't seem reliable. His story reads more like an adventure novel more than a documentary. If Lee's account is the basis of the claim, this is not a myth that we can say definitely existed among the Comanche. The evidence suggests that this "myth" was just completely made up.
Image source here.
These blog posts were written by students in Forbidden Archaeology (Fall 2016)