|Joseph Smith preaching to the Lamanites|
Although there is absolutely no evidence for such a thing, the legend that the Native Americans were descendants of the lost tribes of Israel has been around for over four hundred years. It's in fact one of the truths that is taught to all Mormons. But Joseph Smith didn't make it up.
The first book to advance this idea was Diego Duran's History of the New World, written in 1575 or so. The theory had almost certainly circulated orally, however, for at least a couple of generations before Duran wrote about it. According to him, the natives of the West Indies definitely "are the ten tribes of Israel that Shalmaneser, king of the Assyrians, made prisoners and carried to Assyria." Many amateur and professional historians have written articles and books offering proof of this fantastic theory. Even William Penn did one.
The most ambitious study of the subject was by the Irish eccentric Edward K. Kingsborough. His subsidized nine-volume work on the Antiquities of Mexico, published at two-year intervals beginning in 1830 (hmm, … I wonder what Smith was reading right about this time) cost him more than £100,000. Though he died in a debtor's prison, Kingsborough's attempt to identify the ancient Mexicans with the ten lost tribes satisfied few but himself.
Not only is there no linguistic, archaeological, historical, or DNA evidence (that last one is a doozy that won't be glossed over) that American Indians are of Hebrew ancestry; the Bible itself nowhere advances a theory that ten of the traditional twelve tribes suddenly vanished. Even the phrase "lost tribes" never appears in scripture. Not even once. What gives?
This theory is just completely fictional from top to bottom. I wonder how the Mormons will deal with the DNA tests that repudiate the claim outright.
Does anyone know if they still teach this?