Montreal Standard, 2 September 1911, page 3
[Warning! Please keep in mind this was written in 1911, and the strong racist language used was common at the time. The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the blogger]
Mysterious White Races in the Tropics
There always has existed a curious fascination for the civilised world in the idea that in remote parts of the tropics, amid the dark skinned races, there exist mysterious isolated white tribes bearing a strong resemblance to the civilized branches of the Caucasion races.
The early adventurers in Central and South America brought home many tales of extraordinary cities beyond the mountains, and vague stories afloat in South Africa forty years or so age furnished Rider Haggard with a theme for one of his best known novels.
Who these white tribes are and whence they came no one knows; native fables afford no explanation. Once it was thought that forgotten white explorers might have built up unknown kingdoms in the wild places of the earth, but upon examination of these theories vanish as rapidly as do the white tribes themselves, and the ultimate explanation is almost prosaic.
Yet so strong a hold has the idea gained that even in the twentieth century the possibility of the existence of genuine white races in tropical countries is not altogether scoffed at. It is less than seven years ago that an American officer engaged in the operations against the Moros in the Philipines collected apparently substantial evidence relating to a mysterious white race in the Island of Mindanao. The mountainous district in the centre of this island has never been explored and even the coast is not well kknown.
But along the seaboard many stories are told of the fierce white people who have thir home in the forest clad mountains of the interior. Eyewitnesses depose to having seen a strange fair complexioned girl, who fled towards the hills as soon as she was addressed. Other men and women of a light complexioned race are said to have been seen by more venturesome natives who wore bold enough to the approach the wild mountain district. The American officer was so impressed that he determined to conduct an exploring party across the centre of the island. But apparently the mysterious white folk had vanished, for the world has as yet heard nothing of his search being crowned with success.
Arabia however can be more reason boast of a white tribe. For years, stories of such a race have been told in the Persian Gulf, and an American missionary stationed at Muscat alluded some years ago to coffee house babble in Eastern Oman concerning a mysterious race of light complexioned people, who live somewhere in the mountains, shun strangers and speak a language all their own.
Various theories have been propounded to explain the fable, but probably the explanation is to be found in the narrative of a journey made in Oman in 1876 by Colonel SB Miles, a British Officer. Colonel Miles in the course of his travels nearly thirty-five years ago, came across a town named Sheraizi in the heart of the Green Mountains. This strange place was perched like an eagle’s nest on the top of a great cliff and was inhabited by a people of lighter skin than the rest of the tribes of the interior. They rarely descended to the plains and refused to mix or intermarry with the Arabs.
The explorer found they were descendants of a portion of the Persian army that invaded Oman in the tenth century. The isolation of the town and the curious behaviour of its people gave rise to exaggerated stories in the bazaars on the distant coast, and in this case the origin of the fable may be regarded as fairly certain.
The world is comparatively small to-day. The trail of the explorer is over every land from Paraguay to Thibet. Forbidden lands are entered, hidden cities exist only in the imagination of the fiction writer. In a period when trains run to Bokhara and the great African lakes, when the tourist appears at Khartoum, and Lhassa itself is entered there is little room for a mysterious white race.
Rider Haggard’s splendid race is probably only the Ba-hima originally discovered by Speke in South Western Uganda. At least, Sir Harry Johnston claims to have discovered in them the clue to many of the mysterious white race legends found in the Dark Continent. He was engaged in nothing more thrilling than a tour of inspection of Ankole when he came across them. They are of a very light complexion and are the aristocrats of this region. Sir Harry holds that they are obviously descended from a Gala, Somali or other Hamitic stock, and adds that some of them are more like Egyptians than is the case with the Galas and Somalia. Romance disappears before the tread of the explorer. The Dark Continent is dark no more.