Researcher Seeks Jones’ “Native American” Roots

You people, you come along with books that don’t even make sense, your black book [the Bible] was written by a white king, that was written by a racist king at that, who sent the first Good Ship Jesus to Africa to bring back slaves. In the name of Jesus, he brought your ancestors here. In the name of Jesus, he killed and crucified my ancestors, the Indians.

I’m declaring unto you… [i]f you can find any leader better than I, you let me go to him. I’ll teach him some of the things that I only can do in the world today, through this great spirit, this great spirit of socialism. That’s what the great Indian spirit was. They put the tribes, the collective above the individual competition… Well, I’m reviving it. My Indian spirit has certain acumen that you won’t be able to find anywhere.

We’ve pulled plows – Indians and blacks – and were whipped on the back like a horse. If anybody should have feeling and empathy for horses, it should be we who have been Indian and black and have had a background of slavery.

What are they afraid of? They got so much God, what are they afraid of? If you’ve got so much God, why are you afraid of this little ol’ nigger Indian? If you’ve got so much truth in you, why are you afraid to hear me?

Hear a little girl, an Indian girl of my background, speak of the horrors of what been going on in the name of rich rulers, the murder of a people, the giving of smallpox, blankets from the body of dead American soldiers to wipe out all the Indians of the Northwest. That’s history, child.

This is same problem we have with we who are black and Indian. There’s no solidarity. Your very best friend will do it and undercut, and until people realize the necessity of that kind of solidarity, we will never overcome.

Jim Jones often identified himself with the oppressed people of America, sometimes figuratively, and sometimes literally. Some of his claims were likely for dramatic effect, or even made as theater. The problem, of course, as with many of Jones’ claims, is discerning which were demonstrably false, which were true, and which fell in the gray area in between.

I am researching the gray area of Jones’ claim of Native American ancestry as part of a larger project on the Tribe of Ishmael and a connection with Peoples Temple members. In pursuit of this project, I have questions which I would like to have some feedback on. They include:

  • Has your family been native to Indianapolis since the 1800s?
  • Are any of your family descended from the Shawnee Indians, or did they call themselves “Black Indians”?
  • Did any Temple members have the last-name “Ishmael”, “Ben-Ishmael,” “Jukes,” or had Muslim surnames?
  • Were any of your family or friends members of the Nation of Islam?
  • Do you have any family stories about a Tribe of Ishmael/Tribe of Ben Ishmael, led by a man named Ben and his wife Jennie?
  • Were members of your family in the past ever known as “the Autumn people”?
  • Did Reverend Jones ever express a fear that Temple members could be sterilized, and that it had happened before in Indiana?

Any help will be appreciated. Thank you for your time reading this!

(Matt Janovic can be reached at