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Post Disease and the Decimation of Native Peoples
Created by John Eipper on 08/11/20 5:03 AM

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Disease and the Decimation of Native Peoples (Henry Levin, USA, 08/11/20 5:03 am)

Enrique Torner (August 9th) did not mention that most Native Americans were killed by European diseases for which they had no immunological resistance or history, especially smallpox. I have perused several sources, and there seems to be general agreement that 90 percent of Native American deaths were due to diseases for which there was no immunological defense, as the Europeans had developed.

There is a large demographic and historical literature on this. Most of the impact was incidental between those who had antibodies from the great European plagues and contagions (although there were deliberate attempts to infect the natives too) and the Natives who had no such immunological protections against these deathly microbes.

So, Sr. Torner's description is largely incomplete on the causes of decimation and the perpetrators. Further, the colonists were also Europeans with European views about other races and cultures, so this must be factored into the separation of European explorers and their expeditionary forces and their subsequent settlers who followed.

This is not to say that many of the colonists and the state and federal government were not guilty of murder, oppression, land stealing and many other crimes. There is plenty of blame to go around in the decimation of the Native American as well as insincerity by governments in not honoring the treaties that it signed.

JE comments:  As Henry Levin notes, there are several recorded incidents of the deliberate infection of native peoples.  A common tactic was gifting a blanket infected with smallpox.  Cruel, but also revealing from a scientific perspective, as infection theory was not fully understood until the late 19th century.

A philosophical question:  is the intentional spread of disease an act of genocide?  I would argue it is, but what about an unintentional infection?

This morning we've witnessed a strange coincidence.  All three of our authors (David Duggan, Tim Ashby, and Henry Levin) tested positive for Coronavirus.  To everyone's great relief, all have recovered.  David, Tim, and Hank:  WAIS needs you!


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