Taking Sides: Was Disease the Key Factor in the Depopulation of Native Americans in the Early Americas

1571 WordsNov 28, 20107 Pages
Was Disease the Key Factor in the Depopulation of Native Americans in the Americas? Did Europeans purposefully infect the Native Americans? That question will never be answered. Whether intentional or accidental, the truth remains that disease was indeed brought to the early Native American culture due to European expansion. The true question is in Taking Sides, issue 2, Was Disease the Key Factor in the Depopulation of Native Americans in the Americas? In this particular issue two sides are represented; yes by Collin G. Calloway, and no by David S. Jones. Let’s take a look at Calloway’s perspective towards the issue. The most important cause of Native American depopulation, during European contact, was epidemic disease. The…show more content…
From David Jones’ point of view, it is important to note that these epidemics were just some of the causes of population decline during European contact. Poverty, environmental stress, massacres, dislocation, malnutrition, and destruction of traditional subsistence patterns also changed the composition of many Native American groups. Eventually, these changes caused substantial depopulation and cultural change. Jones agrees that disease carried a decisive role; however, he argues that it is not the key factor in their depopulation. “Many factors contributed to American Indian susceptibility to Old World diseases, including lack of childhood exposure, malnutrition, and the social chaos generated by European colonization” (Jones 34). David Jones realizes their immune systems were weak, and he presents the question why: is it possibly because they were malnourished, exhausted, and stressed out due to Europeans? He speaks in detail about Indians being defenseless to pathogens, through homogeneity, and how their fates depended on their entire environment. Combined with their vulnerability, “it could well be [assessed] that the epidemics among American Indians, despite their unusual severity, were caused by the same forces of poverty, social stress, and environmental vulnerability that cause epidemics in all other times and

More about Taking Sides: Was Disease the Key Factor in the Depopulation of Native Americans in the Early Americas

Open Document