The Impact of Disease on Native American Culture

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The Impact of Disease on Native American Culture Though warfare and attacks on entire villages took a definite toll on the populations of Native Americans, disease was by far the biggest killer. We’ve all heard the stories of smallpox infected blankets being given to the Native Americans, and other such atrocities, but I was simply dumbfounded at the actual numbers of dead due to Old World diseases being introduced to the New World, North America. While it has been somewhat difficult for scholars to determine the exact count of Indians who died from disease, they have fairly accurate estimates. During my internet research on this subject I came across two separate tables of information and was again shocked at what I discovered.…show more content…
This article focused on depopulation via smallpox. “Within just a few generations, the continents of the Americas were virtually emptied of their native inhabitants – some academics estimate that approximately 20 million people may have died in the years following the European invasion – up to 95% of the population of the Americas.” The article goes on to describe the transmission process of smallpox, incubation period, and symptoms of the disease. It then discusses the fact that diseases such as smallpox, influenza and measles were a product of the European society, specifically livestock farming and close interaction with domesticated livestock. Though smallpox outbreaks would occur in Europe, killing major portions of the population, some would survive and build immunities which they genetically passed to the next generations. Because the Native Americans had no exposure to smallpox and no genetic immunities, exposure to this virus was deadly all across the continent. “More victims of colonization were killed by Eurasian germs, than by either the gun or the sword, making germs the deadliest agent of conquest.”
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