I've read of lot of nonsense in this thread about the "technological superiority" of the Euros that fails to take into account the fact that there are
different fields of technology. Their superiority lay only in the technology of war and the ruthlessness with which they waged it.
The focus of the nations in the Americas was on sociological and agricultural technologies. True democracy was invented by the Haudenosaunee, and
imperfectly copied by Americans, who couldn't bring themselves to accept women as equals for another two centuries. The Greek form of "democracy" was
not democracy at all, but rather a patriarchy. If the roots of American democracy were truly Greek, why didn't true democracy emerge in Europe?
Sociologically, North America was far in advance of the Euros. One aspect of the superiority is the disparity in standards of cleaniness between the
cultures: Euros were literally filthy, stinking savages who rarely bathed. Their unclean habits brought wave after wave of epidemics. Another aspect
is illuminated by the different degrees of tolerance for psychopaths: in Native societies they were rarely elevated to the positions of power they
filled throughout the European system.
"Hints" is a trilogy, presented as SPAP Reports Nos. 3, 4, & 5. Part One described the Native trade-wars; Part Three will consider the European
usurpation of Native independence. Here in Part Two disease is discussed. Together, these three calamities form an intertwined triple threat against
the Native Americans in the Gulf of Maine region. Unfortunately we lack specific details of inland affairs in this early period of "The Encounter" (as
Red/White interactions are collectively termed). The view from the coast gives only hints of the hinterland surrounding the Sebago Lake drainage
With no immunities to Old World diseases, Native Americans were totally vulnerable to contagion from encounters with any Europeans sick with
anything. During 1617-18 a major European-disease epidemic struck the Native peoples from Cape Cod Bay to Penobscot Bay, killing off entire
communities in some places. How or where this epidemic began is uncertain; sick fishermen off-shore seem likely. There were only a few Europeans
actually residing in the area at the time, temporarily manning fishing-stations, or still exploring preparatory to attempting yet other colonial
settlements that really would last (earlier attempts having failed).
The few Englishmen who commented about the epidemic from either their own or their workmen's experiences of it tell of vacant villages, unburied dead,
and "plague sores". English explorer Captain John Smith blamed the victims, in doggerel: "They say this plague upon them thus sore fell, / It was
because they pleas'd not Tantum well." (Tantum or Tanto supposedly was the southern New England Algonquian peoples' negative "god" of woe.) Indeed,
only the natives were stricken; the few English who were living with or nearby the natives did not sicken.
And so, in 1620, King James I of England's "Great Patent (charter) of New England"--the land-lease for the Plymouth Colony Pilgrims--declared that God
had killed-off the Indians to make way for large-scale English colonization, which started immediately, continued with Mass. Bay Colony Puritans, and
never stopped thereafter, pushing ever-more-northeasterly into Maine.
This was not the first epidemic--Micmac chief Membertou had told the French at Port Royal colony (in NS) his remembrances about late-1500s effects of
European diseases from the Gulf of St. Lawrence--nor was it the last to strike the Wabanaki peoples. Each deadly wave of disease may have been
different from the one before it, because Native Americans lacked relative immunity to all European diseases. However, for our region, the great
epidemic of 1617-18 was a defining event, even if modern scholars still are not sure what this disease was. The best-reasoned suggestion I am aware of
is hepatitis. This idea is presented in an article titled "New England Pandemic of 1616-1622: Cause and Archeological Implication" by Arthur E Spiess
and Bruce D Spiess, in pages 71-83 of Man in the Northeast, Number 34, Fall 1987.
Until the coming of the Europeans, the New World was free of smallpox, typhus, cholera, and measles--the focus of this article. When Cortez came
to invade Mexico, he had with him a silent ally more potent than his small Spanish army. That insidious ally was infectious disease, to which Aztecs
and other Native Americans had no immunity.
When he finally entered Tenochtitlan (Mexico City today) in 1520, the year after he first arrived in the New World, he found half of the
inhabitants infected with smallpox. In just the first epidemic, nearly 50% had died. Eleven years later, a second epidemic devastated Mexico, and this
too was introduced from Spanish ships. By 1595, over 18 million people had died of smallpox, mumps, measles and other European diseases. (For a
further narrative, see Cartwright amongst the resources below.)
Throughout history the movement of people has played a major role in the transmission of disease. Migration, trade and war have allowed diseases
to travel from one environment to another, often with far-reaching social consequences. The devastation of Native American populations, for example,
was one such consequence of European settlement in the Americas.
European diseases probably reached Wisconsin before European explorers themselves. In the 50 years following Hernando de Soto's invasion of the
lower Mississippi in 1539, disease killed 90 percent of the Indians living in the middle Mississippi Valley — Indians with whom Wisconsin's Oneota
culture had traded for centuries. Many archaeologists have thus speculated that epidemics of measles or smallpox may have swept through Indian
communities in Wisconsin long before Jean Nicolet stepped ashore in 1634.
When the French arrived and began living in Indian villages in the 17th and 18th centuries, diseases once again broke out. "Maladies wrought among
them more devastation than even war did," wrote contemporary French visitor Bacqueville de la Potherie, "and exhalations from the rotting corpses
caused great mortality."
Epidemic disease was not confined to Indians, however. Malaria (known at the time as intermittent and remittent fever) was common among French,
British, and later American troops, and often reached epidemic proportions in the summer months. Military posts on the Wisconsin frontier in the 1820s
and 1830s usually had a hospital and surgeons' quarters, though the service was often poor and inadequate. At Fort Crawford, 154 of the 199 men
stationed there in the summer of 1830 had malaria yet, despite its high occurrence, few men actually died. Cholera, on the other hand, was a far more
dreaded disease that spread with frightening speed and exacted a far higher death toll on Wisconsin residents.
Smallpox continued to rage through many Indian communities in the 1830s. Introduced by white explorers in 1760, smallpox epidemics repeatedly
decimated Indian tribes. Surgeon and naturalist Dr. Douglass Houghton administered more than 2,000 vaccinations to Indians in the Chippewa region over
the course of his two months exploring with Henry Schoolcraft in 1832, undoubtedly saving many Indian lives. Houghton estimated that the disease had
appeared among the Chippewa at least five times in the previous 60 years.
De Soto's excursion to Florida was a failure from the point of view of the Spanish. They acquired neither gold nor prosperity and founded no
colonies. Nonetheless, it had several major consequences.
On one hand, the expedition left its traces in the areas they traveled through. Some of the swine brought by de Soto escaped and were the
ancestors of razorback pigs in the southeastern United States. De Soto was instrumental in contributing to a hostile relationship between some Natives
When his expedition encountered hostile Natives in the new lands, more times than not, his men instigated the clashes.
More devastating than the battles, however, were the diseases carried by the members of the expedition. Because they lacked immunity to Eurasian
diseases, the indigenous people suffered epidemic illnesses after contracting infectious diseases, such as measles, smallpox and chicken pox. Several
areas which the expedition crossed became depopulated by disease caused by contact with the Europeans. Many natives fled the populated areas which had
been struck by the illnesses and went towards the surrounding hills and swamps. In some areas, the social structure changed because of losses to
The records of the expedition contributed greatly to European knowledge about the geography, biology and ethnology of the New World. The de Soto
expedition's descriptions of North American natives are the earliest-known source of information about the societies in the Southeast. They are the
only European description of North American native habits before the natives encountered other Europeans. De Soto's men were both the first and nearly
last Europeans to experience the Mississippian culture.
De Soto's expedition led the Spanish crown to reconsider Spain's attitude towards the colonies north of Mexico. He claimed large parts of North
America for Spain. The Spanish concentrated their missions in the state of Florida and along the Pacific coast.
The book is brimming with shocking information like the fact that the city of Tiwanaku, in what is now Bolivia, had 115,000 people living in it in
1000 A.D., a population that Paris would not reach for five centuries. Among other surprises we learn that Pocahontas means "little hellion" and there
are less people living in the Amazon now than there were in 1491. Mann points out that the British and French, not the indigenous people, were the
savages. The Europeans arriving in North America smelled horrible; some of them had never taken a bath their whole lives. On the other hand, the
indigenous people were generally very clean, strong and well nourished. The first section of the book deals largely with new revelations about the
sicknesses such as small pox and Hepatitis A which ravaged the native populations of the Americas shortly after the arrival of the Europeans. The
death toll is as surprising as the size of the populations before Columbus. When Columbus landed, there were an estimated 25 million people living in
Mexico. At the time, there were only 10 million people in Spain and Portugal. Central Mexico was more densely populated than China or India when
Columbus arrived. An estimated 90-112 million lived in the Americas, which was a larger population than that of Europe. Mann also pointed out that the
Incas ruled the biggest empire on earth ever. In their prime, the kingdom's span equaled the distance between St. Petersburg and Cairo.
The bloodshed unleashed by the Europeans had a lot do with killing off of these populations. Yet sickness played perhaps an even larger role.
Smallpox hit the Andes before Spain's Pizarro did, killing off most people and plunging the area into civil war. The sickness is thought to have
arrived to the region from the Caribbean. Hepatitis A killed off an estimated 90% of the population in coastal New England in 3 years. Within first
years of European contact, 95% of native populations died. These numbers seem hard to believe, but Mann's exhausting research draws from decades of
investigations from dozens of scientists and archeologists.
While reading this book, I realized how inaccurate it is to describe the Americas as the "New World." Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Americas were inhabited by people 20-30,0000 years ago. Europe, on the other hand, was occupied by humans more recently, 18,000 years ago at the
When the Europeans arrived they described the Eastern woodlands as park-like, managed to maximize the productivity of the forest.The primitive
European forestry and agricultural practices devastated the lands reducing the output to such an extent that it never recovered until the middle of
the last century. Mexico still hasn't recovered to Pre-Columbina levels. The population explosion of the 16th through 19th centuries in Europe was
fueled by just a few of the myriad of food plants develpoed by Native agronomists. Those who think the American continents as having smaller
populations than Europe at Contact would do well to ponder the implications of that fact.
Recently, city after city, town after town is being uncovered by satellitte photography in Bolivia, and some scholars are seeing evidence that the
entire Amzon basin was terraformed by A huge civilization centuries before contat...destroyed utterly by European diseases long before they could
reach them, and lost to history until just recently.
That illustrates one of the problems of Native history: the Americans and Canadians have little stomach to discover how much was destroyed, how high
the civilizations were that their ancestors annihlated to make room for their descendants. Research languishes, especially that which contradicts the
mythology, which is pretty much everything.
The average American or Canadian knows so little of the Pre-Columbian history of the Americas as to be effectively zero.
The ignorance is overwhelming.
But they will vociferously declare their superiority over that which they know nothing.
Amazing....baffling, but amazing.
edit on 5-3-2011 by apacheman because: (no reason given)
edit on 5-3-2011 by apacheman
because: (no reason given)