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1853-1854 Smallpox Visitation to the Moqui

The Moquis have been frequently scourged with epidemics the one accompanied by famine in 1775 was frightful. The severe modern smallpox scourge among the Moquis (which came from Zuñi) was in 1853-1854. Lieutenant Whipple refers to it in his Pacific Railroad Survey Report. He was en route from Zuñi to explore as a side trip the Colorado Chiquito and needed guides. He sent some Zuñians to the Moqui Pueblos for them. In his journal he writes: November 28, 1853 José Maria, Juan Septimo and José Hacha were the guides sent to us by the caciques of Zuñi. They described the country to the Colorado Chiquito as being nearly a level plain with springs of permanent water at convenient distances. This is their hunting ground. Of the country west of that river they know nothing. Moqui Indians are however supposed to have knowledge of the region and we intend to seek among them for a guide. José and Juan are to go as bearers of dispatches to the Moqui native with the understanding that after having accomplished their in mission they will report to us upon the Colorado Chiquito. November 29, 1853 Tomorrow José Marie and Juan Septimo leave our trail and proceed to Moqui At our request they traced a sketch of the Moqui country and the route they propose to travel. They say that the population of the 7 towns of Moqui has been greatly diminished lately and now is about the same as that of Zuñi that is according to our previous estimate 2,000 persons. But it is it difficult matter to determine satisfactorily the population of...

Blackfeet of Today

In the olden times the Blackfeet were very numerous, and it is said that then they were a strong and hardy people, and few of them were ever sick. Most of the men who died were killed in battle, or died of old age. We may well enough believe that this was the case, because the conditions of their life in those primitive times were such that the weakly and those predisposed to any constitutional trouble would not survive early childhood. Only the strongest of the children would grow up to become the parents of the next generation. Thus a process of selection was constantly going on, the effect of which was no doubt seen in the general health of the people. With the advent of the whites, came new conditions. Various special diseases were introduced and swept off large numbers of the people. An important agent in their destruction was alcohol. In the year 1845, the Blackfeet were decimated by the small-pox. This disease appears to have traveled up the Missouri River; and in the early years, between 1840 and 1850, it swept away hosts of Mandans, Rees, Sioux, Crows, and other tribes camped along the great river. I have been told, by a man who was employed at Fort Union in 1842-43, that the Indians died there in such numbers that the men of the fort were kept constantly at work digging trenches in which to bury them, and when winter came, and the ground froze so hard that it was no longer practicable to bury the dead, their bodies were stacked up like cord wood in...

1837 Smallpox Epidemic

No disease which has been introduced among the tribes, has exercised so fatal an influence upon them as the smallpox. Their physicians have no remedy for it. Old and young regard it as if it were the plague, and, on its appearance among them, blindly submit to its ravages. This disease has appeared among them periodically, at irregular intervals of time. It has been one of the prominent causes of their depopulation. Ardent spirits, it is true, in its various forms, has, in the long run, carried a greater number of the tribes to their graves; but its effects have been comparatively slow, and its victims, though many, have fallen in the ordinary manner, and generally presented scenes less revolting and striking to the eye. This malady swept through the Missouri Valley in 1837. It first appeared on a steamboat, (the St. Peters) in the case of a mulatto man, a hand on board, at the Black-Snake Hills, a trading post, 60 miles above Fort Leavenworth, and about 500 miles above St. Louis. It was then supposed to be measles, but, by the time the boat reached the Council Bluffs, it was ascertained to be small-pox, and had of course been communicated to many in whom the disease was still latent. Every precaution appears to have been taken, by sending runners to the Indians, two days ahead of the boat; but, in spite of these efforts, the disease spread. It broke out among the Mandans about the 15th of July. This tribe, which consisted of 1600 persons, living in two villages, was reduced to 31 souls. It next attacked...

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