Topic: Disease

The Native American Holocaust

The population of Mexico began to drop almost immediately after the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. A smallpox plague devastated the population of Tenochtitlan while it was under siege by the Spanish. Many other European diseases spread across Mexico and Central America in the years that followed.  Even prior to the Cortez Expedition, a smallpox plague devastated the Yucatan Peninsula, the Caribbean Islands and the advanced peoples living around the Mobile and Pensacola Bays on the Southeastern Gulf Coasts. Several European plagues that swept through Mexico during the 1500s and early 1600s killed anywhere from 30% to 80% of the indigenous population. However, the worst plagues of all might have been a homegrown beast, but it is strange that it seldom affected immigrants to Mexico who were from Europe or Africa.  This fact would suggest that the plague was a mutation of some pathogen that Old World residents were long immune to. It was a hemorrhagic fever, called cocoliztli in Nahua that could kill victims in hours, but typically killed in 3-4 days. It only affected populations living in the highlands. The host of this pathogen was apparently an animal or insect that only lived in cooler, temperate climates.  Both of the mega-epidemics of this disease occurred during the worst droughts in 600 years. The 1545 epidemic killed 85% of the indigenous population of the Mexican highlands. There...

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Biography of Joseph Lister

In a corner of the north transept of Westminster Abbey, almost lost among the colossal statues of our prime ministers, our judges, and our soldiers, will be found a small group of memorials preserving the illustrious names of Darwin, Lister, Stokes, Adams, and Watt, and reminding us of the great place which Science has taken in the progress of the last century. Watt, thanks partly to his successors, may be said to have changed the face of this earth more than any other inhabitant of our isles; but he is of the eighteenth century, and between those who developed...

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Biography of John Richard Green

Historian. The eighteenth century did some things with a splendor and a completeness, which is the despair of later, more restlessly striving generations. Barren though it was of poetry and high imagination, it gave birth to our most famous works in political economy, in biography, and in history; and it has set up for us classic models of imperishable fame. But the wisdom of Adam Smith, the shrewd observation of Boswell, the learning of Gibbon, did not readily find their way into the market place. Outside of the libraries and the booksellers’ rows in London and Edinburgh they were...

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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...

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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...

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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...

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