Native American Disease

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The arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492, started what may be described as a wave of infectious disease and death. With the discovery of the New World came a flood of colonist and conquistadors. As the Europeans explored and discovered foreign unknown lands, the natives had to deal with a foreign matter of their own. “Europeans and the African Slaves they brought inadvertently carried bacteria and viruses across the Atlantic that Native Americans had never encountered.”(Campbell, 2008, p.3). This wave of migration for the Eastern Hemisphere to the Americas changed the way disease affected the lives of thousands of natives. Native Americans had not developed an essential biological resistance to diseases that were common in…show more content…
The difference in the practice of animal domestication played an enormous role in this. “The inhabitants of the Americas, by contrast, had few, if any, domesticated animals, and thus the crowd disease that played such a significant role in other parts of the world were largely unknown.” (Grob, 2002, p. 17). Most of the pathogens that cause such diseases in humans are from common animals and cattle. “…higher levels of animal domestication in the Eastern Hemisphere may have enabled more diseases to pass to humans from animal host. The peoples of the Americas had only domesticated dogs, turkeys, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs (and in most places only dogs), in comparison to the rest of the world, where people raised, tended, and owned at least two dozen species of animals.”(Campbell, 2008, p.4). The Europeans’ close proximity to domesticated animals induced the easy spread of disease. As the Europeans immigrated to the Americas, not only did they bring disease, they brought the originating principle in the form of pigs, rats and other…show more content…
As the Native Americans’ population dwelled from illness, the newly arrived colonist sought livable land. The territory which the Native Americans controlled then became obtainable, as the populations dwindled or completely disappeared. “In costal Massachusetts, an epidemic disease which some scholars recognize as smallpox wiped out the Patuxent people just before the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620.” (Watts, 1997, p. 93). The convenience of which was safe shelter and cleared fields ready for planting that was left behind by the Patuxent. If the smallpox epidemic had not wiped out the total population of the Patuxent Indians, the events after the arrival of the Pilgrims to Plymouth just might have been noticeably different from what is written in history books today. Another example of the advantage that the colonist gained during time of disease, was collapse of the Wampanoag Indians. “The native Wampanoag Indians of Nantucket Island (off the Massachusetts coast) were much larger and seemingly heathier than their European visitors at the time of initial contact. Nevertheless they soon succumbed to the “indian sickness”, leaving their land to their foreign guest.” (DeSalle, 1999, p. 21). The fall of the Wampanoag Indians gave the Europeans an advantage that they may not have had if the disease had not eliminated the tribe as competitor for land and
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