How Old World Diseases Destroyed Indian America and Created Colonial America.

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The Invisible Enemy – How Old World diseases destroyed Indian America and created Colonial America. In the years prior to the Pilgrims establishing Plymouth colony in 1620, the area had been ravaged by an epidemic of disease which had wiped out the original Indian inhabitants. The Pilgrims believed that God had sent the disease among the Indians to clear the site for his ‘chosen people’. This is but one example of how the introduction of disease would forever change the existing Indian America into a ‘new’ America the Natives would barely recognize and would face an everlasting struggle to be part of. The impact of Old World diseases is one of the most critical aspects to understanding the history of Native American Indians. Old World pathogens were carried by the Europeans into the ‘virgin soil’ of Indian America would forever change the very existence of the Native Americans. Epidemics of killer disease were to rampage through Indian society and the Indians being immunologically defenseless succumbed in their thousands. Smallpox was the most devastating of the early killer diseases, followed by deadly strains of typhus and measles (Thornton 1987:44-45). These were followed by bubonic plague, diphtheria, cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, mumps, pertussis, colds, pleurisy, and, virulent forms of pneumonia and influenza along with respiratory infections, poliomyelitis, venereal syphilis, malaria, yellow fever and dysentery. The mortality rates from smallpox were appallingly high and the periodic outbreaks compounded the losses. Thornton, Miller and Warren (1991:41) conclude that “American Indian populations were exposed to cycles of population reduction caused by both recurrent epidemics of the same disease and by epidemics of newly encountered diseases experiencing ‘virgin veil’ conditions”. In 1779, smallpox broke out in Mexico City, and over the next four years the disease reached pandemic proportions, spreading in all directions; through the Southwest, the...
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