Home History Class covid-19 What We Can Learn From Native Americans And Their First Encounter With Smallpox (Part 5 OF 7)

What We Can Learn From Native Americans And Their First Encounter With Smallpox (Part 5 OF 7)

What We Can Learn From Native Americans And Their First Encounter With Smallpox (Part 5 OF 7)

Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com

(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional; This is not medical advice or scientific fact; the following article is simply my personal findings on studying Covid-19 via the internet. The following article is not intended for anything more than a personal opinion piece.)

Native American

history is something very dear to my heart.

I will be delving a lot further and a lot deeper into all aspects of Native American studies; however, today, we focus the spotlight on Native American’s first encounter with viruses and what our take away should be. 

Greetings from North Dakota. Name: Matheson, Lawrence. Date Of Birth: April 1st 1990. Go Directly to jail! February 23rd, 2017.
Gotta Smile When Doing The Right Thing! I was arrested on the plains of North Dakota at Standing Rock. I was happily arrested while protecting Sacred Native Land, Water, and Native Rights after 4 months spent camping in the dead of winter. MNI WICONI (Lakota for Water Is Life)!

In the winter months of 2016-2017,

I camped out in tents on the prairies of North Dakota to fight The Dakota Access Pipeline from continuing its destructive and illegal construction. DAPL is a stretch of pipeline from Stanley, North Dakota, down into Patoka, Illinois. 

It is buried on Sacred Native land and under the MISSOURI RIVER. Sacred Tribal Land is still desecrated to this day, and Eighteen million people’s water is now actively poisoned.

I went to and stayed at Standing Rock, North Dakota, until I was arrested in February and locked up in dog kennels in the Mandan County Jail’s garage- along with 60 or so other Native protestors and allies.

We protested because of the inhumanity- but also because the pipeline would eventually leak and poison a lot of people and waterways.

DAPL assured the world that the pipeline would not leak.

You Guessed It. They Leak.


I don’t need to say anymore- the article says it all.

The other pipeline Trump resurrected from the dead, Keystone Pipeline, only days after entering office in 2017, has also been having… issues.

“Over 380,000 gallons of oil spill from Keystone pipeline in North Dakota, The amount of oil spilled could fill half an Olympic-sized swimming pool.” ABC News, Morgan Winsor, November 1, 2019

I could go off on how evil Big Oil is-

and I will. Just not here.

This blog post is about Native American’s and how they have survived smallpox and countless other atrocities over the generations- and still thrive today!

I have been reading any and every book on Native American culture and histories as I can get my hands on. I am always on the hunt for another good read.

An excellent resource for more on Native American History, check out-

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.”

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz

As I explained, there will be lots more to come about all this. For now, the lesson.

Photo by Gabriela Custu00f3dio da Silva on Pexels.com


-Contextualizing | Current Global Statistics
-A Short History Of Smallpox | Native American’s, Warriors At Heart | How They Outlasted Smallpox (And Every Obstacle Every Thrown Their Way)

Today’s lesson

will primarily be on Native American’s and their first encounter with viruses. Not a new virus. Viral Infections Of Any Sort. As nomadic hunter-gatherers, they had never encountered any kind of flu, the measles, or smallpox.

We will start with Our Current World to get a feel for what Covid-19 activity level worldwide is. I want to include these numbers in occasional blog posts because it will help future historians- and Students- to contextualize the text better to extrapolate further information, not necessarily in the written text itself.

The remainder of the lesson will be examining all that we know about Native American’s first encounter with smallpox and what we can learn from that. 

The take away for the day? 

Covid-19 is still in its infancy. Many are still revealing new symptoms of the disease. The fatality rate has been growing daily since I have been monitoring it. 

We do not know enough not to be scared shitless at this point.

Stay home. Stay woke. Stay wise.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

-Current Global Statistics

Before we get into

the main aspects of the lesson- let us first get a feel for where we are at as a globe right now.

The globe has 7,774,455,414 people living on it currently.

The United States Of America has a population of 330,516,940.

There are currently 785,817 Positive Cases of Covid-19 Confirmed World Wide.

164,829 Individuals globally have Recovered.

The current mortality count is 37,821.

At this moment, the fatality rate is up to 4.81%.

The United States has reported 140,904 positive cases of Covid-19.

2,405 American’s have died at the time of posting.

These are sad and scary numbers.

With “suggested” quarantine and extreme social distancing prolonged through Easter right up until the end of April (4/30/2020), we will have time to monitor these numbers more.

Let us move onto the meat of the lesson.

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? the idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Chief Seattle
Controversy lies around whether Chief Seattle ever uttered these words or not. He may not have, but there is a higher likelihood that he did. Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Native American’s

were aware of Colonists from almost the moment they landed on the shores of “The New World.” 

I refrained from phrasing the sentence – “Native American’s were aware of Colonists from almost the moment they landed on their shores,” because Native American’s did not believe in the ownership of land, water, or sky. 

Also, because of Native American’s beliefs, they saw the white men not as feared foreigners, but as naive young cousins. The colonists sure didn’t know how to grow corn or live off this heavily wooded land. Corn actually originated in Meso-America; Europeans had never seen it before. The Colonists also were not experienced hunters in densely forested areas.

North America has some record cold winters; early colonists’ prior experiences did not prepare them.

The colonists were far outside of their experience level.

If Native American’s hadn’t stepped in

and rescued the early explorers- it may have taken generations more to make it across the ocean. Native’s were continually taking in others; escaped African slaves; French Colonists relocated to the south, or runaway Europeans looking for freedom from oppressive religious beliefs.

I do not need to source any material here, because a simple personal search will more than fill the coffers.

Take a moment and consider- if Native’s had fashioned a seafaring canoe- would Europeans have welcomed them as warmly?

An illustration of Ottawa Chief, Pontiac confronting Colonel Henry Bouquet who authorized his officers to spread smallpox amongst native Americans by deliberately infecting blankets after peace talks. 
MPI/Getty Images

-A Short History Of Smallpox | Native American’s, Warriors At Heart | How They Outlasted Smallpox (And Every Obstacle Every Thrown Their Way)

Native American’s never had any viruses before Colonists came across the ocean. Viral diseases actually came from the “civilized” people of the globe- the Eurasians.

Whoa. How can that be?!

It is hard to believe at first glance, but the reasons behind it make sense. PBS has us covered.

So where does this deadly disease come from, and why was it linked to Europeans?

“For thousands of years, the people of Eurasia lived in close proximity to the largest

variety of domesticated mammals in the world – eating, drinking, and breathing in the germs these animals bore. Over time, animal infections crossed species, evolving into new strains which became deadly to man. Diseases like smallpox, influenza and measles were in fact the deadly inheritance of the Eurasian farming tradition – the product of thousands of years spent farming livestock.

These epidemic Eurasian diseases flourished in dense communities and tended to explode in sudden, overwhelming spates of infection and death. Transmitted via coughing, sneezing and tactile infection, they wreaked devastation throughout Eurasian history – and in the era before antibiotics, thousands died.

But not everyone.

With each epidemic eruption, some people survived, acquiring antibodies and immunities which they passed on to the next generation. Over time, the population of Europe gained increased immunity, and the devastating impact of traditional infections decreased.

Yet the people of the New World had no history of prior exposure to these germs. They farmed only one large mammal – the llama – and even this was geographically isolated. The llama was never kept indoors, it wasn’t milked and only occasionally eaten – so the people of the New World were not troubled by cross-species viral infection.

When the Europeans arrived, carrying germs which thrived in dense, semi-urban populations, the indigenous people of the Americas were effectively doomed. They had never experienced smallpox, measles or flu before, and the viruses tore through the continent, killing an estimated 90% of Native Americans.”


Within just a few generations,

the continents of the Americas were virtually emptied of their native inhabitants – some academics estimate that approximately 20 million people may have died in the years following the European invasion – up to 95% of the population of the Americas.


I included figures at the beginning of the blog.

Let us put the past smallpox tragedy into modern perspective- 

320 Million Americans Alive today x .90(%) = 288,000,000 American’s DEAD!

320,000,000 – 288,000,000 = 32 Million American’s would survive the 90% statistic.

Those numbers are staggering!

There is no evidence

to show that Covid-19 will reach those deadly limits- after all, Native American’s had never encountered any viruses when smallpox hit. They had zero immunity. SARS-CoV-2 might be a new viral strain- but it is comprised of old viral strains.

However, I think it hits home more when you take old statistics, and you examine them from your own worldview.

Imagine being the 5-10% that lived. How do you even carry on after that?

Here is an account from a Native American perspective:

Smallpox epidemic ravages Native Americans on the northwest coast of North America in the 1770s.

By Greg Lange | Posted 1/23/2003

A few Indian oral histories survive

that may describe the 1770s epidemic. In the 1890s, an “aged informant” from the Squamish tribe, located near the mouth of the Fraser River, related the history of a catastrophic illness to ethnographer Charles Hill-Tout. The ethnographer wrote:

“[A] dreadful misfortune befell them. … One salmon season the fish were found to be covered with running sores and blotches, which rendered them unfit for food. But as the people depended very largely upon these salmon for their winter’s food supply, they were obliged to catch and cure them as best they could, and store them away for food. They put off eating them till no other food was available, and then began a terrible time of sickness and distress. A dreadful skin disease, loathsome to look upon, broke out upon all alike. None were spared. Men, women, and children sickened, took the disease and died in agony by hundreds, so that when the spring arrived and fresh food was procurable, there was scarcely a person left of all their numbers to get it. Camp after camp, village after village, was left desolate. The remains of which, said the old man, in answer by my queries on this, are found today in the old camp sites or midden-heaps over which the forest has been growing for so many generations. Little by little the remnant left by the disease grew into a nation once more, and when the first white men sailed up the Squamish in their big boats, the tribe was strong and numerous again” (Boyd, 55).

It would be nice

to think that while the death toll is exuberant, it was bound to happen with all the explorers at the time and the world getting smaller that Native American’s would eventually have to deal with viruses one way or another.

While that might be true, the people of the America’s never got a chance to build up any kind of generational immunity to viruses. The first one they encountered was smallpox, and it was used (crudely) as intentional biological warfare.

I am aware that I have some of you Readers up in arms.

No avoiding it.

The truth sucks sometimes.

Patrick J. Kiger of History Channel investigates.

Did Colonists Give Infected Blankets To Native Americans As Biological Warefare? There is evidence that the British colonists in the 18th-century America gave Native Americans smallpox-infected blankets at least once- but did it work?

North American colonists’ warfare against Native Americans

often was horrifyingly brutal. But one method they appear to have used—perhaps just once—shocks even more than all the bloody slaughter: The gifting of blankets and linens contaminated with smallpox. The virus causes a disease that can inflict disfiguring scars, blindness and death. The tactic constitutes a crude form of biological warfare—but accounts of the colonists using it are actually scant.

I appreciate Kiger and his hard work in researching. However, I will say that there is more than “actually scant” evidence- and here is some.

“The reinforcement you have ordered this way is considerable by the additional number of officers, will fully enable me to crush the little opposition they may dare to offer along the Road, and Insure that Part of the Country against all their future attacks, till you think proper to order us to act in conjunction with the rest of your forces to exterminate that Vermin from a Country they have forfeited, and with it all claim to the rights of humanity.” — Col. Henry Bouquet, 23 June, 1763

Continued, same letter as above: “I have no pretension to be a judge of Indian affairs, but I should be sorry we should ever appear to be under the best obligation to the perfidious Cherokees, and as to the Catawba, they are no more a nation. I would rather chose [sic] the liberty to kill any Savage that may come in our way, than to be perpetually doubtful whether they are friends or foes.” — Col. Henry Bouquet, 23 June, 1763
“There is no doubt but it is, & has been, in the power of the Six Nations to Interrupt the Communications at any time since the Troops were Detached from their Continent to the Highland, were they Disposed thereto; But there is as little Doubt but that such a Step would, in the End, bring Ruin on their own Heads; And therefore It is as much their own Interest as Ours to Remain Quick & Peaceable. Indeed, it is more so; for their Commencing Hostilities against Us & Persisting therein might be Attended with the Loss of Inferior Posts & a few of our People at first, but must Inevitably Occasion such measures to be taken and would Bring about the Total Extirpation of those Indian Nations.” — Gen. Jeffery Amherst, 9 July 1763
“I will try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets that may fall in their hands, taking care however not to get the disease myself. As it is a pity to appose good men against them, I wish we could make use of the Spaniards’ method, and hunt them with English dogs, supported by Rangers and some light horse, who would, I think, effectively extirpate or remove that vermin.” — Col. Henry Bouquet, 13 July, 1763
“You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of Blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Exorable Race. I should be very glad your scheme for hunting them down by Dogs could take effect, but England is at too great a distance to think of that at present.” — Gen. Jeffery Amherst, 16 July 1763
“Sir, I am to own your Letters of the 27th July, which came to hand last night. I do not devise to enter into any Negotiations with the Tribes engaged in the present Insurrection, until they have suffered a most severe Chastisement, which must be Previous to any accommodations or they will most assuredly break it. Indeed their Total Extirpation is scarce sufficient Atonement for the Barbary and Inhuman deeds they have Committed.” — Gen. Jeffery Amherst, 7 August, 1763
“I shall only say that it behoves [sic] the whole Race of Indians to Beware, for I fear the best of them have in some measure been privy to & concerned in the Late Mischief of Carrying Matters much farther against the English, or Daring to form Conspiracys [sic], as the Consequences will most certainly occasion measures to be taken, that, in the End will put a most Effectual Stop to their very Being.” — Gen. Jeffery Amherst, 27 August, 1763

What can we learn from all this?

More victims of colonization were killed by Eurasian germs, than by either the gun or the sword, making germs the deadliest agent of conquest.

Bill Gates,

in a 2015 TED Talk, has been trying to warn the world for years that the globe is not ready for another epidemic turned pandemic. 

The damned billionaire was right. 

Already MILLIONS of Indians are fleeing large cities in India to go back to their home villages- what effect will that have on the new MILLIONS that will be exposed to it now because of the mass migration? What about the world- resources won’t last forever, and even if the world’s healthcare workers can stay healthy- what effect will this have on their mental well being afterward?

Bill Gates, March 25th, 2020, admits that this might be “The Big One” he warned about 5 years ago.

Not Today Hashtag Covid-19
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My advice, Students,

despite how hard it is, is to stay at home.

We do not know enough about SARS-CoV-2 and the long term effects yet to expose ourselves needlessly to the virus. The longer people take to get sick, the more the curve flattens, resources become available again, and the virus gets studied, allowing us further insight into what we are facing.

While quarantined, utilize this time like never before!

(Start the blog you have always been meaning too!)

Drink more water– keep your body operating optimally.

Read more– put down your phone and flip through a book- at the very least read on your phone with “Do Not Disturb” on. Just for a little bit, no reason to alarm anyone by thinking you’ve gone off the grid!

Most of all- stay informed personally– and be ready to help.

No one knows what that means exactly, but if you remain healthy or the symptoms don’t hit you too hard- 

your community will need you.

“Always Be Prepared.” 

Boy Scouts Of America

I hate quoting Boy Scouts Of America with all their current creep factor- but damn it has just come in handy so much in my life.

Always be prepared y’all- someone out there needs you,

Be ready.

Law Matheson

12 blog posts, 11 days, 3 topics. Day 7. renrising.com
DAY 7 #12BlogPosts11Days

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