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Explanation for the Depopulation of the native americans

  1. Feb 19, 2009 #1
    Did native americans die overwhemely from diseases brought by the First european immigrants or were the native americans population dwindled down to insignificance because of the genocides perpetrated on the native american by the europeans?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2009 #2


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    Or thirdly, by being dislocated and confined to nutritional low-grade areas, did their resistance to a variety of diseases become less than it were before?
  4. Feb 19, 2009 #3
    diseases spread far wider and faster then contact with the euro's them selfs
    some estimate 90% fatal to native populations

    by the times of later herding of natives to less productive areas
    most were dead allready
    sure some starved after the buffalo were killed off but that was a far fewer number
    then the much earlier first contact diseases killed

    really not a true genocide as the euro's had no idea or intent of spreading disease
    except in a few cases like the small pox blankets
  5. Feb 20, 2009 #4
    But didn't genocides against the indians occur when the americans wanted to add new terroritory to the US?
  6. Feb 20, 2009 #5

    jim mcnamara

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    I am not in a position to dig up the citations for this -

    However - Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond does have them. An example from the book - my memory -

    The population of "Mound-Builders" in 1540 in the Mississippi River Valley was large (~10 million), and apparently was a very successful culture. Lots of farms, etc.

    In 1539-1540 H De Soto trekked through the area. Rodrigo Ranjel's diary survived Hernando De Soto's stomp through the Southeastern United States. De Soto did not.

    Based on these accounts and other kinds of population estimates, there were a LOT of people living there and living very well.

    50 years later, other Westerners trekking through the area reported almost no people, no farms, etc. Farms were now dense woodlands. Where did they go?

    De Soto's tiny army did not personally kill off ~10 million people; the only other assumption that works is they died. Either from a war or disease, famine. There are no data to support a massive drought during that period , let's say famine is probably not likely. They were the big boys of the neighborhood, based on diary accounts. War with neighboring tribes would not have totally knocked them out - to the point of almost total extinction, say a 90% decrease in population. That leaves disease. Disease can do that, especially in people who have almost zero resistance to the disease.

    Read the book, then come back and argue your points.
  7. Feb 21, 2009 #6
    most of the natives died of diseases before they had seen a euro
    and before there was a USA

    if the native population had been at it's precontact strength
    and willing to unite againts us
    we [the euro desendants] never would have had a chance to steal their lands
    but they were more fix on local tribal BS then the big picture
  8. Feb 28, 2009 #7


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    Native Americans succumbed to disease (small pox, measles, . . . ), loss of food supply and attack by military and civilians.

    Dee Brown's, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, gives a good overview.

    The Cherokee were driven from a large area in what is now Kentucky, Tennessee, the Virginias, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Oct 18, 2009 #8
    Although disease did kill a large number, the percentage was around the same as Jews who died from disease during WW II. Right from the start, Columbus butchered people and rounded them up in what were effectively concentration camps, facilitating the spread of diseases and making any quarantine imposable. Many, incidentally also were starved to death.

    IMO, if you take an open minded look at the facts, Columbus and those that followed him committed genocide and knew they were doing so. Here's an article I recently wrote on the subject of.

  10. Oct 26, 2009 #9
    I won't argue that they were not committing genocide, but I will argue that the times were more tolerable to this type of behavior. Their concepts of acceptable international relations were totally different from ours today.

    You can not make any judgments using hind-sight as our morality is almost completely different today.

    By todays standards the explorers were committing genocide. By that days standards the explorers were conquering for their homeland.
  11. Oct 26, 2009 #10
    The point about Columbus is that he was ruthless, even by the standards of his times. While in the new world, he was arrested by a chief Justice who had been sent there spacificly to arrest him. He was led away in chains for his crimes (he was also particularly nasty to Spanish settlers).

    He was brought before the king and queen of Spain, who to be fair aquitted him, but only because of the promise of vast amounts of gold and because they were impressed by his claims that he could find the garden of Eden. But the fact that they sent someone there to bring him back in the first place shows he was so much more ruthless than was normal.
  12. Oct 26, 2009 #11


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    Pattonias, it wasn't just Spanish explorers that committed genocide against native americans. Google a bit on Andrew Jackson and then fast forward to the actions of the Army post Civil War. Believe me, Custer got off easy.
  13. Oct 27, 2009 #12


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    Well, I for one didn't live back then, so thank you very much for not including me in a tribalistic manner into that group.
    Well, what about relative to the murdered individuals' standards, then?
    Was a genocide committed on them, according to their views?
  14. Oct 27, 2009 #13
    Don't get me wrong, I am not implying that our United States ancestors were innocent in the cultural genocide that took place when the country was founded, I was only pointing out that the European views at the time were, for the most part, supporting this invasion of the new land.

    Columbus was arrested primarily for his ill treatment of his own men and settlers during his governorship. The man was borderline crazy. He intended to use the gold he planned to find to lead a crusade into the Holy land that would invade from the far East. His obsession was what drove him to explore.

    Custer's arrogance is what led to his downfall. He didn't believe that an army of Native Americans could ever defeat a US cavalry unit. He led his men to slaughter.

    I think my only argument was whether or not the Conquistadors were "knowingly" committing genocide.
    They were committing genocide, but the times were different. Genocide was the standard practice throughout Ancient History and toward the end of the Dark Ages. I think when discussing the topic you have to be careful not to try to compare the warfare practices of the time to those of today in what was considered right and wrong at the time.

    Please understand, when I think about all the Mayan records that were destroyed, thus erasing most of the recorded history of their empire, it make my stomach turn.

    You have to forgive me, I often play devils advocate for sake of the discussion. I think it makes for better dialog. I wouldn't try and support the Nazi's simply because they thought they were doing right. I just try to make sure that everyone is thinking about the complexities of the issues. Why these atrocities happened. Not just because of individual wrongs, but because of issues with society as a whole.
  15. Oct 27, 2009 #14


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    So you don't think those who were murdered at that time had "views" upon the desirability or undesirability of their own impending deaths?

    Or is it only the killers' mentality and cultural mileu of that time that should be used as the standard by which the..killer is judged?
  16. Oct 27, 2009 #15
    Perhaps you should take a nap...

    Has anyone who has ever been killed wanted to be killed? How does that affect the outcome? How does that help us to understand the motives throughout history?

    Are you implying that all of these people were total innocents? Had there peoples never wiped out other competing tribes? They definitely were not some peaceful utopia that the Europeans

    The environment of the culture should be at the very center of the debate. Were the people of the past, as a whole more "evil" than we are today in our enlightened state?

    We can acknowledge the wrongs of the past, but we must realize that these events were a part of the evolution of our way of thinking today.

    I have been trying to think of a way to explain my point in a more concise fashion and I will make that attempt here.

    I believe that the destruction of the Native American cultures was a result of the evolution of European cultures. The North and South American natives were a casualty of the expansion and evolution of the Western European cultures. I doubt you could identify any particular people who haven't as a society or nation committed atrocities in their past. We should try, through the study of history, to identify where these flaws in our society exist.

    The statement above regarding Christopher Columbus knowingly committing genocide is true in a sense, but the blame does not stop there. At the time, this was acceptable. As long as Columbus was expanding the interests of Portugal they did not really care what happened to the natives. That was the real wrong.

    In relation to the depopulation of the native Americans, I would have to say that the primary reason for their depopulation was the expansion of the Western European culture and civilization. This led to the contributing factors which were outlined in the above posts.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2009
  17. Oct 27, 2009 #16


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    Not entirely true, since the Plains Indians were pretty impressive cavalry units themselves, and he knew that. Custer and his ilk had very often attacked encampments with women, children and elderly. This time, he was up against a force that was overwhelmingly healthy armed males. His Arikira scouts understood the magnitude of the forces assembling at Greasy Grass, and tried to warn him. He gave at least some of the scouts leave to stay behind, and those that did so lived to see another day. Custer had two carriage-mounted .45-70 cal Gatling guns with caissons full of ammunition. He elected to leave them at Fort Lincoln because the teamsters and the gunnery crews would have "slowed him down". Custer was brash and he made serious tactical errors, as he had in the CW. Had he heeded his scouts' warnings and waited until supporting troops could take up reinforcing positions AND brought the machine-guns, the Indians would not have stood much of a chance. Riding into a valley armed with single-shot Springfields, when many of his foes had Winchester repeating rifles was not a matter of arrogance, but of ignorance.

    George and his wife Libby polished his PR image to make him out to be something much more than he was, but as for bravery (and outright recklessness), his brother Tom took the cake, winning the Medal of Honor twice for heroism, capturing Confederate flags. Tom died that day too. The eastern press gave no consideration to the plight of the plains tribes and painted the whole situation as a massacre of loyal soldiers by savages. The resulting swing in public opinion doomed the plains tribes to near-extinction.
  18. Oct 27, 2009 #17
    Thank you, I had never heard the story with these details.
  19. Oct 27, 2009 #18


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    Hmm..developing modes of resistance, perhaps?
    Or sinking into resigned apathy?
    By understanding, for example, that moral outrage can well be a motive for historical behaviour, without which the events mentioned would not be comprehensible.
    AND, not the least, recognizing those instances where moral outrage may have most likely occurred, even though we do not possess any written material to that effect.

    Utilizing empathy in a rational, cautious manner may help us build models of micro-history that have greater explanatory value than attempts to do so without the use of empathy.

    Just for starters, that is..
  20. Oct 27, 2009 #19


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    It's not taught in US schools with any relevant detail - just a broad-brush picture. Custer wasn't much of a general in the Civil War, though the press loved him for his flamboyance. At the end of the war, he tried to retain his general's rank, although there had been thousands of generals in the war with brevet promotions. There was no room for him at that rank in the regular army, so eventually (and reluctantly), he took a Colonel's commission and moved west to kill Indians.

    If you should decide to read a history of Custer, please do yourself a big favor and avoid "Boots and Saddles", "Following the Guidon", and "Tenting on the Plains" - all written by Elizabeth Custer.
  21. Oct 27, 2009 #20
    I think I agree with you, if I am understanding you correctly. If you over-empathize you could end up with a historical "Stockholm syndrome." You don't want to try to actually justify the atrocities of the past. Empathy would really only help you identify some of the reasons why these atrocities happened. Why people capable of committing them were allowed to do so.
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