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06-02-20 Past disease outbreaks inform the current pandemic


This is native America calling. I'm Tara Gate would the Karuna. Virus pandemic continues to take wise cause, economic hardship and create anxiety for people. As unprecedented as the pandemic is, there are lessons to be learned. From past disease outbreaks, smallpox had a devastating effect on indigenous people throughout the Americas. The death rate for smallpox was about thirty percent, according to the Centers for disease, control and Prevention. The outbreak is documented through stories and other forms of traditional native record keeping. There are also stories that smallpox was deliberately introduced to native populations by white settlers. Vaccinations helped eliminate smallpox. Our conversation today is around how our history has been shaped by the spread of diseases throughout native America. And what did your elders tell you about? TIMES OF SICKNESS? Call US and share. The number to join is one, eight, hundred, nine, nine, six, two, eight, four, eight. That's also one eight, hundred, nine, nine native, and we're going to start off today in Boulder Colorado. We have Dr Elizabeth Fen and she is a distinguished professor of history at the University of Colorado Boulder Welcome to native America, calling Dr Fan. Thank you so much and honored to be here? In, so we can learn from our history i. hear that home the time so today. We hope we can do some of that and Dr Finn. in you simply like to go by. Elizabeth Tell us a little bit about your research into smallpox. Well, I wrote a book some twenty or more years ago, about a terrible smallpox epidemic that swept the entire North American continent it did so between seventeen, seventy, five and seventeen eighty two those happen to be exactly the years of the American Revolution on the Atlantic Seaboard but because the the epidemic swept the entire continent the great majority of people affected were native peoples throughout Mexico the West even Canada and Alaska. In. Why do you believe that that cell? because. You know I am what's called an early American historian although I think that's a misnomer We all know that early American history extends back for many Millennia. When you count the people who are actually living here and those are native Americans, so the great majority of the people, or at least I should say the majority of the people living in North America at the time of the American Revolution were native peoples. You know we tend to think of these Anglo. Colonists in three cornered hats. No, Yup, the majority of the people were native peoples, and they were. The people most affected by this epidemic. and. What does research say why they were hit by it so hard? You know that's A. Really important question for one thing it appears. generations of existence here in the Americas had. Meant that they were not exposed to the diseases of of Europe, Asia and Africa so there was no. What was what's called acquired immunity We know that like if we get the flu or we get measles, or we're not gonNA get it again. At least you're not going to get that strain of influenza again. So native peoples had no acquired immunity to things like smallpox measles plague cholera I. Don't think cholera a confers immunity, but influenza things like that, so that is. Certainly one of the things that made native peoples so vulnerable. And so when we think about how many people were affected. What are the challenges in getting accurate numbers on how many people even died from smallpox? All the challenges are many I. Think one of the biggest questions remaining for historians to figure out is how many people? Lived in the Americas at any given time, people you know, historians always used that benchmark fourteen, ninety, two I think the question used to go back much longer and deeper There's no reason to think that native populations peaked in fourteen ninety two you. They could have peaked at any time. They may peak again in in the future, so it's very hard to ascertain how many people died but The I wouldn't accounts. Are Quite, horrific some report, and you know ninety percent of people dying some report. Fifty percents people dying some thirty percent of people dying. You know away. What's so striking to me is that all those people had lives lived lives you know beauty and wonder- here on this land. And so a lot of times when we look at these different things were looking at it today, when we think about the coronavirus spread how it spread, and maybe even things that led to large spread. Anything can share about The spread of smallpox was straight.

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