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View Diary: Indians 201: American Indians and European Diseases (63 comments)

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    •  you might want to read Jared Diamond.. (2+ / 0-)
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      Ojibwa, Larsstephens

      Guns Germs and Steel has a whole part devoted to the issue.

      Basically, native Americans had diverted from the rest of human population very early, especially before the onset of agriculture and livestock farming, crossing the Bering street to Alaska and down into America.

      It is not true that they did not have animals, though - but America lacked most of the classic and successfull Eurasian livestock. But there were dogs and chicken.

      Equally, America lacked the very effective set of middle eastern crops that were instrumental in forming human civilization - wheat, rye, barley, oat etc - what Diamond calls the Babylonian food package.

      Instead they used other food packages based on indgenous plants that were much less efficient.

      Actualy, when Europeans arrived Americans had just switched in corn, and ditched some other, older crops. Corn had only recently been increased in efficiency by cultivation in Central America and was slowly  migrating north.

      As for diseases, hunter/gatherer societies (which native americans still were partly - generally were much healthy - but at a cost of a much higher land requirement per person. Many diseases historically made the jump from animal hosts to humans in the proximity of animal breeding societies. Add to that the fact that Eurasia is much much larger than America and had clear open east-west migration paths on which diseases could and did frequently travel.  So, the Eurasian civilizations had lived and with, withered and developed resistances to many of the diseases that americans now newly encountered.

      I'd really recommend Diamond's writings - his Guns, Germs and Steel makes for a facinating read.

      •  I don't think that's entirely true about corn (6+ / 0-)

        Corn spread into North America well before Columbus. It wasn't exactly recent.

        Also, native american societies were highly developed. There were cities in Mesoamerica and South America, and across the southeast US. They weren't just hunter-gatherers. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a good book, and I've read it, but I think it misses the mark by quite a bit.

        "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth "I prefer to be a total bitch about my science"--me

        by terrypinder on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 09:54:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes and no (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens

          corn had been there much longer - but in much less productive variants. It was only the advances in productivity that had propelled corn into regular and prominent use in northern america.

          As for development, there was no such higly developed civilization in North America when Europeans arrived. Societies there were agricultural, but still with some hunter/gatherer aspects. And they lacked the large scale civilizational features that well formned agrcultural societies develop.

          And, yes, that was different in Central and South America.

        •  Northwest had villages, too (2+ / 0-)
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          navajo, terrypinder

          About corn:

          People who study fossil pollen around archaeological sites find corn long before colonization.  I do know some Hispanics who claim they brought tomatoes and chilies north from the Sierra Madre, not Indios earlier on.   But I don't consider the people who say that to be very reliable, being more activists for La Raza pride than scholars (to my - limited - knowledge.)

          I had a dentist who'd also worked for the IHS who was interested in dental archaeology.  He said that the introduction of corn in to diets had negative effects on dental health, and thus mortality.  And, too, that that effect predated Columbus.

          Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden 8/10/09)

          by Land of Enchantment on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 09:34:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  definitely (0+ / 0-)

            Corn's history as agricultural plan in America goes back many millennia. Archeologists report findings of early forms of corn, and tools to harvest it, between 3000 and 8000 BC. in North America around 1000 BC.

            BUT - as noted earlier - corn is not corn. The quite efficient corn we know today came up during the 1 millenium BC in Central America, and needed another thosand years to migrate into northern Mexico and the US Southwest. It arrived in the Northeast around the turn of the millenium (900 - 1000 AD).

      •  Jared Diamond (8+ / 0-)

        Many archaeologists strongly object to many of Diamond's conclusions, pointing out errors in the data he presents. I have preferred to stay out of this debate as he does present some ideas which should be considered, but does appear to be uninformed in other areas.

        Corn, beans, and squash--the basic North American agricultural package--seems to have been well-suited ecologically for the area and produced calories with relatively little labor. This agricultural package was in place for many centuries before the beginning of the European invasion.

        •  but it supported no societey (0+ / 0-)

          but id supported no societey able to withstand European advance - which puts your claim in doubt.

          It did not even produce a society at par with the Inka and Aztec empires in middle and South America.

          If you follow the logic that efficient agriculture creates enough surplus calories to make division of labor possible, and division of labor is the cornerstone upon which civilization can develop, then, apparently, squash and beans weren't up for the task.

          To put it bluntly, had Northern American societes had had professional artists, soldiers, artisans and merchants, and the political infrastructure that goes with this kind of society, they could have possibly withstood that first, easy assault by Europeans and prevailed.

          •  The Aztecs HAD all that, and it did them no good (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ojibwa

            for two reasons: they also had a fanatical death-cult religion which made all their neighbors hate their guts, and they had absolutely no defenses whatsoever against smallpox - which, of course, the Conquistadors brought with them as an invisible, unintentional, but devastatingly effective "fifth column".

            If it's
            Not your body
            Then it's
            Not your choice
            AND it's
            None of your damn business!

            by TheOtherMaven on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 12:38:41 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  except they had all of these (5+ / 0-)
            To put it bluntly, had Northern American societes had had professional artists, soldiers, artisans and merchants, and the political infrastructure that goes with this kind of society, they could have possibly withstood that first, easy assault by Europeans and prevailed.

            "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" -Prof. Farnsworth "I prefer to be a total bitch about my science"--me

            by terrypinder on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 01:03:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Mexico is part of North America. And, yes, (5+ / 0-)

            the Mississippian societies certainly had division of labor, artisans, artists, long distance traders, hierarchical social structures.  Many of them had already collapsed for other reasons before the European invasions.  Further, native peoples did withstand the European invasions at first. The Iroquois, the Powhattan to name but a few.

            •  Miigwech. (6+ / 0-)

              The statement of the commenter to whom you and terrypinder replied is not merely insulting, but profoundly ignorant.

              Perhaps s/he should talk to Wings, who could document for him or her just how sophisticated and "professional" an "infrastructure" his own people have had for more than 1,000 years.  Not that he'd waste time on it, because we've both long since learned to recognize when someone is wedded to his or her ignorance.

              Authentic Native American silverwork, jewelry, photography, and other art here.

              by Aji on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 05:49:25 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Actually, so did the Aztecs during the... (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              navajo, Portlaw, Ojibwa, Kitsap River

              ...first round. Cortes and his band of Spaniards and Indians allies barely survived. But then they returned.

              The surest way to predict the future is to invent it. — Stephen Post. [Me at Twitter.]

              by Meteor Blades on Thu Nov 17, 2011 at 08:28:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's a very complicated story (0+ / 0-)

                and any gamer is driven to the conclusion that Cortez rolled a couple of natural 20s at crucial moments. :-) It could so easily have gone the other way...and what might have happened then?

                The Cortez expedition was staged from Cuba and financed from Spain. Would there have been willingness to mount another one after the failure of the first? (The governor of Cuba tried, but failed, to stop Cortez from setting out in the first place - he was "for it before he was against it", in modern parlance.)

                If the Mesoamericans had had even a decade or two to themselves, would they have been able to regroup and hold off any other prospective invaders?

                Food for thought for people constructing alternate histories....

                \

                If it's
                Not your body
                Then it's
                Not your choice
                AND it's
                None of your damn business!

                by TheOtherMaven on Fri Nov 18, 2011 at 11:05:33 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  alternative to what? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ojibwa

                  White European history?

                  History is written by the "winners" after all, right?

                  In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

                  by vcmvo2 on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 02:17:57 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Guess you never considered writing fiction at all (0+ / 0-)

                    because the point went whizzing right over your head.

                    "Alternate history" is a popular science-fiction genre, and every once in a while somebody plays around with what-ifs involving the Native Americans. What if they had been solidly contacted much earlier, by the Carthaginians or some other pre-Roman seafaring peoples? What if it was the Romans who made the contact? What if the Norse had been able to sustain their colonies? (See a couple of Poul Anderson stories, among other works.) What if Cortez' conquest had failed? (Andre Norton's Quest Crosstime does an interesting job of extrapolating from this hypothesis.)

                    If it's
                    Not your body
                    Then it's
                    Not your choice
                    AND it's
                    None of your damn business!

                    by TheOtherMaven on Sat Nov 19, 2011 at 11:38:37 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Oh I got your point (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Ojibwa, Kitsap River

                      history has always been fiction written by the "victors." You went way out of your way to make your point. I don't really see why you need to promote your point as if it's the only pov out there.

                      In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

                      by vcmvo2 on Sun Nov 20, 2011 at 01:11:06 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

        •  just looked it up (0+ / 0-)

          highly productive corn became widely used around 900-1000.

          While 6 centuries probably counts as many in most contexts, it counts less in terms of civilization development.

          But I should have looked it up before writing, and given it precisely.

      •  Maize, beans and squash (5+ / 0-)

        together formed a highly nutritious diet common to peoples in the Southwest and the East.  

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