Friday, February 1, 2019

A Crime so Vast, It Changed the Planet

In the annals of historical atrocities, few rival the slaughter of the indigenous population of the Americas. Recent research suggests that the 'Little Ice Age' was caused in part by the death of approximately ninety percent of the population of the Americas, a reduction of the population from about sixty million to about six million. With the human population plummeting and the subsequent reversion of farmland to forest, the theory goes, enough carbon dioxide was photosynthetically sequestered in the form of wood that it caused the Earth's temperature to drop.

Pre-Columbian North America was the home of sophisticated societies which built large communities, though racist hypotheses were promulgated to downplay the achievements of American autochthones- the large earthworks were attributed to Vikings, Atlanteans, a lost tribe of Israelites, giants... a whole slew of 'suspects'. In an egregious recent example, a pseudoscientific/pseudohistorical television series pushed the trope, by which I mean tripe, of giant mound builders, identified by at least one crank as half-Denisovan hybrid giants. With the paucity of Denisovan remains, these ancient people have become part of the legendarium of all sorts of 'WOO' peddlers, from Bigfoot aficianados to Nephilim nudniks. As if killing off the majority of Native Americans weren't bad enough, there are ongoing efforts to erase them from the historical narrative altogether.

4 comments:

Al said...

The genocide of the native people and the enslavement of the black people are two rotting corpses in the basement of the United States. And until the white people of this country come to terms with what our forefathers did and make amends for those vast crimes, then there will be no peace for this evil and most dangerous country on the planet.

Li'l Innocent said...

Without downplaying the purposeful killing of indigenous people of the Americas by European invaders, I understand that the great majority of indigenous peoples' deaths after contact with Europeans was due to disease.

Wikipedia is succinct: "..."Old World" diseases had a devastating effect when introduced to Native American populations via European carriers, as the people in the Americas had no natural immunity to the new diseases. Measles caused many deaths. The smallpox epidemics are believed to have caused the largest death tolls among Native Americans, surpassing any wars[25] and far exceeding the comparative loss of life in Europe due to the Black Death.[1]:164 It is estimated that upwards of 80–95 percent of the Native American population died in these epidemics within the first 100–150 years following 1492. Many regions in the Americas lost 100%.[1]:165 The beginning of demographic collapse on the North American continent has typically been attributed to the spread of a well-documented smallpox epidemic from Hispaniola in December 1518." This is from the Wikipedia entry on the "Columbian Exchange", the general term for the exchange of products, foods, species, etc. between the New World and the Old after 1492. The superscript numbers are to reference works listed on the Wiki page.

A great tragedy, but not a crime. Crimes and brutalities were committed; but this vast loss of life was nobody's moral fault. It was caused by natural forces.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

There were accounts of blankets used by smallpox patients being purposely given to the natives. While the germ theory of disease was unknown, contagion was,

Li'l Innocent said...

Yes, I've read about that too. The incidents that I know about were much later, after the formation of the US. I just learned about the terrible wipeout of native populations due mainly to smallpox in the early years after first contact a little while ago, from watching a fascinating on-demand series of educational courses called Crash Course. I could well be wrong, but I got the distinct impression that the soeed and devastating extent of the mortality at that early date is something that has fairly recently been uncovered by historical researchers. Requires more reading on my part.