Re: diseases and immunity

Mary Beth Williams (
24 Jul 1996 22:02:41 GMT

In <4t5vbj$> (Gerold Firl)
>In article <4t3kpa$>, Beth Williams) writes:

It doesn't matter if Joel replied or not (and btw, he stated it was a
>|> Midwestern group, which rules out the Lakota, and that it happened
>|> _early_ in this century) as you took the citation and ran with it,
>|> using it to support your entire hypothesis...You now claim that you
>|> don't even know if it was a 19th century event! Did you even ever
>|> UP the citation in MacNeill?????
>One of the reasons why a discussion with you is so nonproductive is
>because you have such a tenuous grasp on the preceeding dialog; every
>post is like starting over. Joel intimated that some previously
>unexposed tribe had been stricken by a virulent TB epidemic which
>manifested unusual symptoms in the first generation, settling down
>later into the familiar pulmonary pattern. He didn't cite any source.
>suggested that he may have been thinking of the example used by
>macneill. why are we wasting time going over these trivial details?
>Could it be that you are trying to avoid coming to grips with the real
>issues? It should be obvious that I "looked up" the citation in
>macneill, since I brought it up in the first place. Have you looked it
>up? Earlier you asked me for the page number. I provided it for you.
>Now you ask me if I looked it up? You have time to write endlessly
>repetitive posts carping about the same tired complaints, yet you
>have time to do basic research on your supposed area of expertise,
>using the fundamental texts that should be a foundation for
>understanding the meeting of old world and american cultures. Just
>is it that you're looking for, mary beth?

Firl, I asked you if you knew MacNeill's source (since he obviously
didn't see this occurence first-hand), and you claimed *Dubos*, of whom
you had never heard, and never took the time to investigate, even
though you continue to use him as your *primary* source.

The point is, once again, that, although you claim to have read
MacNeill, you cannot give any details regarding the purported TB cases
mentioned, not even the time-period or location of the group(s)
effected, other than *Canada*.

As I'm currently restricted to my home due to a temporary disability, I
do not have access to all of your sources, although I have read
MacNeill in the past, and can pull up his text through my UMass
account.. However, since you claim MacNeill was citing Dubos, it
appears going to such lengths would be unproductive, as MacNeill
obviously, as far as you've communicated, gives no information critical
to even determining _if_ in fact this was TB. Hence, if you continue
to claim this as your primary evidence, it only shows your incompetence
as even an amateur *scholar*.

>|> >And as far as other "purportedly *non-immune*" populations, I did
>|> >mention earlier the example of the maori cited by crosby. TB was
>|> >main epidemic killer among the maori, since the islands were
>|> >effectively quarantined against smallpox. You have read crosby,
>|> haven't
>|> >you?
>|> I've read Crosby, and know that you incorrectly use his information
>|> support your weak little hypotheses. If TB was an *epidemic* in
>|> Zealand than it was also in the US, particularly among the poor, as
>|> mortality rates in both areas were similar.
>The maori suffered something like 50-75% population reduction from
>european diseases over the course of about a century (1820-1920). TB
>was the main culprit, though many other diseases played a role as
>especially venereal diseases (smallpox was not a factor).

>From Crosby, _Germs, Seeds and Animals_ (1994) pg. 74-75.
*Smallpox was an extremely effective pathogen in eliminating native
[Maori] resistance, but by no means the only or indispensable
exterminator. By the time that disease came ashore in New Zealand, at
least two-thirds of the Maori had been vaccinated against it, _yet_
_this_did_not_save_them_from_steep_population_decline. Like the
indegenes of other Neo-Britains, they underwent devastating sieges of
dysenteric diseases, measles, pneumonia, influenza, whooping cough, and
so forth.* (TB was _not_ included in that list of epidemic diseases).

TB, in the form of scrofula (effecting the lymph nodes and skin) was
_endemic_ within Maori populations by the 19th century *predisposing
children to "marasmus, fevers and bowel complaints" and adults to
"consumption [pulmonary TB], spinal disease, ulcers and various other
maladies* (Ibid, pg 75.) Somehow it doesn't sound as if three-quarters
of the population is dropping down dead from this form of TB, but
rather their weakened immune systems predispose them, as in endemic
pulmonary and skeletal TB, to infection from other diseases. In fact,
on page 36, Crosby asserts *Some _unidentified_ disease or diseases
spread through the Maori tribes of the North Island of New Zealand in
the 1790's, killing so many of them in a number of villages that the
survivors were not able to bury the dead.* He states, _unidenified_
disease, not TB, caused such high mortality among the Maori.

>Now, you claim that mortality rates were similar in the US, presumably
>referring to old world-descended inhabitants of the US, right? Care to
>put a number on that? The population of the US was rising continually,
>both due to immigration and natural increase, while the population of
>the maori was decreasing. Do you see the difference?

And you claim that this was all due to *epidemic TB*? Just want to get
that straight before I deep-six such a ridiculous argument.

As far as TB mortality rates among Europeans in North Amerian, go back
to DejaNews... The fact that TB was the primary *natural* cause of
death for adults 18-50 has been cited and discussed.

>And by the way, the losses among the maori were essentially all due to
>disease, rather than european aggression, at least until the cultural
>disintegration had proceded far enough to produce a suicidal ghost
>dance immolation.

You need to re-read New Zealand history... Large-scale inter-group
warfare with incredible casualties broke out almost immediately upon
the Maoris gaining access to European firearms... Tens of thousands of
Maoris were massacred by other Maoris within only a few years of
European contact. (One of my colleagues at the CAA wrote his
dissertation on the Maori, and I thus have heard many, many horror
stories of post-Contact events.)

>|> In fact, there is no evidence to show that TB acted any differently
>|> Indian populations than it did in white populations, and until you
>|> come up with such, you'll continue to look like a fool.
>Among the maori, scrofula was the most common (or at least, the most
>visible) form of TB. The lymph nodes of the neck would swell and
>supporate, which is different from the typical pattern of tubercular
>infection in white populations, wouldn't you say?

Scrofula is NOT unheard of in Europeans, Indians, Australian
Aborigines, or other peoples from around the globe, and in fact, I
found over two dozen cases of it in the Statistical Records of Essex,
Connecticut, 1848-1860 (all white victims). If you'd check your
medical dictionary, however, you'd see that it is no more deadly than
other forms of TB, and hence your claims of 75% mortality from
epidemics of scrofula are completely unsupported.

>But you claimed that mortality rates for experienced old world
>populations and virgin-soil amerindians were the same among young
>children. That is, when smallpox first swept through the aztecs, the
>same percentage of children died as among english or spanish. How can
>you make such a claim? What evidence exists to support it?

For starters, try Crosby (ibid) pg. 99, where he asserts that death
rates among the Aztec in the 1520's were the same as among soldiers in
the Civil War (38%).

Death rates among European-American children (under age 5) in the Lower
Connecticut River Valley during the 1787-89 smallpox epidemics were 40%
(source, _Statics of Saybrook Colony, 1639-1860_), slightly higher than
those Crosby cites for the Aztec.

>pronounce it as if it were an undeniable fact; where does this fact
>come from? How can we estimate the mortality rate among aztec children
>due to smallpox?

Crosby, in his earlier work, _The Columbian Exchange_ (pg. 52) felt
quite comfortable doing so... Perhaps you'd like to pick up that work
and see how (particularly since you're anamored with his other works.)
>|> You're saying
>|> >that in amerindian populations experiencing the first onslaught of
>|> >smallpox, the same percentage died?
>|> If you only look at those dying from the actual disease, yes,
>|> rates are the same (and we see this in populations where *immune*
>|> Europeans or Indians were available to assist the sick.)
>Where does this data come from? Which virgin soil populations were
>to gathere these statistics? And what are the numbers: you claim that
>no matter what population we look at, the same percentage of children
>will succumb to smallpox - what is it? This number should be well
>if it is so universal. I'd like to know what it is.

Get a grip, Gerold, and try reading some of the works on virgin soil
diseases which have been continously cited from the beginning of this
thread. Ramenofsky's _Vectors of Death_ goes into great detail as to
how she came up with her demographics and mortality rates, utilizing
both physical and ethnohistoric documentation.

>|> As we
>|> discussed before on a number of occasions (and you still seemed to
>|> missed), the diseases themselves were only part of the reason for
>|> mortality... The fact that everyone got the disease at the same
>|> contributed greatly to high mortality rates... People died from
>|> dehydration as easily as from the disease.
>Of course. That is certainly a contributing factor, as I mentioned at
>the very beginning of this thread.

Ha! Ha! Ha! You have continously claimed that genetic isolation (and
hence inferiority) was the primary cause of mortality among New World
indigenous populations, and now you're trying to weasel your way out?
Too funny, really, Gerold.

>|> >But I guess I misunderstood you. You were saying that since you
>|> >descended from algonquins, you would not try to cover-up iroquois
>|> >cannibalism, since you're hereditary enemies, right?
>|> (First off, I am Algonquin, not merely *descended* from Algonquins,
>|> you so casually put it, and secondly, you attempted to claim that
>|> because you thought I was Haudenosaunee, that I would automatically
>|> disassociate the Haudenosaunee with cannabalism...)
>It's not a matter of my "claiming" that you try to disassociate the
>northeastern indians with cannibalism; it's a matter of public record
>that you did so. You refused to consider any evidence which showed
>cannibalism was common in the northeast, or among any amerinds, for
>that matter.

Wrong again, Gerold... I've always claimed that there has not been
physical evidence to support such claims, and that, lacking such, it is
highly problematic to accept the ONE purported eyewitness account of
alleged widespread, ritualistic cannabalism, particularly in light of
obvious Eurocentric bias in significant portions of that same
ethnohistoric source.

>|> >Were algonquins also "purported" to be cannibals by european
>|> >ethnohistory?
>|> Europeans, as an excuse to massacre Indians, often brought out the
>|> *cannibal* tirade, and used it against anyone who stood in there
>|> I can see that things haven't changed much in 500 years.
>Oh please. So marvin harris and brian fagan are looking for an excuse
>to massacre indians - that is why they don't try to cover-up iroquois
>cannibalism? And yet, most indian tribes were never accused of being
>cannibals. The iroquois were, but then, they had a nasty habit of
>eating people, which may have had something to do with it.

Harris and Fagan used biased ethnohistoric (i.e., European) sources,
not archaeological or physical anthropological evidence, and hence,
cannot be held up to a scientific standard that even _you_ claim to

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro, UMass-Amherst