Re: diseases and immunity

Gerold Firl (
26 Jul 1996 20:47:41 GMT

In article <4t66i1$>, Beth Williams) writes:

|> In <4t5vbj$> (Gerold Firl)
|> writes:

|> >In article <4t3kpa$>,
|> Beth Williams) writes:

|> >|> I've read Crosby, and know that you incorrectly use his information
|> >|> to support your weak little hypotheses. If TB was an *epidemic* in
|> >|> New 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
|> >well 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.

Yes, there were a number of unidentified epidemics, known only by the
maori names with which they were christened: rewa-rewa, tiko-tiko, and
papareti, named after the maori tobaggan, so-called because the rapid
decline and demise of the victims was reminiscent of a papareti ride.
We'll probably never know which pathogen was responsible; it may have
been one of the familiar killers, or perhaps a seemingly innocuous
endemic organism which goes largely unnoticed in experienced
populations. But lets talk TB here.

Here are some quotes from crosby, _ecological imperialism_, 1986:
"Respiratory disease was a leading cause of sickness and death among
the Maori in the 1820' and 1830's... Nothing outdid tuberculosis and
venereal disease as enemies of the Maori. These two afflictions
provided the ground bass for Maori history in the 19th century... some
infection or phalanx of infections was attacking the Maori [in 1820].
Dr. Fairfowl diagnosed it as "pneumonia in its acute stage, and also
... consumption, inflammation of the bowels, cholic, dysentary,
rheumatism, etc." One might hazard a guess that miliary tuberculosis
was fulminating through the north island Maori, granting, of course,
that their trouble could easily have been a baker's dozen of imported
infections." (p.242)

"Their chief problem, the witnesses agreed, was glandular infections:
scrofula, the tubercular infection of the lymph nodes, especially those
in the neck. [1837]" (p. 250)

"At the end of the 1850s, Dr. Arthur S. Thomson, one of the most
dependable of all sources on New Zealand in the 19th century, stated
flatly that scrofula was "the curse of the New Zealand race." He saw in
some districts 10% of the population bearing marks of this kind of
tuberculosis, and in others 20%, and he pointed out that by no means
do all sufferers of scrofula bear such visible stigmata. "Scrofula is",
the physician wrote, "the predisposing and remote cause of much of the
sickness among the New Zealanders; in childhood it causes maramuses,
fevers, and bowel complaints; in manhood, consumption, spinal disease,
ulcers and various other maladies." It is worth noting that in 1939,
tuberculosis still accounted for 22% of all Maori deaths." (p. 257)

Crosby also notes that many Maori were able to heal from bullet wounds
which would have proved fatal in the old world epidemiological
hothouse, due to the lack of bacteria adapted to such opportunistic
exploitation. This is another example of how a biological bottleneck
filters-out many of the fellow-travelers of ecological culture; just as
the maori left their pigs behind during the great migration to new
zealand, they also left behind many of the "normal" human disease

Regarding smallpox, crosby writes: "smallpox did arrive, but it did not
spread, a miracle for which the Maori can be eternally thankful. In
November of 1840, the _Martha Ridgeway_ put into Wellington harbor with
smallpox on board. It was clumsily but successfully quarantined, and
before the malady came ashore again, most of the Maori had been
vaccinated. Luck saved New Zealand from the fate of Hawaii, where
smallpox got loose in 1853, killing thousands, perhaps 8% of the
population, in spite of quarantining and considerable vaccinating." (p.

This is a very different picture from the one you paint.

Recall that I had cautioned you not to place too much emphasis on
smallpox as the cause of amerindian mortality, since if smallpox hadn't
gotten to the indians first, some other disease would have later. New
Zealand functions as a perfect demonstration of this fact. Maori
population hit bottom in the 1890's, somewhere in the 40,000's,
starting from a pre-contact high of something over 100,000. smallpox
isn't necessary, though it is quite sufficient.

|> 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.

It would be better for you to quote me directly, rather than attempting
to paraphrase, unless you are able to understand what I'm saying.

I had stated that TB can act as an epidemic disease among inexperienced
populations, in contrast to the endemic status it had occupied among
old world populations. It is not as swift and dramatic as smallpox,
which is why smallpox, in free and open competition, will be the
leading cause of epidemic mortality. However, in the absense of
smallpox, other diseases will do the same damage, albeit at a more
deliberate pace.

|> >|> In fact, there is no evidence to show that TB acted any differently
|> in
|> >|> Indian populations than it did in white populations, and until you
|> can
|> >|> 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.

Sheesh. You are incorrigible. Like I said above, quote me directly, do
not paraphrase, because you are either unable to comprehend what I'm
saying, or else you are dishonest.

I did not say that scrofula was unheard of. I said that TB "acted
differently" in inexperienced populations. Not only do we have the
estimates of 10-20% of maori populations showing symptoms of scrofula,
but we also have the testimony regarding the wide array of tubercular
infections simultaneously seen, infections of many different parts of
the body. That kind of widespread, whole-body infection is an entirely
different medical problem from the endemic TB of europe.

|> >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.

I'll take your word for it.

|> >|> The fact that everyone got the disease at the same time
|> >|> 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.

Get your amusement where you can. You don't understand how genetic
isolation and the size of the competition-pool acts as a one-way valve
on adaptability (no plants or animals from new zealand have ever
successfully colonized/naturalized in the old world, whereas old world
animals and plants rapidly spread in new zealand) and your cry of
"inferiority!" is purely onanistic; I have specifically described why
attempting to impute such labels as superior/inferior are inappropriate
to discussions of genetic fitness.

|> >|> (First off, I am Algonquin, not merely *descended* from Algonquins,
|> >|> as 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
|> that
|> >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.

According to fagan and trigger there is abundant physical evidence of
cannibalism among the northeast indians, to go along with *many*
eyewitness accounts; your claim that there is only "ONE" "purported"
eyewitness account is yet another example of your disingenuous
inability to digest any information which goes contrary to your narrow

I still fail to understand why you continue to deny that the
haudenosaunee (by any other name) ate people. Don't you realize that a
loathing of cannibalism is just another eurocentric bias?

|> >|> >Were algonquins also "purported" to be cannibals by european
|> >|> >ethnohistory?

|> >|> Europeans, as an excuse to massacre Indians, often brought out the
|> old
|> >|> *cannibal* tirade, and used it against anyone who stood in there
|> way...
|> >|> 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
|> support.

The last time we had this discussion one of the participants who had
read the accounts of the jesuits in new france posted an excerpt from
an eyewitness account of huron cannibalism. He felt that the writer,
though he was european and a jesuit, was honestly describing what he
had seen.

Now, you have decided that these accounts are pure propaganda, in spite
of the fact that you haven't read them. Your conclusion is clearly the
result of your ethnocentric bias, but it's clear that mere facts will
never change your mind.

If that's what it takes to keep you going, then I guess that's what you
will continue to do. It's not my job to cut you loose from your mental
straitjacket, especially in view of the great lengths you will go to to
prevent such an occurance. If it makes you happy, just keep on.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf