Disease and Epidemics
Smallpox virions. mag. = 370,000x
source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #1849.
While demographic estimates vary, there were at least an estimated 10 million inhabitants of indigenous North American (United States and Canada) prior to European contact.
In the California region, there were an estimated 300,000 people.
Among the Apsáalooke (Crow), their population numbered some 10,000 prior to contact.
The Schitsu'umsh (Coeur d'Alene) numbered some 5,000 prior to contact, and the Nimíipuu (Nez Perce) some 6,000 in 1805. With entire Plateau region estimated between 90,000 to 100,000 people.
South of the Rio Grande in Mexico there were an estimated 22 million people before Cortez arrived.
With the introduction of infectious diseases within which the indigenous population had no resistance, such as smallpox, measles, typhoid, bubonic plague and syphilis, over 60 major epidemics ravaged Indigenous populations prior to 1900.
By 1855, the total number of Schitsu'umsh was estimated to be 500, and the Nimíipuu some 1,600, and entire Plateau reduced to 17,000 people. (Today, numbering around 70,000 people, with some 55,000 enrolled tribal members.)
The overall North American Indian population was reduced to approximately 300,000 by 1910.
By 1910, the California indigenous population was at some 16,000.
The total number of enrolled Apsaalooke in 1930 was 1,674.
Within one hundred years after the arrival of Cortez, the Indigenous population of Mexico numbered 2.2 million.
And who were the most affected and what were the consequences?
A young girl in Bangladesh was infected with smallpox in 1973.
source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #3265
Other contributing factors to the de-population, though less significant, were warfare and massacres, exploitation, and enslavement and dislocation.
return to Contact History schedule
return to 101 Contact History