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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter II. — Prevalence of the Small-pox Amongst the Western Indians.

THE summer of 1837 is rendered memorable in Indian history by the visitation of one of those calamities which have so much reduced the Indian population, viz: the ravages of the small-pox, which then swept through the Missouri valley. The disease was introduced among them from a steamboat, which ascended that river from, the city of St. Louis, in July. On the 15th of that month the disease made its appearance in the village of the Mandans, great numbers of whom, fell victims to it. Thence it spread rapidly over the entire country, and tribe after tribe was decimated by it.

The Mandans, among whom the pestilence commenced, are stated to have been reduced from an estimated population of 1600 souls to 125. 663 The Minnetarees, or Gros Ventres, out of a population of 1000 persons, lost one-half their number. The Arickarees, numbering 3000, were reduced by this pestilence to 1500. The Crows, or Upsarokas, lost great numbers, and the survivors saved themselves by a rapid retreat to the mountains. The Assinaboins, a people roughly estimated at 9000, were swept off by hundreds. The Crees, living in the same region, and numbering 3000 souls, suffered in an equal degree. The disease appears at length to have exhausted its virulence on the Blackfeet and Bloods, a numerous and powerful genus of tribes. One thousand lodges are reported to have been desolated, and left standing, without a solitary inhabitant, on the tracts and prairies, once the residence of this proud and warlike race: a sad memorial of this dreadful scourge.

Visitors to these regions, during the year when this dread pestilence was raging there, represent the Indian country as being truly desolate. Women and children were met wandering about without protection, or seated near the graves of their husbands and parents, uttering pitiable lamentations. Howling dogs roamed about, seeking their

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masters. It is reported that some of the Indians, after recovering from the disease, when they saw how it had disfigured their faces, threw themselves into the Missouri river.

Language, however forcible, fails to give an idea of the reality. On every side was desolation, and wrecks of mortality everywhere presented themselves to the view. Prominent among these was the tenantless wigwam: no longer did the curling smoke from its roof betoken a welcome, and its closed door gave sad evidence of the silence and darkness that reigned within. The prairie wolf sent up its dismal howl, as it preyed upon the decaying carcases; and the lonely traveller, as he rapidly passed through this scene of desolation and death, was frequently startled by the croaking of the raven, or the screams of the vulture and falcon, from trees or crags commanding a view of these funereal scenes.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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