Demographic decline of indigenous Americans:
I am rather surprised to learn (Michael Balter Genes Confirm Europeans’ Blow to Native American SCIENCE vol. 334 no. 6061 December 9, 2011 page 1335) that there has been a debate on how big an effect the arrival and behavior of Europeans had on the numbers of natives in North America and South America.  I had thought the effect was devastating. 

The natives in Florida, barring a few who were taken to Cuba near the end, went extinct, leaving only their beautiful lakes to adorn our geography.  And Florida was quite populous before the coming of the Europeans. 

I have read that in Central America the population consists of White, Mulatto who are part white and part African, Mestizo who are part white and part native, Africans, and Zabo who are part native and part African.  There is no name I know of for the grand mix of all three.  There may be a more polite word for Mestizo, but I do not know it.  In other words the Native Americans vanished there as well, although their actual numbers at least in Mexico are great if one includes Mestizo.

I read once that the reason the Spanish brought in Africans to be slaves was that when the natives were made slaves they pretty much died out.  The implication in those far off years was that the Africans were somehow tougher, something I never quite bought into and do not now believe at all.

But the article says that the debate only ranged between 90% lost and fewer that 50% lost with current evidence based on genetics suggesting that 50% is about right.

I shall suspend judgment on the time, but it seems to me that the weight of evidence favors near annihilation. 

Pretty much everybody I speak with say it is all a matter of the Europeans’ diseases.  Certainly there were a number of epidemic diseases that were brought over, and in a previously unexposed population that would have been a very severe matter, maybe 90% lost indeed.  But a healthy population ought to be able to make that back in a couple of generations.  After the initial onslaught they would have had as much experience with the new pathogens as did the people who brought those pathogens in. 

Of course if you have been reading here you know where I am going with this.  In my opinion, unsupported by the best recent research of course, there really was a terrible decline in the numbers of the natives.  They were neither weak of immune system nor lacking in natural vigor.  They had been around a long time and had settled into mutually exclusive bands that maintained their definition and did not freely intermarry.  Thus could they maintain their mating pools at a viable size. 

Enter the Europeans and the whole fruit cart got upended.  The social structure was demolished.  The mating pool became unbounded and fertility collapsed.

There is sort of a happy ending.  Given reservations and the chance to reestablish a social order of their own choosing, the Native Americans have once again flourished with their numbers rebounding.

In fact my neighbors tell me their new dog is a Native American dog.  I had thought the native dogs had gone extinct for the same reason as their masters had declined, but apparently some remain. 

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