Yet another population crash:
News in Science (Spanish Missions Triggered Crash of Pueblo Population Science vol. 351 no. 6272 January 29, 2016 page 428 It appears that in the Jemez province of New Mexico, within about a century of first contact the Spanish set up missions.  The local population went down by 87%.  This is attributed to epidemic disease brought in by the Europeans and one result was that without the local Pueblos felling trees for timber and clearing underbrush for fuel, there was a significant increase in the number of big forest fires. 

Now I mean no criticism of the researchers doing work I think is important and carried out in a diligent and judicious fashion.  But from my perspective this just might be a case of blame-the-victim.  First, the epidemic disease argument is pretty standard, but in this case the disease came to be significant a hundred years after contact.  I accept that the missions might have provided greater contact between villages and thus enhanced the epidemics, but it was by no means into an un-prepared population.  They had been subjected to the danger for generations without much problem

What would have happened along with possible infections between people coming to the missions is there would have been a significant increase in the social pool.  If the Pueblos had over a long time reached an ideal social pool size, such that there were just enough children being born for the population to be stable, then the abrupt increase in social pool would have resulted in a disastrous fall in fertility.  I would be happy to exculpate the missionaries from any intentional introduction of disease (unlike certain wretches on Cape Cod who gave blankets from small pox victims to the locals), but I have no hesitation in blaming them for breaking down the local social order. 

Then there is that forest fire thing.  The researchers point out that the activities of the Pueblos would have reduced the risk of fire, but why in the world must we assume that they didn’t know what they were doing?  Maybe they were clearing brush for fuel and also to prevent fires?  They were as bright as anybody else.  They had a long experience with the local environment and, if they wanted timber they certainly did not want forest fires.  I don’t claim to prove it; I just think intelligence on their part should not be dismissed out of hand.  Am I just being reflexly politically correct?  I don’t get accused of that often.

There have been 168 visitors over the past month and YouTube has run “Babies Triumph over Evil” 211 times.

Home page