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Microbe Magazine Podcast

MMP003: Smallpox and the Native Americans with Paul Kelton

Microbe Magazine Podcast
Released on Jul 29, 2015

Paul Kelton of the University of Kansas, Lawrence, talks with Jeff Fox about the introduction of infectious diseases among Native American populations.  Kelton’s book Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs: an Indigenous Nation’s Fight against Smallpox, 1518–1824, published in April 2015 by the University of Oklahoma Press, looks at how Native American communities responded to new diseases, including establishing quarantines, to protect themselves against smallpox and other diseases. He offers evidence that the high mortality rate ascribed to smallpox in native populations had as much to do with cultural factors and the ferment of trade and warfare during the colonial period, as to any lack of immunity to the new disease. Kelton also discusses the question of whether Europeans may have means to deliberately infect Native Americans.

This story was featured in the July 2015 issue of Microbe Magazine