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Native American population through the ages

Printed From: History Community ~ All Empires
Category: Regional History or Period History
Forum Name: History of the Americas
Forum Discription: The Americas: History from pre-Colombian times to the present
Moderators: Mixcoatl, edgewaters
URL: http://www.allempires.net/forum_posts.asp?TID=27325
Printed Date: 03-Sep-2014 at 03:05


Topic: Native American population through the ages
Posted By: Carcharodon
Subject: Native American population through the ages
Date Posted: 31-May-2009 at 19:53

Native American demographics in pre Columbian and post columbian times

 

In several threads the question about demographic issues in pre Columbian and post Columbian America has been raised. It seems that the estimation of how many people lived in the Americas in pre Columbian times varies a lot.

Also the estimations of how this population have decreased in post Columbian times has varied.

 

The question about what caused the decreases in indigenous populations have been given different answers. Some causes that have been mentioned are diseases, war, slavery, displacement, migrations, intermarriage and admixture with other ethnic groups.

 

The number of exterminated societies and the number of vanished people seems hard to estimate and also how to draw lines between people that have vanished physically and those who have vanished culturally.

For example how do one count peoples who have genes from othervise vanished groups but have no cultural connection with them?

 

I think there are still a lot of work to do for historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and others to produce more exact studies of pre Columbian demographics and of the later decrease in indigenous population and it´s causes. It would also be interesting to see a list of peoples that have ceased to exist, at least as more or less independent cultures. 

 

An example of an area where pre Columbian population density is debated is the Amazon region where recent archaeological findings made some schoolars talk about higher densities than earlier believed.

 

I thought that this subject could deserve a thread of it´s own since the question always seems to pop up.

 




Replies:
Posted By: pinguin
Date Posted: 01-Jun-2009 at 04:58
Unfortunatelly, the estimation of the population of the Americas at contact has been the ground of political agendas and pseudo-science.  The people that want to prove masive genocide put estimations as high as they can, while dreamers that believe in missing civilizations in Patagonia or Amazons, also inflates the numbers. The fact is there is no census of people at contact.
 
My guess is around 15 to 20 million people for the whole Americas. That figure makes sense according to the historical descriptions. However, it doesn't fit those people who are fascinated with the "90% of extinction" urban myth. 
 
This article explains pretty well the problem. Please notice that the estimations seem to be at random. Every expert put the numbers that they wishes. The last estimate for some dreamers is 150 millions. Expect the figure of one billion to be proposed by some "expert" in the near future. As you will see, by looking at the figures, these "experts" would be better to work as clowns in a circus rather than pretending to make science... Confused. Just analize the ridiculous figures on human sacrifices in Mexico, and you'll get the idea.
 
The contain of what follows is from the following site:
 
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat0.htm - http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat0.htm

Pre-Columbian Population:

Pick a number, any number.

Sometimes it seems that this is the way historians decide how many Indians lived in the Americas before the European Contact. As The New York Public Library American History Desk Reference puts it, "Estimates of the Native American population of the Americas, all completely unscientific, range from 15 to 60 million." And even this cynical assessment is wrong. The estimates range from 8 to 145 million.

If you want to study the question of pre-Columbian population and its subsequent decline in detail, two good books to start with are David Henige, Numbers From Nowhere (1998) and Russell Thornton, American Indian Holocaust and Survival (1987).

Population of the Western Hemisphere in 1492 according to various experts:

The problem, of course, is that by the time that the Europeans got around to counting the Indians, there were a lot fewer to count

I've graphed the estimates chronlogically to show that the passage of time and the gathering of more information is still not leading toward a consensus. Over the past 75 years, estimates have bounced around wildly and ended up right back where they started -- around 40 million.

I've also graphed the population of Europe in 1500 because this is magic number to which many of the estimates aspire. Native American history is traditionally treated as marginal -- a handful of primitive kingdoms that were easily overwhelmed by the most dynamic civilization on Earth -- but if it could somehow be proven that the Americas had even more people than Europe, then history would be turned upside down. The European conquest could be treated as the tail wagging the dog, like the Barbarian invasions of Rome, a small fringe of savages decending on the civilized world, wiping out or enslaving the bulk of humanity.

The advocates of large numbers, however, are often their own worst enemies. On page 33 of American Holocaust, David Stannard declares, "

robably about 25,000,000 people, or about seven times the number living in all of England, were residing in and around the great Valley of Mexico at the time of Columbus's arrival in the New World".

Now, I've been to England, and I can vouch that the English have left their mark on the land. You can't throw a brick in England without hitting some relic of the earlier inhabitants -- castles, cathedrals, Roman walls and roads, Stonehenge, etc. -- not to mention books, tools, coins, weapons and all the little pieces of the past that turn up anytime someone plows a field or cleans their attic.

Now go back and read what Stannard has written. I'm sure that the point that he's trying to make is that since there were seven times as many Mexicans as English, truly the Mexicans were seven times more civilized than the English, so if anyone deserved to be called "savages", it's the English. Unfortunately, the point that nags at me is "If there were seven times as many people in Mexico, shouldn't there be seven times as many relics in Mexico?" Yes, I've read the archaeological reports that discuss irrigation systems, and I've seen the big, colorful picture books showing jungle-encrusted ruins of ancient pyramids, but the fact is that seven times the population of England should have left behind a lot more stuff than that.

I find the estimates for Virginia even more awkward because I live here. Stannard estimates the population of Powhatan's Confederation at 100,000, yet there's not a single site in the Virginia Tidewater that remotely hints at the complex infrastructure necessary to support even half this number. There's not one ruin of any permanent building. Artifacts of any kind are rare -- barely even a single burial mound worth pilfering. And it's not like there's some forgotten ghost town deep in the desert or jungle waiting to be discovered. This is Virginia. It's been settled, plowed and excavated for 400 years.

I also find it difficult to believe that the Europeans obliterated all traces of the earlier inhabitants. After all, I've been to Germany too. I've seen that bombed-out cities still have a substantial presence of the past, and I doubt that the conquistadores could be more destructive than a flock of B-17s. [ http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat0.htm#n.3 - n.3 ]

In any case, the median of all the estimates charted above is 40 million. It's the type of number that half the experts would consider impossibly big, and the other half would consider impossibly low, so it's probably exactly right.

And then, within a century of the European Contact, the hemispheric population plunged to a fairly well-proven residue of less than 10 million. How many of these deaths count as indictable atrocities?

The Death Toll:

In American Holocaust, Stannard estimates the total cost of the near-extermination of the American Indians as 100,000,000.

The problem here (aside from the question of whether there were even this many people in hemisphere at all) is that Stannard doesn't differentiate between death by massacre and death by disease. He blames the Europeans for bringing new diseases which spread like wildfire -- often faster than than the Europeans themselves -- and depopulated the continent. Since no one disputes the fact that most of the native deaths were caused by alien diseases to which they had never developed immunity, the simple question of categorization is vital.

Traditionally we add death by disease and famine into the total cost of wars and massacres (Anne Frank, after all, died of typhus, not Zyklon-B, but she's still a victim of the Holocaust) so I don't see any problem with doing the same with the American genocides, provided that the deaths occurred after their society had already been disrupted by direct European hostility. If a tribe was enslaved or driven off its lands, the associated increase in deaths by disease would definitely count toward the atrocity (The chain of events which reduced the Indian population of California from 85,000 in 1852 to 18,000 in 1890 certainly counts regardless of the exact agent of death, because by this time, the Indians were being hunted down from one end of California to another.); however, if a tribe was merely sneezed on by the wrong person at first contact, it should not count.

Consider the Powhatans of Virginia. As I mentioned earlier, Stannard cites estimates that the population was 100,000 before contact. In the same paragraph, he states that European depredations and disease had reduced this population to a mere 14,000 by the time the English settled Jamestown in 1607. Now, come on; should we really blame the English for 86,000 deaths that occured before they even arrived? Sure, he hints at pre-Jamestown "depredations", but he doesn't actually list any. As far as I can tell, the handful of European ventures into the Chesapeake region before 1607 were too small to do much depredating, and in what conflicts there were, the Europeans often got the worst of it. [see http://www.mariner.org/baylink/span.html and http://www.nps.gov/fora/roanokerev.htm and http://coastalguide.com/packet/lostcolony01.htm]

Think of it this way: if the Europeans had arrived with the most benign intentions and behaved like perfect guests, or for that matter, if Aztec sailors had been the ones to discover Europe instead of vice versa, then the Indians would still have been exposed to unfamiliar diseases and the population would still have been scythed by massive epidemics, but we'd just lump it into the same category as the Black Death, i.e. bad luck. (Curiously, the Black Death was brought to Europe by the Mongols. Should we blame them for it? And while we're tossing blame around willy-nilly, aren't the Native Americans responsible for introducing tobacco to the world -- and for the 90 million deaths which followed?)

Other Guesses:

  • M. D. Aletheia, The Rationalist's Manual (1897): 30,000,000 Mexicans and Peruvians were slaughtered.
  • David Barrett, World Christian Trends: Conquistadors killed 15M Amerindians
  • Coe, Snow and Benson, Atlas of Ancient America (1986)
    • Total pre-Columbian population: 40M
    • Mexico: Original population of 11M to 25M ("lower figure commands more support") fell to 1.25M (1625)
    • Peru: Pop. fell from 9M (1533) to >500,000 (early 17th C)
    • Brazil: Original population of 2.5M to 5.0M ("recent commentators favoring the higher") fell to 1M
  • Massimo Livi-Bacci, Concise History of World Population History 2d (1996)
    • Mexico: Population fell from 6.3M (1548) to 1.9M (1580) to 1M (1605)
    • Peru: Pop. fell from 1.3M (1572) to 600,000 (1620)
    • Canada: from 300,000 (ca. 1600) to < 100,000 (ca. 1800)
    • USA: from 5M (1500) to 60,000 (ca. 1800) [sic. Probably means 600,000 because he cites http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/wars19c.htm#AmerInd - Thornton ]
  • R.J. Rummel estimates that 13,778,000 American Indians died of democide in the 16th through 19th Centuries:
    • Total dead among native Americans in colonial era: 49.5M out of pre-contact population of 55M
      • Democides in this: 5M
    • Democides among Indians, post-colonial era: 8,763,000
    • Democides in US: 15,000
  • Skidmore & Smith, Modern Latin America (1997)
    • Mexico: Population fell from 25M (1519) to 16.8M (1523) to 1.9M (1580) to 1M (1605)
    • Peru: from 1.3M (1570, forty years after Conquest) to <600,000 (1620)
  • Stannard, American Holocaust (1992): 100,000,000 deaths across the hemisphere across time
    • 16th Century death toll: between 60M and 80M
      • Panama, 1514-1530: 2M Indians killed
      • Mexico
        • Central: Population fell from 25.0M (1519) to 1.3M (1595)
        • SE: fell from 1,700,000 to 240,000
        • North: fell from 2,500,000 to 320,000
      • Peru, 16th C.: between 8.5M and 13.5M people destroyed.
  • Fredric Wertham, A Sign For Cain : An Exploration of Human Violence (1966): South American death toll of 15,000,000.

I can't confidently estimate the number of unnatural deaths (i.e. indictable killings, as a result of violence and oppression, both direct [war, murder, execution] and indirect [famine, avoidable disease]) among Amerindians across the centuries, but as a guess, I'd say 20 million, for no reasons other than it's half of the original 40M, and it seems to be near the median of the 4 previous estimates. (Rummel, Barrett, Althea, Stannard)

Not the most solid grounds, I'll grant you.

Specific Events:

 
 
 
 
 


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"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

Inca Pachacutec (1438-1471)


Posted By: Carcharodon
Date Posted: 01-Jun-2009 at 11:48
Interesing article. It really seems that concensus is not reached yet in this matter. One can only hope that more research and also new methods of research can give more exact numbers.
 
For example, when concerning the Amazon region one can hope that more excavations and surveys can give us more information about the density of pre contact population and about the urban structures that have been found. Also it will be interesting to see more estimations about the yield of the big fishing structures one have found. How much protein could they yield and how many people could they support? Also the matter of the Terra Preta, black soil, needs to be investigated further. There are many qustions to be answered, among others: how much area does it cover (some say 1 percent of the amazon forest, others say it can be as much as 10 percent)? How much crops could it yield? How many people could it support?
 
It seems that Heckenberger and others have estimated the population in connection with the urban structures he found (in the Xingu basin) to around 50 000 people sometimes between the years 1200 - 1650. He connects the structures to the Kuikuro people who today counts 500 individuals. For the whole Xingu valley it seems that he and others count around 10 000 indigenous people today.
 
Another example of estimations of loss in indigenous lives: The years around 1900 saw the rubber boom in the Amazon region. Some researchers have tried to estimate the loss of indigneous lives in connection with that. One such number is 250 000 for Peru and Brazil together (according to R.J. Rummel).
 
In Lars Persson "The Doomed Indians" some figures are given about losses during and after the rubber boom: the Huitoto people decreased from 50 000 to 7000 between 1900 and 1912. Round 1940 they were 3600 and 1938 the number of huitoto speaking people was around 1500.
The Bora were 15 000 in 1910, but 500 round 1940. In a list of Native languages (made by Castelvi) many from these regions are marked by a cross meaning exctinct, exterminated by Casa Arana y CIA (the Arana brothers was among the worst of the so called "rubber barons").
 
For those who want to read about some of the horrors during this period there is this account: Hardenberg, W. E. 1912: Putumayo, The Devils Paradise. It documents some of the atrocities during the rubber boom. Hardenburg actually whitnessed some of these with his own eyes. 
 
It seems that we can get some info for special events like this that are rather close in time. But for events further back in time it will probably always be difficult to give exact numbers even if future research can give some more information.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Posted By: lirelou
Date Posted: 01-Jun-2009 at 18:07
Pinguino, Thank you for actually putting numbers to this thread. I was inclined to ignore it because it looked like another invitation to verbal self-gratification, but you have saved it. You have definitely knotted the quipu this time!

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Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì


Posted By: pinguin
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 05:36
Originally posted by lirelou

Pinguino, Thank you for actually putting numbers to this thread. I was inclined to ignore it because it looked like another invitation to verbal self-gratification, but you have saved it. You have definitely knotted the quipu this time!
 
LOL
 
Thanks!


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"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

Inca Pachacutec (1438-1471)


Posted By: Carcharodon
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 11:39

One can notice that there were rubber booms in both the Amazon region in South America and in Kongo at roughly the same time. In Kongo the worst atrocoities were done during the days of Leopold II:s Kongo freestate, 1886 -1908. The estimated death toll because of these atrocities against the Kongolesians is around 8 - 10 million people.

 

In both these cases one man wrote reports that made visible the cruelties to the populations. It was Roger Casement (1864 –  1916), who wrote his reports on Kongo in 1904 and on Peruvian Amazon in 1911. The report about Peru is also included in Hardenbergs book about Putumayo.



Posted By: pinguin
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 14:26
Good point. Killing and overexplotation it is was the main cause of depopulation of the Americas, rather than disease. That's obvious when one sees the sexual biass in the Amerindian genetics of Latin American populations.

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"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

Inca Pachacutec (1438-1471)


Posted By: Carcharodon
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 15:23

The question of intermarriage and admixture is an interesteing one. It seems that most of the time it was Indigenous women who ended up with European men. Most often these women also ended up in the societies of the Europeans. Not so often were there European men ending up in Indigenous societies. And the combination of European women and Indigenous men seems to have been rather rare. But of course these patterns could vary according to time and geographical location.

Sometimes there could be some Europeans ending up in the Native societies as was the case in New Sweden in North America (where Swedish and Finnish men married women from the Lenapes and Susquehannocks and moved in to their societies). 
This phenomena where seen as an annoyance by the Swedish authorities.
Later on the Lenape people were forced to move westward taking with them some of their Swedish and Finnish members (or their descendants). Theoretically it would be possible to trace some Swedish genes among the Lenapes still today.
The Susquehannocks were more or less eradicated but some genes from them still live among other native groups and among some whites. Maybe there are some old Swedish genes among these descendants too.
 


Posted By: calvo
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 16:45
Originally posted by Carcharodon

The question of intermarriage and admixture is an interesteing one. It seems that most of the time it was Indigenous women who ended up with European men. Most often these women also ended up in the societies of the Europeans. Not so often were there European men ending up in Indigenous societies. And the combination of European women and Indigenous men seems to have been rather rare. But of course these patterns could vary according to time and geographical location.



This is the classic relation between the conquerors and the conquered.

After every major military conquest and domination, the conquerors often made a harem out of women from the conquered nationality; while many men from the conquered nationality were killed off.
During the last few centuries most of the major conquests were done by European nations, therefore the conquest offspring were mostly made of European men and native women. On the other hand, the number of women who emigrated to America were far fewer.

The reverse happened in the Ottoman conquest of Europe; where it was mostly Turkish men who paired off with Greek, Slavic, and Caucasian women.
The Mongol onslought of Eurasia also spread Mongol genes over a wide geographical range from the Pacific coast to European Russia, but mostly the Y Chromozones.



Posted By: pinguin
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 19:50

That's true. No matter there are exceptions. For instance, Mapuches of my country usually captured European and Mixed women in theirs common raids called "malons". One of theirs favorite targets were nuns, but also the women of settlers and even the survivors of a british ship that sunk on the coast of theirs territories are among the groups of women they captured.

 
 
 



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"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

Inca Pachacutec (1438-1471)


Posted By: Carcharodon
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 22:04
Maybe somewhat O T, but we actually have an organisation for the Mapuche people here in Sweden consisting of Swedes and members of the Mapuche people.
It´s name is "Mapucheföreningen Gulamtun" (Asociacion Mapuche Gulamtun):
 
http://www.mapuche.se/index2.htm - http://www.mapuche.se/index2.htm
 
 


Posted By: pinguin
Date Posted: 02-Jun-2009 at 23:34

Hey. I got one of those drums at home. They are called "kultrun".



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"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

Inca Pachacutec (1438-1471)


Posted By: Mixcoatl
Date Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 00:40
Originally posted by pinguin

Good point. Killing and overexplotation it is was the main cause of depopulation of the Americas, rather than disease. That's obvious when one sees the sexual biass in the Amerindian genetics of Latin American populations.

That is not at all obvious. For me a far more obvious population would be that most conquistadores and colonists where male. There simply weren't many female Spaniards to marry male Amerindians (and even if they were I wouldn't be surprised if it would have been frowned upon).


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"Some argue that atheism partly stems from a failure to fairly and judiciously consider the facts"
"Atheists deny the existence of Satan, while simultaneously doing his work."

- Conservapedia


Posted By: pinguin
Date Posted: 03-Jun-2009 at 05:00

There are testimonies in Cuba, by a bishop there, that women were so few in comparison to the male population that many male Indians ended bachelor! That was written by the bishop of Cuba, complaining about the situation.

 


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"He who attempts to count the stars, not even knowing how to count the knots of the 'quipus'(counting string), ought to be held in derision."

Inca Pachacutec (1438-1471)



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