President Obama is holding the first ever conference for all of America’s native Indians. Delegates from all 564 tribes have been invited to the White House as the president promised them a better deal.
Estimates of the number of native Americans before the appearance of the white man range as high as 18 million. Then they were killed in wars or by being driven from their lands, but most of all by disease.
With no immunity to the infections brought from Europe, they died in their thousands, from chicken pox, smallpox, measles. In 1618, smallpox wiped out 90% of the Massachusetts Bay native Americans.
A century and a half later, the disease reached the northwest coast, and killed off 30% of the Indians there. In the Puget Sound area, a population of 37,000 was reduced to just 9,000, and epidemics continued on into the nineteenth century. Today, there are about 2 million Indians left in the United States and about 1 million in Canada.