This innovative examination of the Yosemite Indian experience in California poses broad challenges to our understanding of the complex, destructive encounters that took place between colonists and native peoples across North America. Looking closely at archaeological data, native oral tradition, and historical accounts, Kathleen Hull focuses in particular on the timing, magnitude, and consequences of the introduction of lethal infectious diseases to Native communities. The Yosemite Indian case suggests that epidemic disease penetrated small-scale hunting and gathering groups of the interior of North America prior to face-to-face encounters with colonists. It also suggests, however, that even the catastrophic depopulation that resulted from these diseases was insufficient to undermine the culture and identity of many Native groups. Instead, engagement in colonial economic ventures often proved more destructive to traditional indigenous lifeways. Hull provides further context for these central issues by examining ten additional cases of colonial-era population decline in groups ranging from Iroquoian speakers of the Northeast to complex chiefdoms of the Southeast and Puebloan peoples of the Southwest.
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