‘La Gripe’ Among the Navajos in the Lower San Juan River Basin
Author(s): Christine Jerla
Disease contact in the Americas and its biological and cultural consequences are significant areas of research. The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe of the twentieth-century outbreaks, killing between 20 and 40 million individuals worldwide and over half a million Americans. For Navajo populations, it was one of the worst calamities since their incarceration at Fort Sumner in 1864. Influenza pandemics typically cause the most casualties among the very young and the very old. However, the 1918 strain affected a high number of young adults, perhaps because the older adults had survived the 1840’1860 pandemic.Isolated populations that had no access to medical care could only make the sick comfortable and bury the dead.By December 17, 1918, the chief clerk of the Navajo Indian Reservation reported that influenza has taken the lives of more than 2,000 Navajo in Apache County,New Mexico.This was a major demographic shock to the Navajo. Very little research exploring the impacts of this pandemic on Navajo culture has been completed. The history, loss, and changes in demographics catalyzed by this pandemic are explored. Specifically, changes in burial practices and tradition.
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‘La Gripe’ Among the Navajos in the Lower San Juan River Basin. Christine Jerla. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436843)