Native Americans have been miss understood and ill-treated by their conquerors for over 300 years (Healey, 1997). Believing that he had reached the West Indies Christopher Columbus called the indigenous population the "people of India" (Schaefer, 1996). Many of the people in the United States today view Thanksgiving and the discovery of the "New World" by Columbus as a milestone to the development of this Nation. In reality the arrival of the Europeans throughout North America produced a demographic breakdown of the American Indian people. This paper will investigate the effect of institutional racism perpetuated historically by the U.S. Government on Native Americans. It will outline how the arrival of the Anglo-European fore fathers of America have unintentionally, intentionally, and systematically destroyed the American Indian way of life. .
American Indian Demise to Disease.
Many people believe that the Europeans defeated American Indian tribes because they were inferior on the battlefield. Although, many have been destroyed through warfare, the vast majority of them have been conquered because they had no resistance to the multitude of diseases brought to this continent by the Europeans (Mihesuah, 1996). The American Indians had no immunity to these illnesses. The first century after contact was the most disastrous, between 1520 and 1600 31 major epidemics swept across the land. The Indians died quickly after exposure to these epidemics. The Indian population of North America fell from about five million at contact to three million individuals within 100 years (Mihesuah, 1996). One reason that such epidemics were so destructive was that without any immunity whatsoever the American Indian population was nearly all afflicted or infected by a disease at the same time. Another reason was the inferior medical practices employed by the Indians, such as sweat houses, herbs, and spiritual prayer were grossly inadequate for these Eastern spawned illnesses (Thornton, 1942).