What if Disease Didn’t Wipe Out the Native Americans?
By Bryan Wright
By the time the British colonies were established in North America, The Native American population was only 10 percent of what it had been. 90 percent of American Indians were killed by Old-world disease. That’s the equivalent of aliens exploring Earth only to fight a group of survivors, a mere shadow of what they used to be. Now I’m not saying Native American people all had gleaming cities. well some did. But it’s often overlooked just how much disease played a part into Europe’s conquering of the New world. Using alternate history we ask a question. What if disease had not wiped out the Native Americans? How would interaction with the Americas go? Well here is one scenario. In our timeline the Columbian exchange was the trade between the New world and the Old. Plants, animals, slaves and disease traverse the Atlantic. Smallpox, being the most notable disease, ravaged the natives after first contact causing an extinction-level event for the people. It broke down tribes, decimated villages, and paved the way for the Europeans. It’s difficult to predict accurately just how much history would have changed had the plagues not occurred. Almost all interactions Europeans had with native people were with the post disease survivors. Squanto, the famous native who saved the Pilgrims from starvation, did so because his tribe who previously lived on the land all died from disease. Then he died from disease. There’s going to be a lot of death in this video. Had the tribes of North America not lost most of their population, it’s certain early English Colonies like Jamestown would have been destroyed. Jamestown itself almost collapsed in our timeline, so it’s certain it wouldn’t have survived had a war with the natives broke out. Which wars definitely would have. Since natives didn’t have definition of borders like Europeans did, the arrival of fenced-in areas cut off access to previously tribal hunting grounds. This, causing tensions, usually fell into war. In our timeline these war/rebellions always ended in a British victory. But in this alternate scenario, just the sheer number of natives overwhelmed the British. With a much larger population, it would have been a deadly endeavor to remove tribes. Since wars were costly and counter-productive, it’s most likely colonist policy would be more towards trade than war. Simply because you can’t go to war if you are the vast vast minority. So, the English colonists would need to maintain good relations with the more numerous native tribes. It’s difficult to say what specific events would occur after this. The English colonies, and future United States, would only be possible because the land was opened up. It’s likely the English, French, and Spanish would exert influence over the tribes. Picking sides and tribal wars and making alliances with them, and against each other. European outposts/cities would be founded on the coast with influence similar to that in India and China. Trades of guns, metal, and other Western Technology bring an entire new face to native Americans. Propped up by their European allies, Native states could eventually evolve to compete against other tribes/ White colonists. However, over the centuries, once France and Britain gained a better foothold in the Americas, They begin annexing tribal land, similar to the Middle East in Africa. In our timeline the Spanish were able to take advantage of the Plague. Both the Aztec and the Inca fell into disarray once smallpox hit. Had these never occurred, the Spanish would still be able to eventually conquer both civilizations. Not popular with local tribes, Do that whole human sacrifice thing, the Spanish still led a revolt against Aztec rule. The Inca put up more of a fight, but it would be impossible for the new world civilizations to fend off conquest forever. Simply because of the technological difference, the New world would have been conquered and influenced no matter what. The difference though, in this alternate timeline, is the Demographics. Even if the European nations did claim land in the Americas, the native people would stay a dominant population in their homeland, like with Africa in the 19th century. Would they gain independence? Would native nations be formed where the United States is in our timeline? I’ll let you figure that out. So much changed by the plague not occurring; It’s difficult to accurately predict how much this affected the world. Like us on Facebook and subscribe if you have not done so. This is Cody from the Alternate History Hub. [Outro Music]