Smallpox-Infested Blankets

LUKE: Shouldn’t we give thanks first?

JESS: Thanks for what?

LUKE: Well, that we’re not Native Americans who got their land stolen in exchange for smallpox infested blankets.

Luke refers to the commonly held belief that British colonists gave Native American tribes blankets that were infected with smallpox, as an act of genocidal biological warfare. There is only one recorded instance of this actually being planned, in Pennsylvania. It is unknown whether this cruel scheme was ever put into operation, and if so, whether the blankets made anyone ill – they were old, and may have no longer been infectious.

Nine months later, smallpox was raging in the community, but it was everywhere by then, and cannot be traced to a blanket. There is no suggestion that land was traded in exchange for the blankets (if they were given at all).

However, while Luke’s statement isn’t strictly correct, there is no denying the overall truth that Native Americans had their land taken from them, often brutally, and that their population was devastated by smallpox, to which they had no immunity.

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