How did the arrival of Europeans affect the diseases among the First Nations of Canada?  

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Prior to European settlement, the First Nations of Canada enjoyed a prosperous lifestyle that consisted of healthy eating, physical activity, and holistic healing. When the Europeans arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries, this changed. The Europeans brought a number of diseases such as smallpox, measles, whooping cough, and influenza that the First Peoples were unequipped to deal with. First Peoples had no systemic immunity to these foreign diseases; therefore, the population diminished in vast quantities with estimates ranging from fifty to eighty percent. The elders and children were the first to suffer and die from the diseases thus removing the legacy and the future of the People. Culture and tradition were lost due to the death of the elders while the hopes of carrying on the traditions were lost with the children. The diseases upset the natural working order in the First People’s communities that depended on everyone to complete their designed tasks for the good of the society. While the sicknesses overwhelmed the people, they were unable to attend to their hunting, gathering, and agricultural pursuits, which left them nutritionally vulnerable and unable to fight the diseases.

As the European population grew, prospered, and learned to live in the environment, their need for the First Peoples diminished. The Europeans traded blankets and other items that were disease ridden in order to further reduce and weaken the native populations. In addition, they did not offer the smallpox vaccine to the First Peoples even though it was already being used in Europe.