Historical Events

Tumors, cancers and toothache were unknown to [Thlinget natives] until within recent years. The white man's food, especially his sweetmeats, is, no doubt, largely the cause of this change.

A Study of the Thlingets of Alaska

According to Who's Who, Livingston French Jones, born in 1865, graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1891. From 1892 to 1914 he was a missionary and in 1914 he published at New York A Study of the Thlingets of Alaska, those woodland and shore Indians whom you pass soon after you reach Ketchikan when you come from Seattle, and all along from there to Juneau and almost to Anchorage. South of the Athapaskans, they are the most important forest Indians of Alaska. Jones says in his preface:

“The information imparted to the public in the following pages has been gleaned by the writer almost entirely from the natives themselves, either through their lips or by his own personal observation. Having lived and laboured among them more than twenty years, he has had exceptional opportunities ...” He goes on to say that he has also read widely, to compare the observations and views of others with his own.

As explained previously, it was common with northern missionaries of the late nineteenth century to name cancer as one of a group of diseases that were believed to be rare or absent. I quote from Jones the first paragraphs of his chapter on “Diseases,” and enough more to show the trend of his thinking:

“While certain diseases have always been found among the Thlingets, others that now afflict them are of recent introduction. Tumors, cancers and toothache were unknown to them until within recent years.

“The older ones have yet sound and excellent teeth while the rising generation experiences the white people's misfortune of cavities, toothache and dental torture ... The white man's food, especially his sweetmeats, which are now freely indulged in by the natives, is, no doubt, largely the cause of this change.

“While consumption is now the most prevalent disease among them, we are told by the natives themselves and by careful historians that it is an imported disease ...”

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