Anthropology

Anthropology

Recent History

January 1, 1869

Cancer: Disease of Civilization?

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Bishop Reeve thinks Athapaskans were healthiest people in the world on native diet - would likely die from old age instead of disease, but became sickly from epidemics and Diseases of Europeanization

"Before Europeans came, Bishop Reeve thought, his Athapaskans must have been among the healthiest peoples in the world. But many of them died young nevertheless. At childbirth the mortality was high, especially for babies but also for mothers. Accidents were many in childhood and youth, indeed throughout life. Though famines came seldom, the wiping out of small groups by starvation was frequent. Murders occurred, but not as often as among whites. Women who survived the childbirth period, and their male contemporaries, would more likely die from old age than from disease.

The problem of whether old age descended upon Indians sooner or later than upon whites, the bishop thought, could be discussed only with regard to probabilities, since undisputed facts were hard to come by. He had read in the books of some explorers, and in some Hudson's Bay Company reports from early traders, that old age was supposed to afflict the native prematurely. But himself he was unable to see how those writers could have found this out, even if their interpreters were of the best. For the very idea of counting years, to keep track of a person's age, was foreign to native thinking and had been brought into the Athapaska country by these same Europeans. The only fact that a Mackenzie River Indian could know about anybody's age, and the only thing he could have told anybody, was which of his neighbors were older than others.

By the time he discoursed with us in 1906, Bishop Reeve had been pondering matters of northern Canadian native health and longevity for thirty-seven years, starting in 1869. During the scores of hours in which the bishop shared his knowledge and thinking with us, I gradually came to understand how he classified the diseases and derangements which he believed were derived from Europe and which he chiefly blamed for changing the Athapaskans from healthy to sickly, and for reducing the population of the northern third of our continent from several millions to fewer than one hundred thousand. His grouping of these presumed imports seemed to be:

1. Cataclysmic germ afflictions that swept away the robust and the weak indiscriminately.

2. Insidious germ infections to which the strong were resistant.

3. Sicknesses which probably were not due to a germ freshly introduced by Europeans but which likely were caused by a deleterious way of life introduced from Europe.


Diseases of Europeanization. These included a dozen maladies such as cancer, rickets, scurvy, and tooth decay. Their recent appearance among the Athapaskans was charged by the bishop to the introduction of such foods as bread and sugar, and to such new food-handling methods as the preservation of meats with salt and the overcooking of fresh foods."

 

Bishop Reeve seemed a little doubtful about the heroic Marsh technique when it was used against a germ disease like tuberculosis. But against another group of ills he felt sure the native life was a panacea, preventing those derangements which he believed to be caused by eating the wrong foods or by not eating the right ones. This baker’s dozen or so of diseases he thought nutritional. I consider his full list farther on, along with some additions contributed by Alaskan and Canadian medical missionaries. I shall now select three from this lot, because in 1906 everybody along the Mackenzie River system was talking about them, as part of what they had to say about the Klondike Gold Rush.


Stefansson 1960


January 1, 1939

Weston A. Price

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration

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Price, a dentist, travels the world to see pre-western diet populations and their incredible health.

Dr. Weston A. Price (1870-1948), a Cleveland dentist, has been called the “Isaac Newton of Nutrition.” In his search for the causes of dental decay and physical degeneration that he observed in his dental practice, he turned from test tubes and microscopes to unstudied evidence among human beings. Dr. Price sought the factors responsible for fine teeth among the people who had them–isolated non-industrialized people.

The world became his laboratory. As he traveled, his findings led him to the belief that dental caries and deformed dental arches resulting in crowded, crooked teeth and unattractive appearance were merely a sign of physical degeneration, resulting from what he had suspected–nutritional deficiencies.

Price traveled the world over in order to study isolated human groups, including sequestered villages in Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, Eskimos and Indians of North America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori and the Indians of South America. Wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, stalwart bodies, resistance to disease and fine characters were typical of native people on their traditional diets, rich in essential food factors.

July 8, 1964

George V. Mann

Cardiovascular Disease in the Masai

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Mann describes how dairy fat and meat were eaten by Masai leading to a paradox.

"These studies, like those of SHAPER among the Samburu and of GSELL AND MAYER among the mountain Swiss show no support for the contention that a large intake of dairy fat and meat necessarily causes either hypercholesterolemia or coronary heart disease. Indeed, if such dietary habits are causes of hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis and clinical cardiovascular disease, one must invoke overriding protective mechanisms among the Masai. It cannot be a failure to reach the susceptible age. We should have found coronary heart disease among the 233 Masai men examined who were 30 years or over if the prevalence rate is near that of American men."

Summary

A field survey of 400 Masai men and additional women and children in Tanganyika indicates little or no clinical or chemical evidence for atherosclerosis. Despite a long continued diet of exclusively meat and milk the men have low levels of serum cholesterol and no evidence for arteriosclerotic heart disease. The reasons for this disagreement with the popular hypothesis relating animal fat intake to coronary disease are examined. The authors concede that some overriding protective mechanism such as freedom from emotional stress or abundance of physical exercise may be present. They favor the conclusion that diet fat is not responsible for coronary disease.

January 1, 1987

Jared Diamond

The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race

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Diamond concludes that agriculture was a big mistake.

URL

"There are many things that we seldom question; the truth seems so evident and the answers obvious. One such sacred cow is the tremendous prosperity brought about by the agricultural revolution. This selection is a thought-provoking introduction to the connection between culture and agriculture. The transition from food foraging to farming (what archaeoloqists call the Neolithic revolution) may have been the worst mistake human history or its most important event. You be the judge. But for better or worse, this cultural evolution has occurred, and the world will never be the same again."

January 1, 2008

Jack W Brink

Imagining Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plain

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Anthopologist describes fascinating bison kills at a site showing human's love of meat.

At the place known as Head-Smashed-In in southwestern Alberta, Aboriginal people practiced a form of group hunting for nearly 6,000 years before European contact. The large communal bison traps of the Plains were the single greatest food-getting method ever developed in human history. Hunters, working with their knowledge of the land and of buffalo behaviour, drove their quarry over a cliff and into wooden corrals. The rest of the group butchered the kill in the camp below. Author Jack Brink, who devoted 25 years of his career to “The Jump,” has chronicled the cunning, danger, and triumph in the mass buffalo hunts and the culture they supported. He also recounts the excavation of the site and the development of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, which has hosted 2 million visitors since it opened in 1987. Brink’s masterful blend of scholarship and public appeal is rare in any discipline, but especially in North American pre-contact archaeology.

Ancient History

Books

Cancer: disease of civilization?: An anthropological and historical study

Published:

January 1, 1960

Cancer: disease of civilization?: An anthropological and historical study

Hunters of the Northern Ice

Published:

May 1, 1972

Hunters of the Northern Ice

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease

Published:

September 25, 2007

Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease

Imagining Head Smashed In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains

Published:

February 1, 2008

Imagining Head Smashed In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains

Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective

Published:

January 11, 2010

Food and Western Disease: Health and Nutrition from an Evolutionary Perspective

The Hunter-Gatherer Within: Health and the Natural Human Diet

Published:

February 1, 2013

The Hunter-Gatherer Within: Health and the Natural Human Diet

The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum

Published:

April 15, 2013

The Lifeways of Hunter-Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum

Facultative Carnivore

Published:

January 1, 2020

Facultative Carnivore