Since January of 2020, the number of deaths in Indian country due to COVID-19 has steadily grown, bringing into stark relief the destructive effects of disease epidemics on historically marginalized communities. For Indigenous peoples, the ravages of the ongoing pandemic are part of a broader epidemiological history of devastation set in motion by European colonization. The robust body of historical and anthropological scholarship which has emerged to document the impacts of infectious disease on Indigenous people has typically reinforced settler-colonial narratives of disappearance and culture loss. Although we cannot deny the tragic and long-term consequences of foreign pathogens on the peoples of the Americas, Indigenous communities have creatively responded to and survived disease outbreaks. Drawing on ethnographic and oral historical sources, this article documents some of the strategies employed by Indigenous people across North America to explain and treat episodic viral spread from the seventeenth into the twenty-first centuries. Tracing the culturally grounded methods of disease management employed by Indigenous groups over time highlights the resiliency of Tribal nations during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.