Native people the world over have not forgotten their profound vulnerability to disease brought in by outsiders. In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, they’re taking steps to protect themselves.
South America: ‘Keep out!’
As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world, indigenous communities across South America — from the Amazon rainforest to the Andes Mountains — are busy blocking all access from the outside world.
Native peoples have little resistance to many diseases, and have been decimated by waves of infection from Old World plagues for the last five centuries.
These are brought to their isolated communities by missionaries, colonists and industry.
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Alaska tribes are taking no chances
Far to the north, in Alaska, the bitter lessons of the 1918 Spanish influence epidemic are influencing choices today.
Some Alaskan native villages that did not effectively quarantine themselves were nearly wiped out a century ago.
This time, tribal authorities are more prepared.
They’re inspired by Shishmaref, a well-known Iñupiat village that during the 1918-1919 epidemic posted armed guards, and forbade entry or egress during the course of the epidemic.
A century later, Alaska’s isolated, often impoverished native communities are enacting lockdowns, banning flights, and enforcing long quarantines.
Source: USA Today