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Death Stalks the Yakama: Epidemiological Transitions and Mortality on the Yakama Indian Reservation, 1888-1964

Clifford E. Trafzer
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    Death Stalks the Yakama
    Book Description:

    Clifford Trafzer's disturbing new work,Death Stalks the Yakama, examines life, death, and the shockingly high mortality rates that have persisted among the fourteen tribes and bands living on the Yakama Reservation in the state of Washington. The work contains a valuable discussion of Indian beliefs about spirits, traditional causes of death, mourning ceremonies, and memorials. More significant, however, is Trafzer's research into heretofore unused parturition and death records from 1888-1964. In these documents, he discovers critical evidence to demonstrate how and why many reservation people died in "epidemics" of pneumonia, tuberculosis, and heart disease.Death Stalks the Yakama, takes into account many variables, including age, gender, listed causes of death, residence, and blood quantum. In addition, analyses of fetal and infant mortality rates as well as crude death rates arising from tuberculosis, pneumonia, heart disease, accidents, and other causes are presented. Trafzer argues that Native Americans living on the Yakama Reservation were, in fact, in jeopardy as a result of the "reservation system" itself. Not only did this alien and artificial culture radically alter traditional ways of life, but sanitation methods, housing, hospitals, public education, medicine, and medical personnel affiliated with the reservation system all proved inadequate, and each in its own way contributed significantly to high Yakama death rates.

    eISBN: 978-0-87013-960-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiii)
    Clifford E. Trafzer
  4. PART ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Death Stalks the Yakamareflects my interest in an interdisciplinary approach to Native American history, using documents and methodologies of social history, religious studies, anthropology, sociology, oral history, and oral literature. It is hoped that this approach contributes to scholarly inquiry about native peoples by offering a broader understanding of the statistical data created from the Yakama Death Certificates.¹ The book is intended to be a narrowly defined scholarly study that focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on Death Certificates, Death Registers, and Birth Registers. The work is not a demographic or population history of the Yakama, but a study of...

  5. PART TWO The Yakama
    (pp. 23-66)

    From Lake Keeschelus in the Cascade Mountains of west central Washington state flows a magnificent river. It snakes its way southeasterly through evergreen forests and into an open, rolling valley. The river cuts across a portion of the Great Columbia Plateau and receives the water of dozens of tributaries such as the Naches, Ahtanum, Toppenish, Satus, and Selah. After a lengthy journey through high ridges, rolling hills, and dark canyons, the river flows into the Columbia River. Since the beginning of time, the Yakima River has been the home of hundreds of Native Americans who share the name of the...

  6. PART THREE Yakama Death Certificates: Theoretical and Methodological Orientations
    (pp. 67-122)

    Death Stalks the Yakamais an outgrowth of work on the history of the Palouse Indians, native people who once lived along the Snake River from roughly west of what is today Clarkston, Washington, to Pasco, Washington. In the process of doing research forRenegade Tribe: The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest,several important documents from the Yakama Indian Agency Papers from the National Archives, Pacific Northwest Region, in Seattle were discovered.¹ Archivist Joyce Justice helped locate this material. Yakama Agency documents are important for several reasons. Obviously, they enhance our understanding of Palouse Indians,...

  7. PART FOUR Comparison of Yakama Death Rates with Other Populations
    (pp. 123-186)

    Over half of the deaths on the Yakama Reservation between 1888 and 1964 resulted from three major causes, namely tuberculosis, pneumonia, and heart disease (figure 1.2). Comparisons made here in relation to deaths from these diseases are drawn from Yakama Death Certificates which contain clinical, not medical, explanations of death. Unfortunately, the data from the Yakama Death Certificates during the years from 1888 to 1923 are poor and will generally not be used for comparing crude Yakama death rates with the general population of Washington, the African American population, or white population of the United States. A comparative analysis of...

  8. Part Five Conclusion
    (pp. 187-210)

    Yakama Reservation underwent major epidemiological and nutritional transitions over time. They have survived radical cultural changes, the difficulties of a white invasion of their lands, and the trials that ensued after the imposition of the Yakama Treaty of 1855. The harvest of the American invasion and that agreement led to what has been called the Plateau Indian War of 1855–58 and the establishment of the reservation system in the Pacific Northwest. In turn, the reservation system exacerbated the effects of infectious diseases that spread throughout the Northwest during the Age of Pestilence, beginning in the late eighteenth and early...

  9. Appendix
    (pp. 212-238)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-266)
  11. Index
    (pp. 267-278)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-279)