Vaccines and the lessons of history
- John Cuthand | March 02, 2022
Opposition to vaccines has a long history.
People who could have lived died from misinformation and quack cures.
In 1885, a preventable smallpox epidemic happened in Montreal, Quebec. Over six thousand, mostly children, died from the disease.
Rumours spread that the vaccine sickened rather than healed and various home remedies worked instead. They did not. The anti-vaccination hysteria even resulted in rioting. The bitter irony is the smallpox vaccine was very effective and smallpox was eventually totally eliminated worldwide as a result. Smallpox now only exists in secure labs kept by the United States and Russia thanks to vaccines.
Smallpox devastated the plains Indians resulting in the death of over half the population. It also spread throughout northern Canada. The impact was devastating. A simple crude but effective inoculation was offered to First Nations trading inland to the western Hudson Bay coast. Hudson Bay traders made a crude vaccine by inserting small pox scabs into small cuts. People sickened but did not die. The vaccine built up their immunity as a result.
Although it was saving lives, many people refused treatment resulting in their death and the death of others.
Recently, some Mistassini Cree have become very vocal in their opposition to Covid-19 vaccines. Among the most outspoken is former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Mathew Coon Come who is also Mistassini Cree.
There is a historical mistrust of government health agencies. An example is the case of tuberculosis. Many sick First Nations people were sent off to distant sanatoriums. Many died and their bodies were never returned. In some instances, families were not informed of their relatives’ death. Some came to believe sanitariums were not a place to heal, but a place to die. Some even refused to go believing they were being sent away to die.
Although seemingly irrational, their reluctance made sense.
A Treaty promise was made to provide assistance to First Nations during times of pestilence. The promise has been kept in the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. Sadly, in keeping with history, many First Nations people are refusing to be vaccinated, endangering themselves and others.
A significant number of truckers are refusing to accept Covid-19 mandates. In protest they began a Canada-wide “Freedom Caravan” to Ottawa. They are not supported by their union. Over 90 per cent of union members have agreed to follow vaccine mandates. Along the way, the caravan attracted opportunists who had little if anything to do with the original protest. The “Freedom Caravan” morphed into a bizarre circus increasingly distant from its original intent. Nazi flags born by racists flew on Parliament Hill. The sacred tomb of the unknown soldier was defiled. People urinated on the monument and gleefully danced on the grave. Charges are pending. People beating First Nation drums mocked First Nation culture and spirituality. The worst example was when a would-be Elder by the name of “Chief Rain Maker” presented leading conspiracist Pat King with a ceremonial pipe. King has a history of spreading thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories eagerly accepted as truth by many. He is outspoken and forceful in attracting a following, which sadly includes many gullible First Nations people.
When the lessons of history are not followed, tragedy follows tragedy. There are First Nation’s mass graves from the influenza pandemic of 1918, now overgrown and largely forgotten. Vaccines work and anyone who refuses places themselves, their families, and others at risk.