blanketswithsmallpox, (edited )
blanketswithsmallpox avatar

YSK: Blankets with smallpox isn't real. It's literally made up history. At no point did the genocide of native Americans happen due to being purposely given blankets riddled with smallpox. It happened due to them being exterminated piecemeal by the US Government and invaders. It's another piece of history whitewashed because of a historical ear worm with ALMOST zero truth. Native deaths came from the smallpox doing it's own thing while the US Government did the rest. There weren't explorers handing them out trying to kill natives, the government didn't have some sinister plot with blankets with smallpox, even if people were trying to kill natives with blankets riddled with smallpox, it wouldn't have worked... It's bullshit. Researchers and historians firmly believe it cannot really be passed on that way. Smallpox is a super fragile virus, it dies quickly outside of the body. You cannot give people blankets and contract smallpox from it the same way you can't contract herpes sitting on a toilet seat or AIDS from kissing someone with it.

If this were reddit you'd see it pinned on my profile. Alas, that's deleted so I'm going to try to post something similar here so I can cite it. Unfortunately a mod more recently deleted my last info dump when random people inevitably try to ad hominem so I'm doing it here again.


Sauce regarding the 1 'verified' instance where a US Officer tried to give natives 2 blankets and a handkerchief at Fort Pitt. Historians believe the effectiveness to be almost entirely made up because you cannot give someone smallpox with blankets. Smallpox had already run rampant in the native population.*:


Sauce regarding the far more prevalent reality of Native Americans dying from genocide and ethnic cleansing:

PDF Warning:

Post link:


E: For clarity and conciseness since people were having issues somehow with me sourcing the 1 instance but somehow saying I wasn't including the 1 instance... that didn't work... because you can't give someone smallpox with blankets. Not only was it not even rare, there was only 1, verified, instance... which did not work. The colloquial use and thought of natives somehow being sneakily given smallpox through blankets regularly is a straight up lie. It sounds just plausible enough for people to share it but it has ZERO basis in reality. It doesn't work. And only 1 scumbag US Officer in a war against natives was ever confirmed to have tried it.


The wiki link about the Siege of Fort Pitt says they did that, knew what they were doing and that is was not as effective as they hoped.

That completely contradicts what you say? I am confused.


Ive heard the " ‘They’ gave blankets to the indians infected with smallpox" thing a lot. But never the specifics like it was something that was a planned national policy not a small number of assholes being assholes.

blanketswithsmallpox avatar

Indeed. 'They' giving natives blankets with smallpox was never a thing. Never colonials doing it to be assholes. Never other government entities committing secret biological warfare. Neither are true and have no root in historical truth.

There is one instance at Fort Pitt in which it was 'recorded' to have been done. The veracity of the claims are dubious at best, and more than likely outright lies according to most historians for that area and period now.

Regardless, one instance even if verifiably and undoubtedly true would not make the false history of 'Blankets with smallpox' use colloquially true.

Assholes weren't giving out blankets with smallpox at every chance to natives. Even the US Government wasn't giving them out as secret warfare. Blankets with smallpox got spread so much and used so often because it sounded plausible and kinda funny when you're in primary school. It's simply something people say that think is true, but it's not rooted in historical accuracy.

Smallpox went through the native population like wildfire without any such help. And it was the US Government's near carte blanche policy on exterminating and whitewashing native history at every other point that created the situation like we have today. Only 2% of the US population has any native genetics in it with the vast majority of that 2% coming from Alaska lol.

Even going with the Oppression Olympics, Natives rank worst on nearly every possible metric we look for. Health, poverty, age, etc.


For Native American tribes, oral storytelling and pictographs were the only ways that knowledge was passed down. Until the early 19th century, none of the North American tribal languages had a written form. So 18th and 19th century records are vastly biased toward European settlers. There are numerous accounts of intentional smallpox infection that come from Native voices, but extraordinarily little concrete evidence remains because of this lack of written sources. Did you take this selection/survivor bias into account?

In any case, I too don’t understand the whitewashing part. Can you elaborate?

blanketswithsmallpox avatar
blanketswithsmallpox, (edited )
blanketswithsmallpox avatar

Also if you have sauce for oral storytelling of it happening, I will definitely add it to my list of resources. I've never found anything concrete.

Only people saying they've heard it, but nobody with first hand accounts even from gossiping aunties and cousins lol --- Rehashing the same fake history meme like everyone else. I've only ever found third or further removed sources by people saying similar stuff online who've never set foot on a rez. This is all explained in the sources above too.

blanketswithsmallpox avatar

So you're saying you read one of many links I included of many about that specific instance then... agreed with me? Why are you confused?

LinkOpensChest_wav, (edited ) avatar

Permanently deleted


Interesting stuff and I’m reading through what you got there, but one question: how is this whitewashing?

blanketswithsmallpox avatar

A lot of people errantly believe that natives died out almost exclusively from smallpox (blankets) with a 'little' help from the government.

This was not the case. Smallpox absolutely devastated the native population, but the government did everything it could in most areas to exacerbate native deaths. It's a lot easier on an american's 'white' guilt when you can point to a novel disease for a population as doing most of the leg work. Rather than understanding that across every state and territory natives had their culture erased, their genetics bred out of existence, and were slaughtered at almost every opportune time up to even the 1990's.

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