Epidemics, specifically of smallpox and malaria, decimated lower Columbia River Indians after their first contacts with Europeans. The first smallpox epidemic hit about 1775, evidently brought by hair traders in ships. In 1782, another smallpox epidemic, thought to have begun in the Great Plains, spread out west and reached present-day eastern Washington, where it is condemned for reducing the Spokane Indian population from approximately 1,400 to 700. Smallpox again ruined Columbia River tribes in 1801. Chroniclers think that by the time the explorers arrived, smallpox had reduced the initial Indian population of the mid and lower Columbia River by half. Disease again assaulted Columbia River tribes in 1824-25 and in 1853. This solitary epidemic lowered the lower Columbia Indian population by an approximated 90 percent, in just four years. The disease was understood to occur along the Mexican shore, and the epidemic on the Columbia only needed an infected person to arrive by ship and get attacked by a mosquito. The insect's region did not extend much beyond Celilo Falls, and so interior Columbia Basin people were not affected. One indicator of the slaughter and resulting empty countryside is the reality that Oregon communities were named after others in the eastern United States or were by-products of family names, Portland, Astoria, Eugene, while many Washington cities, where Indians were more countless, were offered Indian names, Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima. Connected: Emigrant accounts of the epidemic of 1830; Excerpt from The Coming of the Spirit of Pestilence about the 1830 epidemic.
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