Christopher Columbus's crew unloads the Santa Maria, which ran aground off the coast of Haiti in 1492.

Massive Native Population Decline After Columbus Arrives


A recent DNA study says the population of Native Americans was cut in half after European contact about 500 years ago.

According to National Geographic, researchers used ancient and mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down only from mothers to daughters, to estimate that the Native American population was at its highest about 5,000 years ago.

The population then dips to its lowest about 500 years ago, a few years after Christopher Columbus arrived and before European colonization began.

Brendan O’Fallon, co-author of the study, thinks many of the earlier casualties were the cause of disease, which “would likely have traveled much faster than the European settlers themselves.”

In good news, O’Fallon, a population geneticist who conducted the study while at the University of Washington, said Native American population numbers have bounced back and the group’s genetic health didn’t suffer any long-term damage.

“Our study did not find a substantial reduction in genetic diversity,” O'Fallon told National Geographic. “The bottleneck was fairly short-lived and, while significant, didn’t appear to eliminate many lineages that were present before Europeans arrived.”

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markboggs's picture
Submitted by markboggs on
Before Columbus arrived and prior to the Disease epidemic what may have Been the Estimated Indian Population !In North America!

editors's picture
Submitted by editors on
The numbers typically used are 6 to 20 million, down to a low of about 250,000 in the US in 1900.

noreenarena's picture
Submitted by noreenarena on
can anyone give me info on geronimos daughter mayaha, if i spelled it right, asap in need