Indian became despondent, generally refused to be ministered to, and often died without apparent adequate cause. The Indian rarely has much faith in civilized medical methods, and when really sick almost invariably prefers the ministrations of his own shaman. Moreover, in the case of the California Indians there is reason to believe that their want of faith in the skill of the padres was well founded; for both Beechey and Langsdorff, differing from Vancouver, note the astonishing amount of sickness among the converts, and comment upon the lack of medicines and the ignorance of the fathers as medical advisers.
Acknowledgments are due to Hubert H. Bancroft, not only for a mass of hitherto unpublished facts relating to mission history, but for many statistics of baptisms, births, deaths, etc., which he has culled from mission archives. These are given by decades for every mission. From these it appears that during the mission period, from 1769 to 1834, an interval of sixty-five years, seventy-nine thousand converts were baptized and sixty-two thousand deaths were recorded. An analysis of the statistics furnished by Bancroft reveals the fact that the death-rate among the neophytes was about twice that of the negro in this country, and no less than four times as great as the death-rate of the white population.
At no time would it appear that the number of the births among the mission converts was equal to the deaths. According to Bandine, the governor states, in a report for 1800, that the number of deaths is almost double that of births; and again, in 1815, the president of the missions stated that there were three deaths to two births. It was only by perpetual drafts upon the surrounding tribes that the missions were sustained at all. The high death-rate and small birth-rate explain what has become of the California mission Indian. The former can not be attributed to ordinary diseases, even when is taken into account the despondency of the Indians when sick and the lack of proper medical treatment. The records show that epidemics of small-pox, measles, pulmonary diseases, and intermittent fever prevailed at several periods, and all observers testify to the early introduction of syphilis among the natives and to its severe ravages. With this knowledge, perhaps it is not necessary to inquire further. When are taken into consideration the unnatural herding together of large numbers of Indians under the most unsanitary conditions, practically without medicines and without proper medical attendance, the ordinary effect of disease being heightened by the dejection of the patients, and then add an epidemic or two of any of the above diseases, and the probable result may easily be foretold. The wonder is, not that the Indians died off rapidly, but that any of them survived.