Following up from

I received an E-mail of 2006 December 19.

    The story of the 1918 flu in Alaska has been of great interest to myself and colleagues due to its severe impact there. Unfortunately it seems quite difficult to find detailed numerical data, which are the most useful for our current purposes. There are a few short comments in a book published by the British Ministry of Health, available at: MOH_TOC.php

    If you download the PDF of the entire book then search for the term “Alaska” you should find any references.

    The most detailed account that I am familiar with of the 1918 flu in Alaska is that by Crosby in his book “America’s Forgotten Pandemic” (previously “Epidemic and Peace: 1918“). Other resources of interest may be those that describe the experience the experiences of minority/indigenous people in colonial situations in 1918. Geoffery Rice’s book “Black November” contains a lot of interesting stories and information about the Maori and white experience of the 1918 flu in New Zealand. Unfortunately we have been able to find very little information on the effects of the pandemic within Australian indigenous communities. Some data regarding Maori population and American Indian populations can be found on FluWeb.

    Chris McCaw
    Research Officer
    School of Population Health
    University of Melbourne

Here are the results I found in the Ministry of Health document. “Eskimo” was not the spelling used at that time but the French spelling, “Esquimaux”, does work. The Black November book was mentioned in the Taranaki archives here

(Labrador and Kuskokwim were both missions of the Moravians. It was because of the work in Labrador that the Moravians were asked to come to Southwest Alaska)

As Mr McCaw mentions, although the WWI pandemic is 90 some years ago, relatively little study has been made of its origin and biocultural effects, until recently. I am surprised (somewhat; I expected more would have been known about Australasia than of North America) at how little is known of effects on indigenous peoples. We really need analysis of local circumstances, to benefit the larger globe. See also

We also need students to piece together from this and the National Archives and our own oral histories, what do we need to do better for next time?

Looks like I’ve made this plea before, so I’ll repeat it again

We also need students to piece together from this and the National Archives and our own oral histories, what do we need to do better for next time?

FluWeb Historical Influenza Database,, accessed [December 2006]

[page 321, pdf page 371] Influenza among the American Indians.

During the period from 1st October 1918 to 31st March 1919, out of a total Indian population of 304,854, there were reported 73,651 cases of influenza with 6,270 deaths, giving a fatality rate of 8.5 per cent. The reporting of the attacks is probably incomplete but the figures given above show that the epidemic was severe among the American Indians. The mortality varied in different localities especially being high among the Indians of the Mountain States (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming). A total Indian population in these Mountain States of 91,475, the attacks numbered 32,285 and of these 3,553 or 11 per cent, died. The highest mortality occurred among the Indians in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. These figures are taken from a statement furnished to the U.S. Public Health Service by the Office of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior.* (* U.S. Public Health Reports, 9th May 1919.)

A second wave of influenza developed among the Indian population in April 1919.

The following table gives the incidence of influenza and the mortality from it among the Indian population of the various States, from October 1918 to June 1919 :

US Indian cases, deaths 1918Click to see larger image.

During May 1919 a very serious epidemic of influenza was reported in Alaska, nearly the entire population of some localities being stricken at one and the same time. The situation in these places was said to have been desperate. Little medical or nursing attendance was available and to meet the emergency the Government of the United States dispatched from San Francisco on 4th June a steam vessel laden with medical supplies, doctors and nurses for Alaska, to succour the suffering inhabitants of that region. The vessel was instructed to call at Port Townsend (Washington State) to take up more doctors and nurses. [page 322 or pdf page 372]

II.-Epidemic Influenza in the Western Hemisphere during 1918-19.
During September 1918 influenza began to be epidemic in Canada, and ultimately swept over the whole Dominion, extending even to the scattered Indian tribes in the north-west, and to the Esquimaux in the remote parts of Labrador. [pdf page 322; further references to Eskimo populations are pdf page 328]

Owing to the difficulty in the villages of disposing of the dead, the few survivors left behind being too feeble to dig graves in the frozen ground, holes were made in the ice and the dead bodies thrown in.

In the care of the sick and disposal of the dead, the Moravian missionaries displayed great courage and humanity. [pdf page 329]

Hunters in Northern Canada spread a report that influenza was decimating big game and also smaller animals towards the end of 1918; but no satisfactory confirmation of this allegation has as yet been forthcoming. A specific statement by the Times correspondent at Toronto was published in the issue of 27 th January to the effect that ” Moose were dying from Spanish influenza,” but so far there has been no corroboration of the statement. On the other hand Mr. C. Gordon Hewitt, consulting zoologist at Ottawa, stated in reply to a letter sent by the Board, dated 2nd May 1918, that nothing was known officially of the alleged epidemic among the moose and no post-mortems had been made on these animals. He, however, admitted the possibility of the occurrence of epidemics of infections of the influenza type among the native mammals especially among those which associate in bands during the winter months. [pdf page 324]