The Tallest in the World: Native Americans of the Great Plains in the Nineteenth Century

36 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2006

See all articles by Joseph M. Prince

Joseph M. Prince

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Richard H. Steckel

Ohio State University (OSU) - Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: December 1998

Abstract

Historians often portray Native Americans as merely unfortunate victims of European disease and aggression, with lives in disarray that followed the arrival of Columbus and other explorers or conquerors. The data we analyze on human stature show, in contrast, that some Native Americans such as the equestrian Plains nomads, were remarkably ingenious and adaptive in the face of exceptional demographic stress. Using anthropometric data originally collected by Franz Boas, we show that the Plains nomads were tallest in the world during the mid-nineteenth century. We link this extraordinary achievement to a rich and varied diet, modest disease loads other than epidemics, a remarkable facility at reorganization following demographic disasters, and egalitarian principles of operation. The analysis provides a useful mirror for understanding the health of Euro-Americans.

Suggested Citation

Prince, Joseph M. and Steckel, Richard H., The Tallest in the World: Native Americans of the Great Plains in the Nineteenth Century (December 1998). NBER Working Paper No. h0112, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=225150

Joseph M. Prince

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Richard H. Steckel (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Economics ( email )

1945 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43210-1172
United States
614-292-5008 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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