In Memoriam

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In Memoriam

Frazer ,Northeast Montana

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In the summer of 1837, an American Fur Trading Company steamboat laden with trade goods made its way from St. Louis to Fort Union. Smallpox broke out among the crew, but the boat continued to its destination. Contact with the steamboat’s crew during the distribution of trade goods exposed the Wichiyabina or Little Girls’ Band of Assiniboine, starting a terrible epidemic which eventually affected all the tribes of what is now northeastern Montana. Many of the tribes had never been exposed to this virulent European disease and were extremely susceptible. The disease seemed to strike the young, vigorous and most able-bodied family members with such swiftness that burial in many cases was impossible. Ninety-four percent of the Wichiyabina or Little Girls’ Band of Assiniboine died. By the winter of 1838, when the disease had run its course, the Wichiyabina or Little Girls’ Band of Assiniboine were no more. The 8o remaining Band members banded with other smallpox survivors and formed the Redbottom Band (Hudesabina) of Assiniboines. Today the Assiniboine people still mourn the untimely passing of so many of their ancestors, innocent victims of this dreadful pestilence.

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