Sunday, August 4, 2019

Did U Know the American Indian Had a Cure for Rabies?

By Allan B. Colombo

Did you know that Indians had a cure for the highly feared disease called rabies? There's never a lack of interesting stories in the vintage, collectible magazines that we offer in the Western Magazine Digest store. For example, the issue of Indians' ability to cure rabies was discussed in the March 1977 issue of Frontier Times.

The story centers on a man by the name of Edward Thompson Denig, born in 1812, from McConnellstown, PA, whom discovered the fact that Indians of that time period know how to cure this most dreaded disease, even after the poor soul who has it became paralyzed and essentially helpless. Most of us in modern times, if left untreated, would have entered a coma after paralysis and eventually died. Not so the Assiniboin, a local Indian tribe that Denig married into.
(Editor's Note: Click on any of these photos to enlarge.)

Denig, who worked for the American Fur Company as a fur trader, first encountered the Crow, Blackfoot, Plains Cree, Teton Sioux, and the Assiniboin when he traveled on the Upper Missouri on a steamboat with a German explorer by the name of Maximilian, Prince of Wied-Newied. It was Maximilian's artist, Karl Bodmer, that was commissioned to paint the various Indians that Denig traded with. Denig was also stationed at Fort Pierre in territory where the Teton Sioux lived and hunted. After a few year, he was then stationed at Fort Union, " the mouth of the Yellowstone."

Denig became part of the Assiniboin tribe when he married Deer Little Woman, from White Earth River, who bore him a child, three altogether in fact. Their first child was Robert, and later he had a sister and then a brother. In 1837, the year that smallpox began to rage across the plains, Denig contracted the disease while helping his wife attend to sick Assiniboin's.

As a side note, Denig came to know the artist, John James Audubon in 1843 when he came from Missouri to Fort Union for a spell. Denig assisted him in collecting birds and animals of all kinds. Denig, in fact, "obtained for him an Indian skull from a scaffold burial on the prairie," according to the author of 'Could the Indians Cure Rabies?,' Wilfred T. Neill, in the March 1977 issue of Frontier Times.

To read about the cure for rabies, I scanned the last portion of the story and cropped only the portion relevant to the rabies issue (below). I have to say, the cure sounds absolutely horrible, but if it works--and Denig wrote that it did--then it was certainly a godsend to mankind in that era.

Be sure to tune in to Western Magazine Digest next weekend we Gary Miller features a story on the trains of the Old West that survived the years.

If you'd like to know more about
the magazine issue that this story
appeared in, click here!

Our next feature story appears on the 11th of August! Entitled "Old West Railroads That Survived," It deals with the railroads of the old west, and the ones that survived today as scenic railroads and museum pieces. Included is some general U.S. RR history.

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