Let us go back to the beginning. Why was there a need in the minds of some folk for assimilation? Assimilation was but one phase in the relationship between Europeans and American Indians. The American Indians first encountered by Columbus in 1492 were the Taino [Arawaks] numbering between 250 thousand and one million in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti. It is estimated that only about 500 survived by 1550 and that they were extinct by the year 1650. Europeans brought diseases such as chicken pox, measles and smallpox against which American Indians had no immunity. The result was that up to 80 percent of some American Indians may have died due to European diseases.
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