Skip navigation
Timeline / Defining Rights and Responsibilities / 1833: Whooping cough crosses the Great Plains

1833: Whooping cough crosses the Great Plains

Whooping cough spreads across the U.S., killing babies and children, for whom the infection is particularly severe. The epidemic reaches the Choctaws in Indian Territory (what is now known as Oklahoma) and the Chaticks Si Chaticks (Pawnee), who live in crowded villages in Nebraska. Three years later when a count is taken of the Chaticks Si Chaticks population, researchers notice a missing cohort of children who would have been between the ages of three and five had the whooping cough epidemic not killed them.

California, Great Basin, Great Plains, Northeast, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Southeast, Southwest

The Lakota marked the passage of time by drawing pictures of memorable events on calendars called winter counts. This picture, titled “Many Had the Whooping Cough,” is for the year 1813–1814. It was created by Oglala Chief American Horse in 1879, from a winter count on cloth that had been kept in his family for several generations.

Winter counts were physical records used in conjunction with oral history. The events used to name the years were not necessarily the most important things that happened, but ones that were memorable and widely known within the community.

Courtesy National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution