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An oft-quoted "fact" on the internet1,2,3 (and at least once in print4) is the claim:
Your body has about 5.6 liters (6 quarts) of blood. This 5.6 liters of blood circulates through the body three times every minute. In one day, the blood travels a total of 19,000 km (12,000 miles)-that's four times the distance across the US from coast to coast.
None of the instances I've found provide any justification for the 12,000 miles figure; nor do they cite any authoritative source.
Although the 12,000 miles figure occurs often, it is fairly obvious that most (if not all) instances are copied from one of the other instances. Sometimes word-for-word, sometimes paraphrased; sometimes with a mention of the other instance, more often with no mention of the source. It is therefore quite possible that someone "plucked a number out of the air" and the meme-dispersal properties of the internet have done the rest.
In trying to justify this claim (see Background and Further Research below), it becomes clear that an awful lot depends on what precisely is meant by "the blood" and - to a lesser extent - what is meant by "the distance traveled". Some plausible definitions could put this figure at anywhere from around 70-90 miles up to around 90 million miles (and, in extremis, even a couple of thousand trillion miles!). It is entirely possible that there is no meaningful answer to the question of how far blood travels in a day.
Is there any extant, authoritative (ideally peer-reviewed) source for the 12,000 miles claim (i.e. that might have been the original source for the above "fact")?
If the 12,000 miles has simply been plucked from the air, is there any extant, authoritative source for a different figure?
If there is no extant authoritative source for any such figure, can someone provide a justifiable and evidence-backed answer to the question "How far does blood travel in a day"? (But see note below.)
Please note: I am slightly hesitant at including the third option above, and may remove it if felt appropriate. I recognize that the underlying question is likely ambiguous, and that any attempt at an answer might well be "opinion based" (as it will probably need to interpret exactly what is meant by "the blood" and "the distance traveled"). At the risk of being over-demanding, any attempt at answering under this option must include fact-backed justification for any such interpretation(s) and ideally would justify why such interpretation(s) are the only valid ones. I an not looking for speculation along the lines of "If we define "the blood" this way and follow these calculations, we end up with this figure.".
In the pub a while back, someone had the book 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted4. This was opened at random to the "fact" that in one day, "blood travels 12,000 miles". I don't have the book in front of me to give its exact wording, but the accompanying Source Finder website5 points to the PBS quote at the top of this question.
Our first thought was "that's Quite Interesting" (which, after all, is the point of the show/book). Our second thought was "that sounds very high"… if "the blood" travels 12,000 miles in a day, it travels 500 miles in an hour, and clearly (at least at a simplistic level), blood isn't coursing through our body at 500 mph!
Some further pondering, and a little web-searching on mobiles didn't clarify things: our conclusion was (as noted above), that too much hinged on what exactly is meant by "the blood" and how you measure "the distance traveled". Some clearly wrong interpretations:
We found a figure of 3-4 mph for the average speed of blood-flow6 . Treating "the blood" as a homogeneous fluid, this would give a "total distance traveled" of between 72 and 96 miles over a 24-hour period.
Clearly 12,000 miles isn't the distance traveled by an individual blood cell, as that would necessitate it traveling at the aforementioned 500 mph.
It's clearly not based on the total distance traveled by all blood cells. An adult male has around 25 trillion (25,000,000,000,000) red blood cells (RBCs)7. If each is traveling on average at 3-4 mph, the total distance for all cells would be roughly 2,000 trillion miles in a day (or about 350 light-years - a little more than the distance to Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky). Conversely, if the total distance was 12,000 miles, each RBC would travel less than a thousandth of a millimetre (about the wavelength of red light).
We did have some thoughts about trying to account for the multiple paths that "the blood" flows through. In an extremely simplified example, suppose blood from the heart split into two parallel paths, each of which went around the body before merging just before re-entering the heart. It could be argued that "the total distance" was 2 x 4 mph x 24 hours, since "the blood" was going down two channels. However, it could also be argued that what is going down each channel is not "the blood" but "half the blood".
Things get more complicated when more realistic topologies are considered: if the blood flows through a common vessel (e.g. the aorta) before splitting, if you count each path separately (as above), should the shared path count double or only once? You probably want something in between based on the relative lengths of the single path and the multiple paths.
My view is that while this might be a way of deriving a plausible figure, it is not without problems. One is practical: you'd need to map the entire circulatory system in order to correctly assign weights to each branch and arrive at an overall multiplier. Another is numerical: as we scale up to the full system, there is a danger the multiplier grows too quickly (remember: 80% of the system is formed from capillaries, and the smallest of these are no wider than a blood cell… there will be a lot of paths). Finally, what's being measured feels increasingly arbitrary: the contribution from the aorta is from all the blood at once; but from the capillaries it is almost cell-by-cell.
Between the two extremes above - 70-90 miles when treating blood "as a whole", and 2 thousand trillion by counting each cell - you could probably arrive at almost any number for the total distance traveled. Our problem was that we could not think of a natural way of "dividing the blood" and counting "the distance" that would arrive at 12,000 miles. Further research would be required…
Over the next couple of days, I did some dedicated web-trawling… with little success.
The 12,000 miles kept cropping up, but with no justification as to where the number came from, and no references to an authoritative source. I also collected the following, potentially relevant "facts" about the heart and circulatory systems (generally, where it matters, for an adult male):
Blood travels an average of 3-4 mph6. Faster in the aorta; slower in the capillaries (where cells need to pass in single-file, and sometimes have to "push" their way through). Another source10 gives a slightly wider range (2.2 to 4.5 mph).
The total length of all arteries, capillaries and veins is about 60,000 miles8,3,9 (with capillaries making up about 80% of this total).
There is about 5.6 litres (6 quarts) of blood in the body1,6,9.
Blood takes about 20 seconds to circulate throughout the entire vascular system1,9.
The only discussion I could find on the subject was a Reddit thread11, which starts:
Does human blood really travel 12,000 miles every day?
Someone posted that on Facebook and I thought it was total bullshit. So I Googled it and it seems it's not bullshit? I guess my real question then would be: isn't there something more to this? That's 500 miles per hour. I can't understand how that wouldn't rip your body apart.
which neatly mirrors our experience: lots of pages quoting 12,000 miles, no references, and a feeling that 500 mph is clearly wrong. There follows some loose speculation, including that the total distance traveled by all blood cells is clearly massively too high; as is a figure of about 90 million miles calculated by multiplying the number of times the blood circulates in a day (1,440) by the total length of the circulatory system (60,000 miles). To me, the most pertinent comment is the closing one from user rm999:
I searched online, there's nothing reputable backing this. The figures I see are closer to <1 mph, which would be on the order of ~20 miles a day.
although rm999's figure for the overall speed is less than the most common figures I saw (although 3 quotes this speed for the aorta).
1 Amazing Heart Facts on the Nova section of the PBS website.
2 The Journey of Blood (PDF). Lesson plan on the American Heart Association website.
3 Slideshow on "Circulation" on slideplayer.com by Dwain Gibbs.
4 1,342 QI Facts To Leave You Flabbergasted: a spin-off book from the British TV comedy panel game-show "QI" (for "Quite Interesting") - see entry on Wikipedia. Despite being primarily an entertainment show, it has a pretty good reputation for research, although it does sometimes make mistakes and issue corrections. I suspect the book is less thoroughly researched than items appearing on the TV show.
5 The book lists its sources on https://qi.com/1342/index.php (this can be seen using the Look Inside! feature on the Amazon page above, under "Read This First"). The "12,000" miles fact is the second entry on page 186, leading to the aforementioned http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/heart/heartfacts.html.
6 Our Bodies' Velocities, By the Numbers on the Discover magazine website. Note, though, that after giving the 3-4 mph figure, it goes on to say "But this blood speed is just an average. It starts out by rushing through the aorta at an impressive 15 inches a second, then slows to different rates in various parts of the body." I suspect the "inches" is a mistake: 15 inches/second equates to less than 1 mph; whereas 15 feet/second equates to about 10 mph, which fits better.
7 How many blood cells are in the human body? from the article "How Many Cells Are in the Human Body?" on the Healthline.com website.
8 11 Surprising Facts About the Circulatory System on the Live Science website.
9 Heart Facts on the Health Essentials website of the Cleveland Clinic. The "20 seconds to circulate" fact was originally taken from Amazing Heart Facts on the Arkansas Heart Hospital website, but that link (https://www.arheart.com/heart-health/amazing-heart-facts/) is no longer valid.
10 What is the speed of blood circulation in human body? on Quora.
11 Does human blood really travel 12,000 miles every day? on Reddit.
A single erythrocite travelling from the heart via the aorta, a certain artery, capillary and vein back to the heart would make about 1 meter in average, I guess.
If the blood volume of an adult is ~5 liters and if the cardiac output is ~5 liters per minute, then "all the blood" travels 1 meter in a minute, which is 60 meters per hour or 1,440 meters (~0.9 miles) per day.
This seems to roughly agree with:
Average peak and mean blood velocities were 66 and 11 cm/sec in the ascending aorta, 57 and 10 cm/sec in the pulmonary artery, 28 and 12 cm/sec in the superior vena cava, and 26 and 13 cm/sec in the inferior vena cava. (The blood velocity… (Circulation))
So, if you say that the average blood velocity in big vessels is 12 cm/sec or 432 m/hour and consider that the velocity in smaller vessels is much lower, then it is possible that the average blood velocity in all the vessels could be ~60 m/hour, as I estimated.
But if you took all the blood vessels out of an average child and laid them out in one line, the line would stretch over 60,000 miles. An adult's would be closer to 100,000 miles long. (The Franklin Institute)
You can then say that "all separate blood streams" (5 liters in summary) going through all the vessels would make 100,000 miles in a minute or 144,000,000 miles in a day. But not "all the blood" travels all that distance in a day.
I'm not sure how they came to 12,000 miles per day, but this just shows how different the things can look from different perspectives.
EDIT: I just noticed that my "calculation" 144,000,000 miles is 12,000 miles squared.
As blood flows at a rate of 3 to 4 mph or 4.8 to 6.4 kph call it 5kph in 24hours it will have travelled some 120km or 12,000 metres please note METRES not miles. Too many people misread or misquote things without checking and some actually get printed in quiz books.
A New History of the First Peoples in the Americas
The miracle of modern genetics has revolutionized the story anthropologists tell about how humans spread out across the Earth.
Europeans arriving in the New World met people all the way from the frozen north to the frozen south. All had rich and mature cultures and established languages. The Skraeling were probably a people we now call Thule, who were the ancestors of the Inuit in Greenland and Canada and the Iñupiat in Alaska. The Taíno were a people spread across multiple chiefdoms around the Caribbean and Florida. Based on cultural and language similarities, we think that they had probably separated from earlier populations from South American lands, now Guyana and Trinidad. The Spanish brought no women with them in 1492, and raped the Taíno women, resulting in the first generation of “mestizo”—mixed ancestry people.
Immediately upon arrival, European alleles began to flow, admixed into the indigenous population, and that process has continued ever since: European DNA is found today throughout the Americas, no matter how remote or isolated a tribe might appear to be. But before Columbus, these continents were already populated. The indigenous people hadn’t always been there, nor had they originated there, as some of their traditions state, but they had occupied these American lands for at least 20,000 years.
This article is adapted from Rutherford’s new book.
It’s only because of the presence of Europeans from the 15th century onward that we even have terms such as Indians or Native Americans. How these people came to be is a subject that is complex and fraught, but it begins in the north. Alaska is separated from Russian land by the Bering Strait. There are islands that punctuate those icy waters, and on a clear day U.S. citizens of Little Diomede can see Russians on Big Diomede, just a little over two miles and one International Date Line away. Between December and June, the water between them freezes solid.
From 30,000 years ago until around 11,000 B.C., the earth was subjected to a cold snap that sucked up the sea into glaciers and ice sheets extending from the poles. This period is known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when the reach of the most recent Ice Age was at its fullest. By drilling mud cores out of the seabed, we can reconstruct a history of the land and the seas, notably by measuring concentrations of oxygen, and looking for pollen, which would have been deposited on dry ground from the flora growing there. We think therefore that sea level was somewhere between 60 and 120 meters lower than today. So it was terra firma all the way from Alaska to Russia, and all the way down south to the Aleutians—a crescent chain of volcanic islands that speckle the north Pacific.
The prevailing theory about how the people of the Americas came to those lands is via that bridge. We refer to it as a land bridge, though given its duration and size, it was simply continuous land, thousands of miles from north to south it’s only a bridge if we view it in comparison to today’s straits. The area is called Beringia, and the first people across it the Beringians. These were harsh lands, sparse with shrubs and herbs to the south, there were boreal woodlands, and where the land met the sea, kelp forests and seals.
Though these were still tough terrains, according to archaeological finds Western Beringians were living near the Yana River in Siberia by 30,000 B.C. There’s been plenty of debate over the years as to when exactly people reached the eastern side, and therefore at what point after the seas rose they became isolated as the founding peoples of the Americas. The questions that remain—and there are many—concern whether they came all at once or in dribs and drabs. Sites in the Yukon that straddle the U.S.-Alaskan border with Canada give us clues, such as the Bluefish Caves, 33 miles southwest of the village of Old Crow.
The latest radio-dating analysis of the remnants of lives in the Bluefish Caves indicates that people were there 24,000 years ago. These founding peoples spread over 12,000 years to every corner of the continents and formed the pool from which all Americans would be drawn until 1492. I will focus on North America here, and what we know so far, what we can know through genetics, and why we don’t know more.
Until Columbus, the Americas were populated by pockets of tribal groups distributed up and down both north and south continents. There are dozens of individual cultures that have been identified by age, location, and specific technologies—and via newer ways of knowing the past, including genetics and linguistics. Scholars have hypothesized various patterns of migration from Beringia into the Americas. Over time, it has been suggested that there were multiple waves, or that a certain people with particular technologies spread from north all the way south.
Both ideas have now fallen from grace. The multiple-waves theory has failed as a model because the linguistic similarities used to show patterns of migration are just not that convincing. And the second theory fails because of timing. Cultures are often named and known by the technology that they left behind. In New Mexico there is a small town called Clovis, population 37,000. In the 1930s, projectile points resembling spearheads and other hunting paraphernalia were found in an archaeological site nearby, dating from around 13,000 years ago. These were knapped on both sides—bifaced with fluted tips. It had been thought that it was the inventors of these tools who had been the first people to spread up and down the continents. But there’s evidence of humans living in southern Chile 12,500 years ago without Clovis technology. These people are too far away to show a direct link between them and the Clovis in such a way that indicates the Clovis being the aboriginals of South America.
Today, the emerging theory is that the people up in the Bluefish Caves some 24,000 years ago were the founders, and that they represent a culture that was isolated for thousands of years up in the cold north, incubating a population that would eventually seed everywhere else. This idea has become known as Beringian Standstill. Those founders had split from known populations in Siberian Asia some 40,000 years ago, come across Beringia, and stayed put until around 16,000 years ago.
Analysis of the genomes of indigenous people show 15 founding mitochondrial types not found in Asia. This suggests a time when genetic diversification occurred, an incubation lasting maybe 10,000 years. New gene variants spread across the American lands, but not back into Asia, as the waters had cut them off. Nowadays, we see lower levels of genetic diversity in modern Native Americans—derived from just those original 15—than in the rest of the world. Again, this supports the idea of a single, small population seeding the continents, and—unlike in Europe or Asia—these people being cut off, with little admixture from new populations for thousands of years, at least until Columbus.
In Montana, 20 miles or so off Highway 90, lies the minuscule conurbation of Wilsall, population 178 as of 2010. Though stacks of material culture in the Clovis tradition have been recovered throughout North America, only one person from this time and culture has risen from his grave. He’s acquired the name Anzick-1, and was laid to rest in a rock shelter in what would become—around 12,600 years later—Wilsall. He was a toddler, probably less than two years old, judging from the unfused sutures in his skull. He was laid to rest surrounded by at least 100 stone tools, and 15 ivory ones. Some of these were covered in red ochre, and together they suggest Anzick was a very special child who had been ceremonially buried in splendor. Now he’s special because we have his complete genome.
And there’s the woeful saga of Kennewick Man. While attending a hydroplane race in 1996, two locals of Kennewick, Washington, discovered a broad-faced skull inching its way out of the bank of the Columbia River. Over the weeks and years, more than 350 fragments of bone and teeth were eked out of this 8,500-year-old grave, all belonging to a middle-aged man, maybe in his 40s, deliberately buried, with some signs of injuries that had healed over his life—a cracked rib, an incision from a spear, a minor depression fracture on his forehead. There were academic squabbles about his facial morphology, with some saying it was most similar to Japanese skulls, some arguing for a link with Polynesians, and some asserting he must have been European.
With all the toing and froing about his morphology, DNA should be a rich source of conclusive data for this man. But the political controversies about his body have severely hampered his value to science for 20 years. For Native Americans, he became known as the Ancient One, and five clans, notably the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, wanted to have him ceremonially reburied under guidelines determined by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which affords custodial rights to Native American artifacts and bodies found on their lands. Scientists sued the government to prevent his reburial, some claiming that his bones suggested he was European, and therefore not connected with Native Americans.
To add an absurd cherry on top of this already distasteful cake, a Californian pagan group called the Asatru Folk Assembly put in a bid for the body, claiming Kennewick Man might have a Norse tribal identity, and if science could establish that the body was European, then he should be given a ceremony in honor of Odin, ruler of the mythical Asgard, though what that ritual entails is not clear.
His reburial was successfully blocked in 2002, when a judge ruled that his facial bones suggested he was European, and therefore NAGPRA guidelines could not be invoked. The issue was batted back and forth for years, in a manner in which no one came out looking good. Nineteen years after this important body was found, the genome analysis was finally published.
Had he been European (or Japanese or Polynesian), it would’ve been the most revolutionary find in the history of U.S. anthropology, and all textbooks on human migration would have been rewritten. But of course he wasn’t. A fragment of material was used to sequence his DNA, and it showed that lo and behold, Kennewick Man—the Ancient One—was closely related to the Anzick baby. And as for the living, he was more closely related to Native Americans than to anyone else on Earth, and within that group, most closely related to the Colville tribes.
Anzick is firm and final proof that North and South America were populated by the same people. Anzick’s mitochondrial genome is most similar to people of central and south America today. The genes of the Ancient One most closely resemble those of tribes in the Seattle area today. These similarities do not indicate that either were members of those tribes or people, nor that their genes have not spread throughout the Americas, as we would expect over timescales of thousands of years. What they show is that the population dynamics—how ancient indigenous people relate to contemporary Native Americans—is complex and varies from region to region. No people are completely static, and genes less so.
In December 2016, in one of his last acts in office, President Barack Obama signed legislation that allowed Kennewick Man to be reburied as a Native American. Anzick was found on private land, so not subject to NAGPRA rules, but was reburied anyway in 2014 in a ceremony involving a few different tribes. We sometimes forget that though the data should be pure and straightforward, science is done by people, who are never either.
Anzick and Kennewick Man represent narrow samples—a tantalizing glimpse of the big picture. And politics and history are hampering progress. The legacy of 500 years of occupation has fostered profound difficulty in understanding how the Americas were first peopled. Two of the doyennes of this field—Connie Mulligan and Emőke Szathmáry—suggest that there is a long cultural tradition that percolates through our attempts to deconstruct the past.
Europeans are taught a history of migration from birth, of Greeks and Romans spreading over Europe, conquering lands, and interloping afar. Judeo-Christian lore puts people in and out of Africa and Asia, and the silk routes connect Europeans with the East and back again. Many European countries have been seafaring nations, exploring and sometimes belligerently building empires for commerce or to impose a perceived superiority over other people. Even though we have national identities, and pride and traditions that come with that sense of belonging, European culture is imbued with migration.
For Native Americans, this is not their culture. Not all believe they have always been in their lands, nor that they are a static people. But for the most part, the narrative of migration does not threaten European identity in the same way that it might for the people we called the Indians. The scientifically valid notion of the migration of people from Asia into the Americas may challenge Native creation stories. It may also have the effect of conflating early modern migrants from the 15th century onward with those from 24,000 years earlier, with the effect of undermining indigenous claims to land and sovereignty.
Deep among the lakes of the Grand Canyon are the Havasupai. Their name means “people of the blue-green waters,” and they’ve been there for at least 800 years. They’re a small tribe, around 650 members today, and they use ladders, horses, and sometimes helicopters to travel in and out of—or rather, up and down—the canyon. The tribe is rife with type 2 diabetes, and in 1990, the Havasupai people agreed to provide Arizona State University scientists with DNA from 151 individuals with the understanding that they would seek genetic answers to the puzzle of why diabetes was so common. Written consent was obtained, and blood samples were taken.
An obvious genetic link to diabetes was not found, but the researchers continued to use their DNA to test for schizophrenia and patterns of inbreeding. The data was also passed on to other scientists who were interested in migration and the history of Native Americans. The Havasupai only found this out years later, and eventually sued the university. In 2010, they were awarded $700,000 in compensation.
Therese Markow was one of the scientists involved, and insists that consent was on the papers they signed, and that the forms were necessarily simple, as many Havasupai do not have English as a first language, and many did not graduate from high school. But many in the tribe thought that they were being asked only about their endemic diabetes. A blood sample contains an individual’s entire genome, and with it, reams of data about that individual, their family, and evolution.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. In the 1980s, before the days of easy and cheap genomics, blood samples were taken with consent to analyze the unusually high levels of rheumatic disease in the Nuu-chah-nulth people of the Pacific Northwest of Canada. The project, led by the late Ryk Ward, then at the University of British Columbia, found no genetic link in their samples, and the project petered out. By the ’90s, though, Ward had moved to the University of Utah, and then Oxford in the U.K., and the blood samples had been used in anthropological and HIV/AIDS studies around the world, which turned into grants, academic papers, and a PBS–BBC jointly produced documentary.
The use of the samples for historical migration indicated that the origins of the Havasupai were from ancient ancestors in Siberia, which is in accordance with our understanding of human history by all scientific and archaeological methods. But it is in opposition to the Havasupai religious belief that they were created in situ in the Grand Canyon. Though nonscientific, it is perfectly within their rights to preclude investigations that contradict their stories, and those rights appear to have been violated. Havasupai Vice Chairman Edmond Tilousi told The New York Times in 2010 that “coming from the canyon . is the basis of our sovereign rights.”
Sovereignty and membership of a tribe is a complex and hard-won thing. It includes a concept called “blood quantum,” which is effectively the proportion of one’s ancestors who are already members of a tribe. It’s an invention of European Americans in the 19th century, and though most tribes had their own criteria for tribal membership, most eventually adopted Blood Quantum as part of the qualification for tribal status.
DNA is not part of that mix. With our current knowledge of the genomics of Native Americans, there is no possibility of DNA being anywhere near a useful tool in ascribing tribal status to people. Furthermore, given our understanding of ancestry and family trees, I have profound doubts that DNA could ever be used to determine tribal membership. While mtDNA (which is passed down from mothers to children) and the Y chromosome (passed from fathers to sons) have both proved profoundly useful in determining the deep ancestral trajectory of the first peoples of the Americas into the present, these two chromosomes represent a tiny proportion of the total amount of DNA that an individual bears. The rest, the autosomes, comes from all of one’s ancestors.
Some genetic genealogy companies will sell you kits that claim to grant you membership to historical peoples, albeit ill-defined, highly romanticized versions of ancient Europeans. This type of genetic astrology, though unscientific and distasteful to my palate, is really just a bit of meaningless fantasy its real damage is that it undermines scientific literacy in the general public.
Over centuries, people have been too mobile to have remained genetically isolated for any significant length of time. Tribes are known to have mixed before and after colonialism, which should be enough to indicate that some notion of tribal purity is at best imagined. Of the genetic markers that have been shown to exist in individual tribes so far, none is exclusive. Some tribes have begun to use DNA as a test to verify immediate family, such as in paternity cases, and this can be useful as part of qualification for tribal status. But on its own, a DNA test cannot place someone in a specific tribe.
That hasn’t stopped the emergence of some companies in the United States that sell kits that claim to use DNA to ascribe tribal membership. Accu-Metrics is one such company. On its web page, it states that there are “562 recognized tribes in the United States, plus at least 50 others in Canada, divided into First Nation, Inuit, and Metis.” For $125 the company claims that it “can determine if you belong to one of these groups.”
The idea that tribal status is encoded in DNA is both simplistic and wrong. Many tribespeople have non-native parents and still retain a sense of being bound to the tribe and the land they hold sacred. In Massachusetts, members of the Seaconke Wampanoag tribe identified European and African heritage in their DNA, due to hundreds of years of interbreeding with New World settlers. Attempting to conflate tribal status with DNA denies the cultural affinity that people have with their tribes. It suggests a kind of purity that genetics cannot support, a type of essentialism that resembles scientific racism.
The specious belief that DNA can bestow tribal identity, as sold by companies such as Accu-Metrics, can only foment further animosity—and suspicion—toward scientists. If a tribal identity could be shown by DNA (which it can’t), then perhaps reparation rights afforded to tribes in recent years might be invalid in the territories to which they were moved during the 19th century. Many tribes are effective sovereign nations and therefore not necessarily bound by the laws of the state in which they live.
When coupled with cases such as that of the Havasupai, and centuries of racism, the relationship between Native Americans and geneticists is not healthy. After the legal battles over the remains of Kennewick Man were settled, and it was accepted that he was not of European descent, the tribes were invited to join in the subsequent studies. Out of five, only the Colville Tribes did. Their representative, James Boyd, told The New York Times in 2015, “We were hesitant. Science hasn’t been good to us.”
Data is supreme in genetics, and data is what we crave. But we are the data, and people are not there for the benefit of others, regardless of how noble one’s scientific aims are. To deepen our understanding of how we came to be and who we are, scientists must do better, and invite people whose genes provide answers to not only volunteer their data, but to participate, to own their individual stories, and to be part of that journey of discovery.
This is beginning to change. A new model of engagement with the first people of the Americas is emerging, albeit at a glacial pace. The American Society of Human Genetics meeting is the annual who’s who in genetics, and has been for many years, where all of the newest and biggest ideas in the study of human biology are discussed. In October 2016 they met in Vancouver, and it was hosted by the Squamish Nation, a First Nations people based in British Colombia. They greeted the delegates with song, and passed the talking stick to the president for the proceedings to begin.
The relationship between science and indigenous people has been one characterized by a range of behaviors from outright exploitation to casual insensitivity to tokenism and lip service. Perhaps this time is coming to an end and we might foster a relationship based on trust, genuine engagement, and mutual respect, so that we might work together and build the capacity for tribes to lead their own research into the histories of these nations.
Though the terms Native American and Indian are relative, the United States is a nation of immigrants and descendants of slaves who have overwhelmed the indigenous population. Less than 2 percent of the current population defines itself as Native American, which means that 98 percent of Americans are unable to trace their roots, genetic or otherwise, beyond 500 years on American soil. That is, however, plenty of time for populations to come and breed and mix and lay down patterns of ancestry that can be enlightened with living DNA as our historical text.
A comprehensive genetic picture of the people of postcolonial North America was revealed at the beginning of 2017, drawn from data submitted by paying customers to the genealogy company AncestryDNA. The genomes of more than 770,000 people born in the United States were filtered for markers of ancestry, and revealed a picture of mishmash, as you might expect from a country of immigrants.
Nevertheless, genetic clusters of specific European countries are seen. Paying customers supply spit harboring their genomes, alongside whatever genealogical data they have. By aligning these as carefully as possible, a map of post-Columbus America can be summoned with clusters of common ancestry, such as Finnish and Swedish in the Midwest, and Acadians—French-speaking Canadians from the Atlantic seaboard—clustering way down in Louisiana, close to New Orleans, where the word Acadian has mutated into Cajun. Here, genetics recapitulates history, as we know the Acadians were forcibly expelled by the British in the 18th century, and many eventually settled in Louisiana, then under Spanish control.
In trying to do something similar with African Americans, we immediately stumble. Most black people in the United States cannot trace their genealogy with much precision because of the legacy of slavery. Their ancestors were seized from West Africa, leaving little or no record of where they were born. In 2014, the genetic genealogy company 23andMe published its version of the population structure of the United States. In that portrait we see a similar pattern of European admixture, and some insights into the history of the postcolonial United States.
The Emancipation Proclamation—a federal mandate to change the legal status of slaves to free—was issued by President Lincoln in 1863, though the effects were not necessarily immediate. In the genomic data, there’s admixture between European DNA and African that begins in earnest around six generations ago, roughly in the mid-19th century. Within these samples we see more male European DNA and female African, measured by Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA, suggesting male Europeans had sex with female slaves. Genetics makes no comment on the nature of these relations.
Bed Bugs FAQs
Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln&rsquos head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.
Where are bed bugs found?
Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.
Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.
Do bed bugs spread disease?
Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.
What health risks do bed bugs pose?
A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.
What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?
One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:
- the bed bugs&rsquo exoskeletons after molting,
- bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
- rusty&ndashcolored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
- a sweet musty odor.
How do I know if I&rsquove been bitten by a bed bug?
It is hard to tell if you&rsquove been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea &mdash a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.
Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.
How did I get bed bugs?
Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.
Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?
Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.
How are bed bugs treated and prevented?
Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.
This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.
In 1830, a group of Indian tribes, collectively referred to as the "Five Civilized Tribes" (the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole tribes) were living as autonomous nations in what would be later termed the American Deep South. The process of cultural transformation from their traditional way of life towards a white American way of life as proposed by George Washington and Henry Knox was gaining momentum, especially among the Cherokee and Choctaw.  
American settlers had been pressuring the federal government to remove Indians from the Southeast many settlers were encroaching on Indian lands, while others wanted more land made available to the settlers. Although the effort was vehemently opposed by some, including U.S. Congressman Davy Crockett of Tennessee, President Andrew Jackson was able to gain Congressional passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the government to extinguish any Indian title to land claims in the Southeast.
In 1831, the Choctaw became the first Nation to be removed, and their removal served as the model for all future relocations. After two wars, many Seminoles were removed in 1832. The Creek removal followed in 1834, the Chickasaw in 1837, and lastly the Cherokee in 1838.  Some managed to evade the removals, however, and remained in their ancestral homelands some Choctaw still reside in Mississippi, Creek in Alabama and Florida, Cherokee in North Carolina, and Seminole in Florida. A small group of Seminole, fewer than 500, evaded forced removal the modern Seminole Tribe of Florida is descended from these individuals.  A small number of non-Native Americans who lived with the tribes, including some of African descent (including over 4,000 slaves, and others as spouses or freedmen), also accompanied the Indians on the trek westward.  By 1837, 46,000 Indians from the southeastern states had been removed from their homelands, thereby opening 25 million acres (100,000 km 2 ) for white settlement.  
Before 1838, the fixed boundaries of these autonomous tribal nations, comprising large areas of the United States, were subject to continual cession and annexation, in part due to pressure from squatters and the threat of military force in the newly declared U.S. territories—federally administered regions whose boundaries supervened upon the Native treaty claims. As these territories became U.S. states, state governments sought to dissolve the boundaries of the Indian nations within their borders, which were independent of state jurisdiction, and to expropriate the land therein. These pressures were exacerbated by U.S. population growth and the expansion of slavery in the South, with the rapid development of cotton cultivation in the uplands after the invention of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney. 
Andrew Jackson's support for the removal of Native Americans began at least a decade before his presidency.  Indian removal was Jackson's top legislative priority upon taking office.  The removals, conducted under both Presidents Jackson and Van Buren, followed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which provided the president with powers to exchange land with Native tribes and provide infrastructure improvements on the existing lands. The law also gave the president power to pay for transportation costs to the West, should tribes willingly choose to relocate. The law did not, however, allow the president to force tribes to move west without a mutually agreed-upon treaty.  Referring to the Indian Removal Act, Martin Van Buren, Jackson's vice president and successor, is quoted as saying "There was no measure, in the whole course of [Jackson's] administration, of which he was more exclusively the author than this." 
In the years after the Act, the Cherokee filed several lawsuits regarding conflicts with the state of Georgia. Some of these cases reached the Supreme Court, the most influential being Worcester v. Georgia (1832). Samuel Worcester and other non-Indians were convicted by Georgia law for residing in Cherokee territory in the state of Georgia without a license. Worcester was sentenced to prison for four years and appealed the ruling, arguing that this sentence violated treaties made between Indian nations and the United States federal government by imposing state laws on Cherokee lands. The Court ruled in Worcester's favor, declaring that the Cherokee Nation was subject only to federal law and that the Supremacy Clause barred legislative interference by the state of Georgia. Chief Justice Marshall argued, "The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community occupying its own territory in which the laws of Georgia can have no force. The whole intercourse between the United States and this Nation, is, by our constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States." 
Andrew Jackson did not listen to the Supreme Court mandate barring Georgia from intruding on Cherokee lands. He feared that enforcement would lead to open warfare between federal troops and the Georgia militia, which would compound the ongoing crisis in South Carolina and lead to a broader civil war. Instead, he vigorously negotiated a land exchange treaty with the Cherokee.  Political opponents Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, who supported the Worcester decision, were outraged by Jackson's refusal to uphold Cherokee claims against the state of Georgia.  Author and political activist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote an account of Cherokee assimilation into the American culture, declaring his support of the Worcester decision. 
Jackson chose to continue with Indian removal, and negotiated the Treaty of New Echota, on December 29, 1835, which granted the Cherokee two years to move to Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). Only a fraction of the Cherokees left voluntarily. The U.S. government, with assistance from state militias, forced most of the remaining Cherokees west in 1838.  The Cherokees were temporarily remanded in camps in eastern Tennessee. In November, the Cherokee were broken into groups of around 1,000 each and began the journey west. They endured heavy rains, snow, and freezing temperatures.
When the Cherokee negotiated the Treaty of New Echota, they exchanged all their land east of the Mississippi for land in modern Oklahoma and a $5 million payment from the federal government. Many Cherokee felt betrayed that their leadership accepted the deal, and over 16,000 Cherokee signed a petition to prevent the passage of the treaty. By the end of the decade in 1840, tens of thousands of Cherokee and other tribes had been removed from their land east of the Mississippi River. The Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chicksaw were also relocated under the Indian Removal Act of 1830. One Choctaw leader portrayed the removal as "A Trail of Tears and Deaths", a devastating event that removed most of the Native population of the southeastern United States from their traditional homelands. 
The latter forced relocations have sometimes been referred to as "death marches", in particular about the Cherokee march across the Midwest in 1838, which occurred on a predominantly land route. 
Native Americans who had the means initially provided for their own removal. Contingents that were led by conductors from the U.S. Army included those led by Edward Deas, who was claimed to be a sympathizer for the Cherokee plight. [ citation needed ] The largest death toll from the Cherokee forced relocation comes from the period after the May 23, 1838 deadline. This was at the point when the remaining Cherokee were rounded into camps and pressed into oversized detachments, often over 700 in size (larger than the populations of Little Rock or Memphis at that time). Communicable diseases spread quickly through these closely quartered groups, killing many. These contingents were among the last to move, but following the same routes the others had taken the areas they were going through had been depleted of supplies due to the vast numbers that had gone before them. The marchers were subject to extortion and violence along the route. In addition, these final contingents were forced to set out during the hottest and coldest months of the year, killing many. Exposure to the elements, disease, and starvation, harassment by local frontiersmen, and insufficient rations similarly killed up to one-third of the Choctaw and other nations on the march. 
There exists some debate among historians and the affected tribes as to whether the term "Trail of Tears" should be used to refer to the entire history of forced relocations from the United States east of the Mississippi into Indian Territory (as was the stated U.S. policy) or to the five tribes described above, to the route of the land march specifically, or to specific marches in which the remaining holdouts from each area were rounded up.
The territorial boundaries claimed as sovereign and controlled by the Indian nations living in what were then known as the Indian Territories—the portion of the early United States west of the Mississippi River not yet claimed or allotted to become Oklahoma—were fixed and determined by national treaties with the United States federal government. These recognized the tribal governments as dependent but internally sovereign, or autonomous nations under the sole jurisdiction of the federal government.
While retaining their tribal governance, which included a constitution or official council in tribes such as the Iroquois and Cherokee, many portions of the southeastern Indian nations had become partially or completely economically integrated into the economy of the region. This included the plantation economy in states such as Georgia, and the possession of slaves. These slaves were also forcibly relocated during the process of removal. 
Under the history of U.S. treaty law, the territorial boundaries claimed by federally recognized tribes received the same status under which the Southeastern tribal claims were recognized until the following establishment of reservations of land, determined by the federal government, which were ceded to the remaining tribes by de jure treaty, in a process that often entailed forced relocation. The establishment of the Indian Territory and the extinguishment of Indian land claims east of the Mississippi anticipated the establishment of the U.S. Indian reservation system. It was imposed on remaining Indian lands later in the 19th century.
The statutory argument for Indian sovereignty persisted until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), that (e.g.) the Cherokee were not a sovereign and independent nation, and therefore not entitled to a hearing before the court. However, in Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the court re-established limited internal sovereignty under the sole jurisdiction of the federal government, in a ruling that both opposed the subsequent forced relocation and set the basis for modern U.S. case law.
While the latter ruling was defied by Jackson,  the actions of the Jackson administration were not isolated because state and federal officials had violated treaties without consequence, often attributed to military exigency, as the members of individual Indian nations were not automatically United States citizens and were rarely given standing in any U.S. court.
Jackson's involvement in what became known as the Trail of Tears shaped what occurred immensely: in a speech regarding Indian removal, Jackson said,
It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites free them from the power of the States enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.
According to Jackson, the move would be nothing but beneficial for all parties. His point of view garnered support from many Americans, many of whom would benefit economically from the forced removals.
This was compounded by the fact that while citizenship tests existed for Indians living in newly annexed areas before and after forced relocation, individual U.S. states did not recognize tribal land claims, only individual title under State law, and distinguished between the rights of white and non-white citizens, who often had limited standing in court and Indian removal was carried out under U.S. military jurisdiction, often by state militias. As a result, individual Indians who could prove U.S. citizenship were nevertheless displaced from newly annexed areas.  The military actions and subsequent treaties enacted by Jackson's and Martin Van Buren's administrations pursuant to the 1830 law, which Tennessee Congressman Davy Crockett had unsuccessfully voted against,  are widely considered to have directly caused the expulsion or death of a substantial part of the Indian population then living in the southeastern United States.
The Choctaw nation resided in large portions of what are now the U.S. states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. After a series of treaties starting in 1801, the Choctaw nation was reduced to 11,000,000 acres (45,000 km 2 ). The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek ceded the remaining country to the United States and was ratified in early 1831. The removals were only agreed to after a provision in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek allowed some Choctaw to remain. The chief of the Choctaw tribe, George W. Harkins, wrote to the citizens of the United States before the removals were to commence:
It is with considerable diffidence that I attempt to address the American people, knowing and feeling sensibly my incompetency and believing that your highly and well-improved minds would not be well entertained by the address of a Choctaw. But having determined to emigrate west of the Mississippi river this fall, I have thought proper in bidding you farewell to make a few remarks expressive of my views, and the feelings that actuate me on the subject of our removal. We as Choctaws rather chose to suffer and be free, than live under the degrading influence of laws, which our voice could not be heard in their formation.
United States Secretary of War Lewis Cass appointed George Gaines to manage the removals. Gaines decided to remove Choctaws in three phases starting in 1831 and ending in 1833. The first was to begin on November 1, 1831, with groups meeting at Memphis and Vicksburg. A harsh winter would batter the emigrants with flash floods, sleet, and snow. Initially, the Choctaws were to be transported by wagon but floods halted them. With food running out, the residents of Vicksburg and Memphis were concerned. Five steamboats (the Walter Scott, the Brandywine, the Reindeer, the Talma, and the Cleopatra) would ferry Choctaws to their river-based destinations. The Memphis group traveled up the Arkansas for about 60 miles (100 km) to Arkansas Post. There the temperature stayed below freezing for almost a week with the rivers clogged with ice, so there could be no travel for weeks. Food rationing consisted of a handful of boiled corn, one turnip, and two cups of heated water per day. Forty government wagons were sent to Arkansas Post to transport them to Little Rock. When they reached Little Rock, a Choctaw chief referred to their trek as a "trail of tears and death".  The Vicksburg group was led by an incompetent guide and was lost in the Lake Providence swamps.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher, witnessed the Choctaw removals while in Memphis, Tennessee in 1831:
In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction, something which betrayed a final and irrevocable adieu one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung. The Indians were tranquil but somber and taciturn. There was one who could speak English and of whom I asked why the Chactas were leaving their country. "To be free," he answered, could never get any other reason out of him. We . watch the expulsion . of one of the most celebrated and ancient American peoples.
Nearly 17,000 Choctaws made the move to what would be called Indian Territory and then later Oklahoma.  About 2,500–6,000 died along the trail of tears. Approximately 5,000–6,000 Choctaws remained in Mississippi in 1831 after the initial removal efforts.   The Choctaws who chose to remain in newly formed Mississippi were subject to legal conflict, harassment, and intimidation. The Choctaws "have had our habitations torn down and burned, our fences destroyed, cattle turned into our fields and we ourselves have been scourged, manacled, fettered and otherwise personally abused, until by such treatment some of our best men have died".  The Choctaws in Mississippi were later reformed as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the removed Choctaws became the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The Choctaws were the first to sign a removal treaty presented by the federal government. President Andrew Jackson wanted strong negotiations with the Choctaws in Mississippi, and the Choctaws seemed much more cooperative than Andrew Jackson had imagined. When commissioners and Choctaws came to negotiation agreements it was said the United States would bear the expense of moving their homes and that they had to be removed within two and a half years of the signed treaty. 
The U.S. acquired Florida from Spain via the Adams–Onís Treaty and took possession in 1821. In 1832 the Seminoles were called to a meeting at Payne's Landing on the Ocklawaha River. The Treaty of Payne's Landing called for the Seminoles to move west, if the land were found to be suitable. They were to be settled on the Creek reservation and become part of the Creek tribe, who considered them deserters [ full citation needed ] some of the Seminoles had been derived from Creek bands but also from other tribes. Those among the tribe who once were members of Creek bands did not wish to move west to where they were certain that they would meet death for leaving the main band of Creek Indians. The delegation of seven chiefs who were to inspect the new reservation did not leave Florida until October 1832. After touring the area for several months and conferring with the Creeks who had already settled there, the seven chiefs signed a statement on March 28, 1833, that the new land was acceptable. Upon their return to Florida, however, most of the chiefs renounced the statement, claiming that they had not signed it, or that they had been forced to sign it, and in any case, that they did not have the power to decide for all the tribes and bands that resided on the reservation. The villages in the area of the Apalachicola River were more easily persuaded, however, and went west in 1834.  On December 28, 1835, a group of Seminoles and blacks ambushed a U.S. Army company marching from Fort Brooke in Tampa to Fort King in Ocala, killing all but three of the 110 army troops. This came to be known as the Dade Massacre.
As the realization that the Seminoles would resist relocation sank in, Florida began preparing for war. The St. Augustine Militia asked the War Department for the loan of 500 muskets. Five hundred volunteers were mobilized under Brig. Gen. Richard K. Call. Indian war parties raided farms and settlements, and families fled to forts, large towns, or out of the territory altogether. A war party led by Osceola captured a Florida militia supply train, killing eight of its guards and wounding six others. Most of the goods taken were recovered by the militia in another fight a few days later. Sugar plantations along the Atlantic coast south of St. Augustine were destroyed, with many of the slaves on the plantations joining the Seminoles. 
Other warchiefs such as Halleck Tustenuggee, Jumper, and Black Seminoles Abraham and John Horse continued the Seminole resistance against the army. The war ended, after a full decade of fighting, in 1842. The U.S. government is estimated to have spent about $20,000,000 on the war, at the time an astronomical sum, and equal to $536,344,828 today. Many Indians were forcibly exiled to Creek lands west of the Mississippi others retreated into the Everglades. In the end, the government gave up trying to subjugate the Seminole in their Everglades redoubts and left fewer than 500 Seminoles in peace. Other scholars state that at least several hundred Seminoles remained in the Everglades after the Seminole Wars. 
As a result of the Seminole Wars, the surviving Seminole band of the Everglades claims to be the only federally recognized tribe which never relinquished sovereignty or signed a peace treaty with the United States.
In general the American people tended to view the Indian resistance as unwarranted. An article published by the Virginia Enquirer on January 26, 1836, called the "Hostilities of the Seminoles", assigned all the blame for the violence that came from the Seminole's resistance to the Seminoles themselves. The article accuses the Indians of not staying true to their word—the promises they supposedly made in the treaties and negotiations from the Indian Removal Act. 
After the War of 1812, some Muscogee leaders such as William McIntosh signed treaties that ceded more land to Georgia. The 1814 signing of the Treaty of Fort Jackson signaled the end for the Creek Nation and for all Indians in the South.  Friendly Creek leaders, like Selocta and Big Warrior, addressed Sharp Knife (the Indian nickname for Andrew Jackson) and reminded him that they keep the peace. Nevertheless, Jackson retorted that they did not "cut (Tecumseh's) throat" when they had the chance, so they must now cede Creek lands. Jackson also ignored Article 9 of the Treaty of Ghent that restored sovereignty to Indians and their nations.
Jackson opened this first peace session by faintly acknowledging the help of the friendly Creeks. That done, he turned to the Red Sticks and admonished them for listening to evil counsel. For their crime, he said, the entire Creek Nation must pay. He demanded the equivalent of all expenses incurred by the United States in prosecuting the war, which by his calculation came to 23,000,000 acres (93,000 km 2 ) of land.
Eventually, the Creek Confederacy enacted a law that made further land cessions a capital offense. Nevertheless, on February 12, 1825, McIntosh and other chiefs signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, which gave up most of the remaining Creek lands in Georgia.  After the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty, McIntosh was assassinated on April 30, 1825, by Creeks led by Menawa.
The Creek National Council, led by Opothle Yohola, protested to the United States that the Treaty of Indian Springs was fraudulent. President John Quincy Adams was sympathetic, and eventually the treaty was nullified in a new agreement, the Treaty of Washington (1826).  The historian R. Douglas Hurt wrote: "The Creeks had accomplished what no Indian nation had ever done or would do again — achieve the annulment of a ratified treaty."  However, Governor George Troup of Georgia ignored the new treaty and began to forcibly remove the Indians under the terms of the earlier treaty. At first, President Adams attempted to intervene with federal troops, but Troup called out the militia, and Adams, fearful of a civil war, conceded. As he explained to his intimates, "The Indians are not worth going to war over."
Although the Creeks had been forced from Georgia, with many Lower Creeks moving to the Indian Territory, there were still about 20,000 Upper Creeks living in Alabama. However, the state moved to abolish tribal governments and extend state laws over the Creeks. Opothle Yohola appealed to the administration of President Andrew Jackson for protection from Alabama when none was forthcoming, the Treaty of Cusseta was signed on March 24, 1832, which divided up Creek lands into individual allotments.  Creeks could either sell their allotments and receive funds to remove to the west, or stay in Alabama and submit to state laws. The Creeks were never given a fair chance to comply with the terms of the treaty, however. Rampant illegal settlement of their lands by Americans continued unabated with federal and state authorities unable or unwilling to do much to halt it. Further, as recently detailed by historian Billy Winn in his thorough chronicle of the events leading to removal, a variety of fraudulent schemes designed to cheat the Creeks out of their allotments, many of them organized by speculators operating out of Columbus, Georgia and Montgomery, Alabama, were perpetrated after the signing of the Treaty of Cusseta.  A portion of the beleaguered Creeks, many desperately poor and feeling abused and oppressed by their American neighbors, struck back by carrying out occasional raids on area farms and committing other isolated acts of violence. Escalating tensions erupted into open war with the United States after the destruction of the village of Roanoke, Georgia, located along the Chattahoochee River on the boundary between Creek and American territory, in May 1836. During the so-called "Creek War of 1836" Secretary of War Lewis Cass dispatched General Winfield Scott to end the violence by forcibly removing the Creeks to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. With the Indian Removal Act of 1830 it continued into 1835 and after as in 1836 over 15,000 Creeks were driven from their land for the last time. 3,500 of those 15,000 Creeks did not survive the trip to Oklahoma where they eventually settled. 
- Not all elephants develop visible tusks. In Asian elephants, only some males have large, prominent tusks. Most female and some male Asian elephants have small tusks, called tushes, which seldom protrude more than an inch or two from the lip line.
- Elephants communicate over long distances using low-pitched sounds that are barely audible to humans. These powerful infrasonic rumbles contain specific messages that can be heard and understood by other elephants more than 2 miles away.
Adam Steltzner, chief engineer for the Perseverance project at JPL, said he found the image instantly iconic, comparable to the shot of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon in 1969, or the Voyager 1 probe's images of Saturn in 1980.
He said the viewer is connected with a landmark moment representing years of work by thousands of individuals.
"You are brought to the surface of Mars. You're sitting there, seven meters off the surface of the rover looking down," he said. "It's absolutely exhilarating, and it is evocative of those other images from our experience as human beings moving out into our solar system."
The image was taken at the very end of the so-called "seven-minutes-of-terror" descent sequence that brought Perseverance from the top of Mars' atmosphere, traveling at 12,000 miles per hour, to a gentle touchdown on the floor of avast basin called the Jezero Crater.
Next week, NASA hopes to present more photos and video — some possibly with audio — taken by all six cameras affixed tothe descending spacecraft, showing more of the sky crane maneuvers, as well as the supersonic parachute deployment that preceded it.
Pauline Hwang, strategic mission manager, said the rover itself "is doing great and is healthy on the surface of Mars, and continues to be highly functional and awesome."
The vehicle landed about two kilometers from tall cliffs at the base of a ancient river delta carved into the corner of the crater billions of years ago, when Mars was warmer, wetter and presumably hospitable to life.
Scientists say the site is ideal for pursuing Perseverance's primary objective — searching for fossilised traces of microbial life preserved in sediments believed to have been deposited around the delta and the long-vanished lake it once fed.
Samples of rock drilled from the Martian soil are to be stored on the surface for eventual retrieval and delivery to Earth by two future robotic missions to the Red Planet, as early as 2031.
Another color photo published on Friday, captured moments after the rover's arrival, shows a rocky expanse of terrain around the landing site and what appear to be the delta cliffs in the distance.
The mission's surface team will spend the coming days and weeks unfastening, unfurling and testing the vehicle's robot arm, communication antennae and other equipment, aligning instruments and upgrading the rover's software, Hwang said. She said it would be about nine "sols," or Martian days,before the rover is ready for its first test spin.
One of Perseverance's tasks before embarking on its search for signs of microbial life will be to deploy a miniature helicopter it carried to Mars for an unprecedented extraterrestrial test flight. But Hwang said that effort was still about two months away.
No, Christian Eriksen’s sudden collapse was not from the Covid vaccine.
The sudden collapse of the Danish soccer player Christian Eriksen during a game at Euro 2020 on Saturday has spurred a wave of unfounded speculation over his vaccination status.
Mr. Eriksen, a 29-year-old midfielder who also plays for the Italian champions Inter Milan, went into cardiac arrest in the first half of Denmark’s opening game against Finland and was resuscitated. Contrary to some social media posts, his condition was not because he had received a coronavirus vaccine.
In fact, Mr. Eriksen has not been vaccinated, Inter Milan’s director told Gazzetta Dello Sport, an Italian sports publication.
That did not stop social media users from suggesting or claiming that he collapsed after receiving the vaccine. False rumors that he received the Pfizer vaccine or “got the jab” in May spread on Twitter and were reposted to Facebook in English, German, Italian, Greek, Dutch, Romanian, Portuguese, French, Polish and Arabic.
Some cited as their source of information a supposed radio interview on an Italian station with an Inter Milan doctor. But the radio station, Radio Sportiva, said on Twitter that it had not interviewed any Inter Milan medical staff members about Mr. Eriksen’s condition.
Others have pointed to an English translation of an Italian-language interview between Inter Milan’s club doctor and Gazetta Dello Sport as proof that Mr. Eriksen was vaccinated. The physician, Dr. Piero Volpi, told the sports publication in an interview published May 18 that all the players would be vaccinated at the start of the next championship. Dr. Volpi did not specify whether he was referring to Euro 2020 or the start of Serie A, Italy’s top soccer league, which restarts in August.
Mr. Eriksen is in stable condition at a hospital in Copenhagen. He released a statement on Monday in which he said he felt better.
It’s rare for athletes to collapse during games, but not unheard of. Fabrice Muamba, an English soccer player who is now retired, collapsed during a 2012 game between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur his heart stopped beating for 78 minutes. Mr. Muamba told Sky Sports News that Mr. Eriksen “being alive is the best thing that can come out of Euro 2020.”
A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology estimated an incidence rate of 1.04 sudden cardiac deaths per 100,000 person years among professional soccer players. This is relatively low, according to the study, but higher than the 0.72 rate among all sports-related incidents. A separate 2017 study in the New England Journal of Medicine identified soccer and race events as “the sports associated with the greatest number of cases of sudden cardiac arrest among competitive athletes.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating reports that a small number of teenagers and young adults vaccinated against the coronavirus may have experienced heart problems. It will hold a meeting on Friday to discuss the cases.
Hannibal’s Early Life and Attack on Saguntum
Hannibal was born in 247 B.C. in North Africa. Polybius and Livy, whose histories of Rome are the main Latin sources regarding his life, claimed that Hannibal’s father, the great Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, brought his son to Spain (a region he had begun to conquer around 237 B.C.) at a young age. Hamilcar died in 229 B.C. and was succeeded by his son-in-law Hasdrubal, who made the young Hannibal an officer in the Carthaginian army. In 221 B.C., Hasdrubal was assassinated, and the army unanimously chose the 26-year-old Hannibal to command Carthage’s empire in Spain. Hannibal swiftly consolidated control in the region from the seaport base of Cartagena (New Carthage) he also married a Spanish princess.
Did you know? According to Polybius and Livy, Hannibal&aposs father Hamilcar Barca made the 9-year-old Hannibal dip his hand in blood and swear an oath of hatred against Rome.
In 219 B.C., Hannibal led a Carthaginian attack on Saguntum, an independent city in the middle of the eastern Spanish coast that had shown aggression against nearby Carthaginian towns. According to the treaty that ended the First Punic War, the Ebro River was the northernmost border of Carthage’s influence in Spain though Saguntum was south of the Ebro, it was allied with Rome, which saw Hannibal’s attack as an act of war. Carthaginian forces besieged Saguntum for eight months before the city fell. Although Rome demanded Hannibal’s surrender, he refused, instead making plans for the invasion of Italy that would mark the beginning of Second Punic War.
The True Story of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond—And Why the British Won’t Give It Back
The diamond came from India’s alluvial mines thousands of years ago, sifted from the sand. According to Hindu belief, it was revered by gods like Krishna—even though it seemed to carry a curse, if the luck of its owners was anything to go by. The gem, which would come to be known as the Koh-i-Noor Diamond, wove its way through Indian court intrigues before eventually ending up in the British Crown Jewels by the mid-1800s. That was when a British amateur geologist interviewed gemologists and historians on the diamond’s origins and wrote the history of the Koh-i-Noor that served as the basis for most future stories of the diamond. But according to historians Anita Anand and William Dalrymple, that geologist got it all wrong.
“We found what every historian longs for,” Dalrymple says. “A story which is incredibly important to people, an object known around the world, but which is all built on a structure of myth.”
In their new book Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond, Anand and Dalrymple work their way through more than four centuries of Indian history to learn the truth about the diamond, “panning the old research” like the Indians who sieved river sand for diamonds, Anand says. And the true history has its share of drama. For Dalrymple, “It’s a perfectly scripted Game of Thrones-style epic. All the romance, all the blood, all the gore, all the bling.”
But beneath the drama of the diamond is a more serious question that still has no clear answer: How should modern nations deal with a colonial legacy of looting? With numerous countries (including India, Pakistan and the Taliban in Afghanistan) having claimed ownership of the Koh-i-Noor, it’s a topic under vigorous debate.
To understand where the diamond came from—and whether it could ever go back—requires diving into the murky past, when India was ruled by outsiders: the Mughals.
On the Gemstone Throne
For centuries, India was the world’s only source of diamonds—all the way until 1725, with the discovery of diamond mines in Brazil. Most of the gemstones were alluvial, meaning they could be sifted out of river sands, and rulers of the subcontinent embraced their role as the first diamond connoisseurs.
“In many ancient Indian courts, jewelry rather than clothing was the principle form of adornment and a visible sign of court hierarchy, with strict rules being laid down to establish which rank of courtier could wear which gem in which setting,” Dalrymple and Anand write in their book. The world’s oldest texts on gemology also come from India, and they include sophisticated classification systems for different kinds of stones.
Turco-Mongol leader Zahir-ud-din Babur came from Central Asia through the Kyber Pass (located between modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan) to invade India in 1526, establishing the Islamic Mughal dynasty and a new era of infatuation with gemstones. The Mughals would rule northern India for 330 years, expanding their territory across nearly all of present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and eastern Afghanistan, all the while reveling in the mountains of gemstones they inherited and pillaged.
Although it’s impossible to know exactly where the Koh-i-Noor came from and when it first came into the Mughals’ possession, there is a definite point at which it appears in the written record. In 1628, Mughal ruler Shah Jahan commissioned a magnificent, gemstone-encrusted throne. The bejeweled structure was inspired by the fabled throne of Solomon, the Hebrew king who figures into the histories of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Shah Jahan’s throne took seven years to make, costing four times as much as the Taj Mahal, which was also under construction. As court chronicler Ahmad Shah Lahore writes in his account of the throne:
“The outside of the canopy was to be of enamel work studded with gems, the inside was to be thickly set with rubies, garnets, and other jewels, and it was to be supported by emerald columns. On top of each pillar there were to be two peacocks thick set with gems, and between each of the two peacocks a tree set with rubies and diamonds, emeralds and pearls.”
Among the many precious stones that adorned the throne were two particularly enormous gems that would, in time, become the most valued of all: the Timur Ruby—more highly valued by the Mughals because they preferred colored stones—and the Koh-i-Noor diamond. The diamond was lodged at the very top of the throne, in the head of a glistening gemstone peacock.
For a century after the creation of the Peacock Throne, the Mughal Empire retained its supremacy in India and beyond. It was the wealthiest state in Asia Delhi, the capital city, was home to 2 million people, more than London and Paris combined. But that prosperity attracted the attention of other rulers in Central Asia, including Persian ruler Nader Shah.
When Nader invaded Delhi in 1739, the ensuing carnage cost tens of thousands of lives and the depletion of the treasury. Nader left the city accompanied by so much gold and so many gems that the looted treasure required 700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses to pull it (and you thought all that fanfare in Aladdin was Disney-ized embellishment). Nader took the Peacock Throne as part of his treasure, but removed the Timur Ruby and the Koh-i-Noor diamond to wear on an armband.
The Koh-i-Noor would remain away from India—in a country that would become Afghanistan—for 70 years. It passed between the hands of various rulers in one blood-soaked episode after another, including a king who blinded his own son and a deposed ruler whose shaved head was coronated with molten gold. With all the fighting between Central Asian factions, a power vacuum grew in India—and the British soon came to take advantage of it.
The Boy King and the British Crown
At the turn of the 19th century, the British East India Company expanded its territorial control from coastal cities to the interior of the India subcontinent. As Dalrymple and Anand write of the British campaigns, “[they] would ultimately annex more territory than all of Napoleon’s conquests in Europe.” In addition to claiming more natural resources and trading posts, the British also had their eye on a piece of priceless treasure: the Koh-i-Noor.
After decades of fighting, the diamond returned to India and came into the hands of Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh in 1813, whose particular affection for the gem ultimately sealed its aura of prestige and power. “It was not just that Ranjit Singh liked diamonds and respected the stone’s vast monetary value the gem seems to have held a far greater symbolism for him,” write Anand and Dalrymple. “He had won back from the Afghan Durrani dynasty almost all the Indian lands they had seized since the time of Ahmad Shah [who plundered Delhi in 1761].”
For Anand, Singh’s elevation of the diamond was a major turning point in its history. “The transition is startling when the diamond becomes a symbol of potency rather than beauty,” Anand says. “It becomes this gemstone like the ring in Lord of the Rings, one ring to rule them all.”
For the British, that symbol of prestige and power was irresistible. If they could own the jewel of India as well as the country itself, it would symbolize their power and colonial superiority. It was a diamond worth fighting and killing for, now more than ever. When the British learned of Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, and his plan to give the diamond and other jewels to a sect of Hindu priests, the British press exploded in outrage. “The richest, the most costly gem in the known world, has been committed to the trust of a profane, idolatrous and mercenary priesthood,” wrote one anonymous editorial. Its author urged the British East India Company to do whatever they could to keep track of the Koh-i-Noor, so that it might ultimately be theirs.
But the colonists were first forced to wait out a chaotic period of changing rulers. After Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the Punjabi throne passed between four different rulers over four years. At the end of the violent period, the only people left in line for the throne were a young boy, Duleep Singh, and his mother, Rani Jindan. And in 1849, after imprisoning Jindan, the British forced Duleep to sign a legal document amending the Treaty of Lahore, that required Duleep to give away the Koh-i-Noor and all claim to sovereignty. The boy was only 10 years old.
From there, the diamond became a special possession of Queen Victoria. It was displayed at the 1851 Great Exposition in London, only for the British public to be dismayed at how simple it was. “Many people find a difficulty in bringing themselves to believe, from its external appearance, that it is anything but a piece of common glass,” wrote The Times in June 1851.
Queen Victoria wears the Koh-i-Noor diamond as a brooch in 1887. (Wikimedia Commons/Alexander Bassano)
Given its disappointing reception, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, had the stone recut and polished—a process that reduced its size by half but made the light refract more brilliantly from its surface.
While Victoria wore the diamond as a brooch, it eventually became part of the Crown Jewels, first in the crown of Queen Alexandra (the wife of Edward VII, Victoria’s oldest son) and then in the crown of Queen Mary (the wife of George V, grandson of Victoria). The diamond came to its current place of honor in 1937, at the front of the crown worn by the Queen Mother, wife of George VI and mother of Elizabeth II. The crown made its last public appearance in 2002, resting atop of the coffin of the Queen Mother for her funeral.
What Makes a Diamond “Loot”?The Queen Mother wearing her crown for George VI's coronation, with her oldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth (now Elizabeth II). (Alamy)
Still shrouded in myth and mystery (including a rumor that the diamond is cursed) one thing is clear when it comes to the Koh-i-Noor: it sparks plenty of controversy.
“If you ask anybody what should happen to Jewish art stolen by the Nazis, everyone would say of course they’ve got to be given back to their owners,” Dalrymple says. “And yet we’ve come to not say the same thing about Indian loot taken hundreds of years earlier, also at the point of a gun. What is the moral distinction between stuff taken by force in colonial times?”
For Anand, the issue is even more personal. Born and raised in the UK, her family is Indian and her relatives regularly visited. When they would tour the Tower of London and see the Koh-i-Noor in the Crown Jewels, Anand remembers them “spending copious amounts of time swearing themselves blue at the glass case with the diamond.”
According to Richard Kurin, Smithsonian’s first Distinguished Scholar and Ambassador-at-Large as well as the author of Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem, part of the reason these gemstones came to be perceived as “cursed” is because of how they were gained.
“When the powerful take things from the less powerful, the powerless don’t have much to do except curse the powerful,” Kurin says. Like the Koh-i-Noor, the Hope diamond came from India and was displayed at the London Exposition in 1851. It is now displayed at the National Museum of Natural History, having been donated by Harry Winston, who legally purchased it.
And while Kurin says uncovering the line of ownership of a gemstone like the Koh-i-Noor is best practice when it comes to history, it doesn’t necessarily lead to a legal obligation (though other scholars and lawyers disagree). He and Dalrymple both point out that the rulers who once owned these gemstones headed nations that no longer exist.
That’s one of the biggest differences between objects taken during colonial conquest and art and treasure looted by Nazis—the difficulty in ascertaining who has the first and most legitimate claim to anything.
“Post-colonial collections is a big topic everywhere,” says Jane Milosch, the director of Smithsonian’s Provenance Research Initiative. “There can be a reassessment for certain objects of, ‘we may have legal ownership, but does it make sense to keep this material?’” She cites a 2014 case in which the British Museum returned two bronze statues from Benin to Nigeria (they were taken during an attack in 1897 after British officers were killed during a trade mission).
But returning pillaged art and treasure from World War II, as complicated as that can be, is still far less complex than unraveling colonial history. “You’re dealing with countries that existed when the object was acquired, but they may not exist now—and countries who we had trade agreements with that may have different export laws now,” Milosch says. “Provenance is very complex and people aren’t used to processing a chain of ownership. By the time you hit the second or third owner over time, the information can get more difficult to research. This is why I say it’s important that these things not be yanked out of museums, because at least people have access and can study them until we know for sure if they were looted.”
The Queen Mother's Crown, with the Koh-i-Noor diamond at the center. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Koh-i-Noor isn’t the only contested treasure currently residing in the UK. Perhaps equally controversial are the Elgin Marbles, statues carved 2,500 years ago and taken from the Parthenon in Athens by British Lord Elgin in the early 1800s. So far, the UK has retained ownership of the statues and the diamond, regardless of calls for their return.
Anand thinks one solution that doesn’t require removing the Koh-i-Noor from the UK is to make the history of the diamond clearer. “What I would dearly love is for there to be a really clear sign by the exhibit. People are taught this was a gift from India to Britain. I would like the correct history to be put by the diamond.”
Dalrymple agrees that disseminating the true history is half the battle. “Whenever we lecture, we find people who are horrified by the history. But they’re not resistant—they just weren’t aware of it.”
The diamond isn’t likely to leave the Crown Jewels anytime soon. Anand and Dalrymple only hope that their work will do some good by clarifying the true path the infamous gemstone followed—and helping leaders come to their own conclusions about what to do with it next.
Call of the Wild
Martin Buser is on the phone. As a dogsledder living in Big Lake, Alaska, he inhabits a world completely foreign to most city-dwellers. Instead of workdays filled with computer screens and email, coffee breaks and stalled freeways, he has icy winter training runs filled with the panting of dogs muffled by the silence of snow-blanketed trees the swish of a sled’s runners and the sound of his own breath in the dry air.
The “steering wheel” is Bewitched, a promising lead dog. He has others. Many others. Half of his dogs can take lead, and Buser has in excess of 70 dogs at any given time. He’s a professional musher, and one of the most successful. The athlete and breeder is in that elite crew of perhaps 20 mushers worldwide who make a living from racing sled dogs.
Buser made his name in the Iditarod, the world’s most famous sled dog race. With a course stretching more than 1,100 miles through Alaskan wilderness, the race starts on the first Saturday of March in Anchorage, then finishes in Nome after crossing two mountain ranges. The race was started in 1973 to celebrate Alaska’s sled trail history and reenact a famous run in 1925 in which diphtheria serum was rushed to Nome by sled. Buser has crossed the finish line 23 times, and won the race four times. He also holds the course record, completing the trek in under nine days.
To put his accomplishments in perspective: More people have summited Mount Everest than have crossed the finish line at the Iditarod.
The musher trains hard. Really hard. Twelve hours or more, 365 days a year. Some days, he’ll spend 14-plus hours travelling through “the biggest office in the world.” That’s what it takes to be a contender.
His voice is friendly but self-assured.
“If you don’t do it as committed as I am, you’re not going to threaten me.”
What does it take to win the Iditarod?
“Mostly a lot of mind over matter,” says the veteran musher. He says he doesn’t “have quit” in him, using “quit” like it’s a noun, not a verb.
In race mileage alone, he’s covered enough terrain to equal two circumnavigations of the globe. And over the course of the Iditarod, each of his dogs’ paws will touch the ground two million times. His dogs aren’t much for quitting either.
But winning is never simple, even for champions. The first five or six days on the trail are easy, says Buser. At one point or another, however, you’re going to have to push. Buser pushes himself, he pushes his family (he’s married, with two kids), and he pushes his dogs.
Iditarod Trail Headquarters is located in Wasilla, an hour or so down the No. 3 Highway from Anchorage. Tourists visit the site by the busload. It is, in a sense, the Mecca of mushing.
Chas St. George is the public relations director for the Iditarod. This race is big by any measure: big landscape and big mileage, sure, but also a massive logistical challenge to organize. During the event, St. George says, race vets conduct more than 10,000 checks of dogs dogs consume 10,000 to 12,000 calories each per day (and you thought your dog ate a lot!) 1,800 volunteers help make the whole thing happen and the Iditarod website has more than 500 million page views during the event, including 2.5 million new users.
Success at a race in which any one of the top 30 teams has a chance at winning comes down to developing a strategy and sticking with it, says St. George: “You plan your work and you work your plan.”
Every plan is based upon developing a strong team. The dogs are in excellent physical shape, but the competitive nature of this race has forced the mushers to follow suit. Mushing has always been a tough workout, but today’s top racer, says St. George, could be compared to an ultra-marathoner. On uphills, the human team member pushes, and even on the flats, the driver sometimes has to pitch in. Peaking for the race includes developing a bond between human and canine that’s stronger than cement.
Of course, any event in which dogs are worked hard will invite criticism. It’s one thing for a person to decide to push his or her limits, but it’s a different situation when a dog owner encourages his or her dogs to push their limits.
The Iditarod’s chief veterinarian is responsible for protecting the health and well-being of more than a thousand high-performance dogs. For 12 years, that task has fallen to Stuart Nelson, Jr.
“One of my primary goals is to educate the mushers,” he says. In the early days of the race, the relationship between vets and racers was not as harmonious a cops and robbers scenario, he says, in which mushers felt like vets were trying to pick on them. Nelson has made a concerted effort to change that dynamic. “I get a lot of really positive feedback from the mushers.”
The Iditarod’s health system is “pretty elaborate,” says the vet. Beginning a month before the race, every competing dog has blood work done and undergoes an EKG to test heart function. Then, two weeks from the starting line, each dog must complete a physical exam. In addition, all of the dogs are dewormed and must be micro-chipped. Chips are checked at the start line to make sure the dogs in the harnesses are the same dogs that underwent physical testing.
More than 30 vets work as volunteers for the race. The goal at each checkpoint is to give each dog a quick physical exam. Results are jotted into a “vet book” which the musher must present at the next checkpoint. Mushers are encouraged to look for warning signs that a dog might need to be dropped, such as a change in gait or a loss of enthusiasm.
Dogs die in this race. That’s the harsh reality. The Iditarod’s average over the past few years is two canine fatalities per race. The number has crept up as the field has grown. Causes range from traumatic accidents to physiological problems, such as overheating (the race is in March and these dogs are used to running hard through the dead of winter), ulcers, and myopathy, in which potassium released from the breakdown of muscle causes sudden heart failure.
Tough as the Iditarod may be, another race claims the title of the “toughest sled dog race in the world,” and Julie Estey, executive director of Yukon Quest’s Fairbanks, Alaska, office offers a number of justifications for that boast.
The Yukon Quest race, which has been run every year since 1984, is a month earlier than the Iditarod, when it’s darker and colder. It has fewer than half the checkpoints, requiring mushers to carry more weight and be more independent. And the trail gains and loses more elevation as racers travel between Whitehorse, Yukon, and Fairbanks, Alaska.
The idea for the Yukon Quest, which covers a thousand miles of remote backcountry, was hatched in a bar called the Bull’s Eye Saloon, says Estey. Leroy Shanks, the fellow who came up with it, considered Fairbanks the heart of mushing country, and wanted to create a race that would rekindle interest in the historical goldrush routes from Canada to Alaska.
“We are very fortunate to have a lot of wide open space,” says Estey, explaining why North America is home to the world’s two longest races. It’s wide open terrain that once boasted a much higher population at the end of the nineteenth century when gold was discovered in the Yukon. Settlement was based on waterways, she says, as there were no roads to remote areas. The Yukon Quest route takes mushers to one village that, to this day, still doesn’t have road access in the winter. There are areas in the territory that once boasted thriving towns and are now just a lone heated shack—still a welcome destination for mushers exhausted from a day of battling through swirling snow and deep drifts.
The Quest attracts a slightly different racer than the Iditarod. In addition to mushers that are world class it also includes talented racers who are still living a subsistence lifestyle off the land. Their dog teams aren’t just for racing these are working dogs who still get worked. Many of the teams don’t have the cash to mount an Iditarod challenge. While sleds these days are typically made of high-tech materials, you can still encounter an old-style ash sled (the old ones are easier to fix on the trail, too). Clothing for a rookie might be “third-hand” army surplus, says Estey.
The Quest is lower in profile than the Iditarod, with a smaller field and a smaller purse, but Estey seems to hold little enmity towards her race’s rival. She says the Iditarod’s success has done an “amazing service” for the sport. And with a recent influx of cash from the Yukon territorial government boosting the first-place purse to $40,000, Estey hopes to see more of the world’s top racers shooting for first place at the Yukon Quest, rather than “top ten” at the Iditarod.
Lance Mackey has won the Yukon Quest two years running. He’s also the only person to win the Quest and also finish in the top ten at the Iditarod in the same year. The end of the former is only ten days before the start of the latter.
Mackey’s tales from the trail are straight out of a Jack London book. “They’re all my buddies—these are my family members,” he says of his team. Being on the trail is “emotional.” Mackey uses the word a number of times. He describes being on “day five with no sleep,” when suddenly it hits you that you might be in the top ten and you find yourself getting teary-eyed. People who’ve never done these endurance races don’t know the “solitude of the whole thing,” he says, or the bond that’s forged when you’re sleeping beside your dogs, and you rely on each other for survival. And sometimes not everyone does survive.
On the Iditarod three years ago, Mackey was two hours into an eight-hour stretch, crossing a frozen lake, when one of his dogs went down and didn’t get up. Ultimately, the dog died. The horror of the situation was compounded by having to place the dead dog on his sled, where two live littermates were already resting, having been dropped from the team. Mackey got the sled moving again but he was devastated.
“My whole world was falling apart,” he says. It took everything in him to keep going. To this day, it remains the worst moment in his mushing career. As far as he’s concerned, two Yukon Quest victories don’t “zero out” the loss of his dog. He takes some comfort in the thought that health defects sometimes strike down even human athletes in the midst of doing what they love.
Mackey rejects the idea that this kind of mushing is inherently cruel. A team that didn’t love to pull wouldn’t be competitive. He acknowledges that in any population of people, there will be “bad seeds,” but his definition of cruelty to animals is a Siberian Husky cooped up in an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona. “[Mushing] is what they’re bred for,” he says, “this is what they love to do.”
Eric Sparling has written for The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Nuvo, ModernDog and numerous other publications.