Perceptions are rarely accurate. Just for reference.

This reference provides a bit of clarification regarding life in the Americas before the Europeans came.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/29/science/don-t-blame-columbus-for-all-the-indians-ills.html?pagewanted=all

It mostly says the native Americans suffered from urbanization.

This paper has more information.

http://opr.princeton.edu/seminars/SteckelF04.pdf

Good stuff here: http://www.es.flinders.edu.au/~mattom/science+society/lecture18.html

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