Diabeties In Native Americans Essay, Research Paper
English 101 / 1314
14 February, 2000
Diabetes in Native Americans
The Native American way of life has certainly changed over the course of the last one hundred years. What used to be a very strong presence on the American frontier is now a humbled group of people pushed onto ground that nobody else wanted. Along with this change came diabetes, which now affects more than sixty percent of the Pima Indians in Arizona and fifty-seven percent of the Aberdeen area of the Indian Health Service (which includes North and South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska)(Sandrick 42). Native Americans did not have a problem with this affliction until this century. Due to a sudden change in diet and lifestyle, Native Americans have experienced a sharp and sudden rise in diabetes.
When the Native Americans were forced onto reservations they stopped hunting and preparing their own food. Instead the U. S. Government gave them food that their bodies were not used to digesting. Indians were not used to eating flour, lard, canned meats and poultry that are swimming in fat, and canned fruits and vegetables packed in sugary syrup (Sandrick 42). They had survived mainly on vegetables and lean buffalo meat that was prepared in a way that many generations before them had done. These foods had kept their bodies with sufficient nutrients for their daily routines and way of life. Their bodies could not handle the extra fat and sugar in their diet. This, coupled with a decrease in intense exercise increased obesity, and brought on the rise of diabetes.
The sudden lack of exercise resulted in a large weight increase in the Native American community. Indians were used to roaming the countryside. They had to follow the buffalo or move to warmer weather. Now, they were put into permanent homes and handed their food. This created an overweight, obese group of people. When most of us think of the Great Indians of the last century, we think of a thin, well-defined figure standing stern and serious. When we think of a modern Indian, we have an image of a larger, more rounded type of person. A rounded, non-chiseled face has replaced the classic Indian, high cheekbone, profile. This makes it harder for their bodies to keep blood sugars at a normal level. The result is Type II diabetes.
Native Americans most commonly get Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes is not as serious as Type I, but still has serious affects if not properly attended. Some complications include blindness, amputation, stroke, and early heart attack. With Type II diabetes, most of these side effects can be handled with a change in diet and a doctor approved exercise routine (Nash 52), but there is still a steady rise in the number of Indians being diagnosed with diabetes each year. ?Most (Native Americans) don?t have access to what you and I would consider healthy food?green vegetables and fresh fruit,? says DeCora, who founded the Porcupine Clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation 16 years ago (Sandrick 42). Native Americans need to learn to prepare and eat different foods in order to eliminate this problem. They need to learn to adapt to their new situation in order to survive.
The sudden and recent change in the Native American way of life has prompted many problems. The most serious problem is diabetes. Through education of the disease, and strict dietary and exercise routines the problem can be controlled. American Indians need to take these steps to make sure their culture is preserved. Nobody can change what has happened to the Native Americans in the past, but they can change what will happen to them in the future.