Mike Raccoon Eyes Kinney in Native Health. Discussion »
SAN FRANCISCO - Throughout Indian Country, many Native people have mental health issues, such as anxiety-panic attacks, depression, and anger-violence issues.
We as Native People must ask ourselves - "Why?"
The experts have weighed in on the subject.
Mike Raccoon Eyes-Cherokee
"Five hundred years of conquest death, cultural deprivation and mistreatment have left North American native populations with unresolved grief about their history, which must be openly discussed if it is going to be resolved," writes Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, PhD.
"What Native people living today experience counts more than what happened to their ancestors. Trauma is also associated with risk for and high rates of onset and poor control of diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," writes Medical Anthropologist Spero Manson, PhD.
Whether it is government commodities on the reservation or the food you buy in the supermarket or fast-food restaurants, all of it has high quantities of sugar. Sugar contributes directly to diabetes, obesity and alcoholism, which in turn contributes to the mental health issues; anxiety-panic attacks, depression and anger-violence issues. They in turn manifest into cardio-vascular problems, strokes and heart attacks. All of these are directly linked and inter-connected as being the biggest killers of Native people in Indian Country.
Considering the issues of mental and physical health that transpires from Historical Trauma, it is imperative we have Spiritual answers to resolve these problems. I cannot emphasis enough that we as Native people are the Creator's Holy People.
We must make a real spiritual commitment as Native individuals to quit beating ourselves up, pounding ourselves and attacking ourselves for crimes we have never committed with regards to Historical Trauma. In this Spiritual commitment, we as Indian people must empower ourselves by working daily at having better self-esteem, self-worth and self-value.
We have to learn how to reprogram ourselves as Indian individuals from a spiritual place. When you understand how Historical Trauma has handicapped and destroyed us mentally, psychologically and emotionally, then we can be better prepared to embrace the empowerment of our Native Spirituality and in turn the power of Spiritual transformation.
The second part of the reprogramming is addressing the sugar based food and drink you consume, and the issues of food consumption that lead to sugar addictions that lead to obesity, diabetes and alcoholism.
I am former 22 year alcohol career drinker, like many people in Indian country. I have been sober for 12 years now. When I was abusing alcohol, I saw no vision, no hope and no tomorrow. While I was active in the Movement for more Human and Civil Rights for Indian country, I still had no real plan with my alcoholism.
I had attempted to gain my sobriety, but always failed. I had issues of hatred for mainstream society and self-hatred issues of myself as being a mixed-blood Native person. All of the men of my family were inter-generational alcoholics who died in their late 30's or early 40's due to alcohol related diseases or accidents. Being sober and reaching the age of 57, I have outlived all of the men on my father's side of the family.
By my mid-40's I was still drinking and abusing alcohol. One day I was in a local bookstore looking in their Native section and saw a book that changed my life spiritually. It was entitled "Lame Deer - Seeker of Visions." In his autobiography, Elder Lame Deer had reclaimed his life from alcoholism and became a famous Spiritual Lakota holy man and doctor.
The chapter "Getting Drunk and Going to Jail" had a profound message for me. I devoured every word describing what he experienced while being a career drinker. He clearly explained the cycle of alcohol addiction of why we as Native People drink - the sugar in the alcohol. He explained that all Native People were on a treadmill cycle of great quantities of sugar-based food and drink consumption. The sugar in the alcohol was a part of that cycle.
Elder Lame Deer radicalized me when I saw sugar and its relationship to alcohol.
At that time in my life, sugar was the only thing I lived for. Each day began with ten cups of coffee with great amounts of sugar before I went to work. My mornings at work included countless donuts and pastries, more coffee, and of course, more sugar. At lunchtime, I was off to the local bar for several glasses of wine more sugar. I finished the workday with more donuts and pastries, coffee and more sugar. Drinking malt liquor and eating overly processed foods like macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches, fast food and more malt liquor kept me on the treadmill of destruction.
I had become a compulsive eater and craved foods that were high in sugar. I eventually beat the compulsive eating disorder during the first year of my sobriety from alcohol and lost 58 pounds. I am still working on my goal to reduce my intake of processed foods like white flour and sugar.
I went to the Creator and did prayer to ask for spiritual guidance and help to ensure my spiritual commitment to break the cycle of compulsive drinking and sugar addiction. By the third day of my sobriety, I knew that I had the strength to beat the addictions.
I have been sober for 12 years and can proudly tell you I have never once relapsed with alcohol and I lost 58 pounds in the first year of my sobriety.
Mike Raccoon Eyes is of the Eastern Band of Cherokee. He is a Native Advocate for more human and civil rights for Indian Country for the past 25 years. Kinney is the San Francisco Bay Area delegate for the Inter-Tribal Council of California. He is a writer and author on traditional and contemporary issues of Indian Country, as well gives inspirational motivational talks about the spiritual empowerment of Native Peoples. Kinney currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.
posted August 19, 2011 9:27 am edt
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