by Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
“You cannot blame your eating habits on the white man,”
Dennis Banks tells crowd after, after crowd along the Longest Walk 3 - Reversing Diabetes.
Levi Rickert, Editor-in-Chief
In the true context of the statement, Banks is correct. We are in control of our lives. Life is about choices. We are free to choose between eating healthy foods off the lunch menu at our favorite restaurant. We can choose the grilled chicken salad with crisp romaine lettuce with a small bit of dressing versus a half-pound cheeseburger, laden with fat, that some call a heart attack ready to happen.
“The white man does not make us order the cheeseburger.”
Yet, after hearing Banks make the blame statement along the Longest Walk 3, a comment made by Clyde Bellecourt, over a decade ago, has been coming back to my thoughts.
Clyde Bellecourt AIM Co-Founder
Bellecourt, who is another co-founder of the American Indian Movement, told an audience that American Indians did not suffer the high rates of diabetes prior to the U.S. Department of Agriculture dropping off pallet after pallet of flour, lard and other surplus food products on Indian reservations.
Flour mixed with water and cooked in lard, you can make a whole lot of Indian fry bread - the kind we love to eat along the powwow trail. We know fry bread tastes good, but sometimes ignore it is bad for us.
The USDA surplus food really became staples of American Indians eating habits and diets. Bellecourt went on to say, prior to the USDA drop offs, American Indians ate fresh meats from game hunting and fishing. American Indians food fare consisted of fresh vegetables and fruits - not the processed canned foods that contain high sodium levels and other preservatives - things that are just not good for us to consume.
“American Indians developed eating habits based on the access to foods we had.”
As an official of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told me last week, as she compared living conditions of American Indians to those who live in third-world countries:
So, who is to blame for what American Indians eat? It does not really matter.
Playing the blame game generally leads nowhere in life â€“ except, in the case of bad eating habits, to larger waistlines, which can translate into diabetes, heart problems and other catastrophic illnesses.
What is important now is to heed the words of Dennis Banks, along the route of the Lonest Walk 3 - Reversing Diabetes:
“This is the generation that is going to do something about diabetes.”
As American Indians, we have to ensure we get access for ourselves, our families and other American Indians to healthy foods. This may mean planting our own fresh vegetable gardens this spring. This may mean buying frozen versus canned vegetables.
As for making decisions about lunch, I do wish the salad at restaurants did not cost two dollars more than the cheeseburger. Who can I blame for the price difference?
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