Jim Thorpe was an Olympic athlete from the Sac and Fox Nation. Photo: Cass Anaya
Health | Opinion

Eric Hannel: Addressing the health care crisis among Native Americans

With the Jim Thorpe All Indian Games underway this week in California, researcher Eric Hannel, a former Congressional staffer, calls on Native Americans to return to their traditions of health and wellness:
We are often reminded of the impact of the Western Colonial Model on Native nations, such as the implementation of boarding schools in 1879, restrictions on the practice of tribal religion under the Religious Crimes Code in 1883, or the historical application of a “pass” system meant to keep Native Americans restricted to reservations unless they have been given a temporary pass to exit its confines. While these efforts prohibited freedom of movement and expression by tribes, the inability of tribal members to leave the reservation often prevented them from hunting, fishing, or gathering traditional food, practices the government felt were unnecessary given that food was provided by federal agents. Such food, it’s been well documented, was of poor quality, rationed or denied if a BIA agent was displeased, often in short supply, and known to make tribal members sick. Yet, even with past restrictions on Indian movement and poor-quality food, the current high incidence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems are more closely related to contemporary fast food, junk food, and lack of exercise.

Take for instance, famed painter of tribes George Catlin, who wrote about Indian life as he observed it over decades. Catlin, who wrote Shut Your Mouth and Save Your Life in 1891, noted that while the dominant society portrayed itself above the tribes, in truth the latter were healthier and lived longer than non-Indians in general. Indians, Catlin wrote, express “symmetry of form [and] gracefulness of movement” in greater percentages than “civilized communities” with their “dependent misery which comparative poverty produces.”

Read More on the Story:
Eric Hannel: Native American Fitness: Mind-Body-Spirit (Indian Country Media Network 6/19)