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Walking the Walk

A well-known fact and issue in America is the fight against obesity. 34% of adults in the U.S are obese or overweight. Alonng with that, 17% of children in the states are also losing the battle with the weight. However, while we all know about the general population, I think what generally gets lost in the news is that the American Indian population is fighting the same problem. And why not? I feel like when thinking about the various peoples in the United States sometimes I gloss over American Indians, even now when I have been studying their culture in class for the last eight weeks. I guess that is one of the downsides of the American public schools institution. I say this because there are a lot of issues that accompany obesity. It’s bad enough just dealing with all the extra weight that one has to carry around, but many other health issues come along too. The glaring disease is Diabetes.

When I was talking earlier about sometimes glossing over Native Americans, it is this disease I am talking about specifically. While Diabetes can affect anyone, it is most often associated with African Americans. However, in Indian Country Today, an article mentions how 14.2% of Native Americans have the disease as well and in southern Arizona, 29.2% of Native Americans have the disease! Why are these statistics never brought up? That is a substantial portion of the population who are in danger of having their lives shortened by this debilitating disease. I do not understand how I can flip on the Biggest Loser or the news and see all the dangers relating to health and white people or African Americans, but I have to actively seek out articles about it for American Indians. Especially when one can argue the disease is just as bad on the reservatios as it is off.

Besides the statistics, there is one other thing that jumped out at me from this article. In order to promote awareness, “ambassadors” are organizing The Longest Walk: a 5,400 mile walk/run across America. And who one of the major promoters? Dennis Banks, co-founder of the AIM who we have learned a lot about over the last eight weeks. It is interesting to see the transformation in his activism. His involvement in raising awareness has gone from the chaos of the 1970’s American Indian Movement to now promoting awareness of the health risks that American Indians also face. My favorite part about this walk is that Banks is a significant participant in the walk. Not only does he talk the talk with his activism and awareness campaigns, but he also walks the walk… literally. He is out there to argue the opinion that many American Indians share that diabetes is a “inevitable plague.” (Lisa Turner, President of Nutrition Council of California Indian Clinics.) The main thing that he and other chiefs of the movement can do to spread awareness is to keep walking his walk.

Part of the kick-off in La Jolla, California

Courtesy of  Indian Country Today

Statistics from ^ and New York Times Health Section 2010



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