OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There is a push in the Native American community to return members’ food sovereignty to the way it was before Native peoples met settlers.
However, experts say there are challenges to overcome in order to achieve a diet in the modern world.
“The Native community is taking back our power and one of those ways is through food,” said Amy Warne, a registered and licensed dietitian and also a member of the Muscogee and Seminole tribes.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, Native American adults are nearly three times more likely than non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Warne said rates of diabetes, cancer and heart disease began to rise after the introduction of Indian boarding schools.
“Our children were taken from their usual homes with traditional food, with their families and placed in institutions and introduced us to quality food and institutional nutrition for the first time,” said Warne. “They tried to assimilate us through various forms, and food is definitely one of them.”
Warne said the Indians must return to a pre-contact diet, with the traditional lean game that is low in fat and high in protein.
“Bison, bison, deer, [and] fish if that’s part of your tradition,” Warne said. “I mean fresh fruits and vegetables that grow in season. I think of our three sisters – the corn, the beans and the squash that we relied on so much.”
Warne points out that portions are vital. Meals should look like this Native Plate, found on the Indian Health Service website.
However, Warne said there was a roadblock. Not all Indians have access to this nutritious food.
MoveForHunger.org said one in four Native Americans experience food insecurity, compared to 1 in 9 Americans overall.
“But then, you add that there’s no public transport and it makes it a superfood desert,” Warne said.
Warne said the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations provides USDA food to those who meet income requirements. This program is for those who live on or near a reservation and is usually administered locally by an Indian Tribal Organization.