A newly published article chronicles the incredible prevalence of obesity among Native American children. Once again, the “dominant culture” has inflicted pain and suffering on Native Americans. Is anyone surprised?


My Grandpa Saul, native of Russia, taught me everything he knew about Native American culture before he died. Perhaps he identified with them, perhaps it was his intellectual curiosity, but this great man made it his business to educate himself (and his grandchildren) about his adopted country’s true original culture. I have continued over the years to explore Native American ways, particularly the tradition of the medicine man. I have embraced the idea of nature as part of our soul – that all living things are intertwined.

From time to time, my mentor, Irish psychiatrist Dermot O’Rourke, writes to me from his perspective as a modern day shaman on the Pine Ridge Reservation, concerned about the deteriorating health of the Lakota families he lives with on the “Rez.” So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when I found this citation in my inbox today, courtesy of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine:

Increasing Prevalences of Overweight and Obesity in Northern Plains American Indian Children,” Zephier at al. The percentage of overweight children in this population now approaches 50%. Type 2 diabetes, a known complication of obesity, has already been a focus of the American Academy of Pediatrics in this population. Historically, the Native American diet consisted of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains; it should have been the model nutritional plan for all of America. Instead, we’ve managed to convert them to the wonderful “American” diet – just check out “Fast Food Nation” or “Super Size Me” if you’re not certain what I mean. Wherever the “American” diet goes, so goes obesity, diabetes and the dreaded metabolic syndrome. Is this to be our legacy to our country’s oldest culture?

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