Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

September 7, 1988 - Letters to the Editor

More than two years ago, in May of 1986, the Red Lake Independent published an article about the epidemic of diabetes on the Red Lake Reservation.  The response of the Indian Health Service was to start a public-relations newsletter in Red Lake, and to launch a seat belt campaign.

In the same issue of the Red Lake Independent, excerpts from the 1979 backroom deals between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Beltrami County were published: unilateral White decisions to continue denying Red Lake Indian people Food Stamps.  The United States Government admits that they are “studying” Indian diabetes.  “The Congressional response to the diabetic epidemic among American Indians” is to appropriate money for record-keeping computers for use in their study, and to subsidize pharmaceutical corporations for equipment, supplies, and experimental drug testing.  What the I.H.S. won’t say publicly is that they are doing medical experiments on Indian people.  Red Lake has the “controlled conditions” that such experiments need: White encroachment legislation has provided us with a government-controlled hospital with sealed records, a population that the United States Government has thoroughly studied and keeps track of through “payments,” and a diet mandated by the United States Government (commodities and no food stamps).  Food stamps would allow Red Lake Indian people to choose healthy foods, and would thereby abort the diabetes experiments.  Want more proof?  Why else would tuberculosis epidemics rage in Ponemah, at a rate one thousand times higher than that of the homeless people in New York City slums?  Germ warfare was one of the original tactics of genocide against Indian people, and it hasn’t stopped.

Friday, August 26, the Bemidji Pioneer printed an interview with Dr. Steve Rith-Najarian about Indian diabetes.  Rith-Najarian claims that the Indian Health Service provides, “the best, most up-to-date health care in the world,” and blames Indian people for having diabetes.  He is covering up solid documentation of on-going genocide of Indian people: Indian people have an average life expectancy of less than 43 years.  Indian people are sent out of the Indian Health Service system to die—so that a criminally high Indian death rate doesn’t show up in their statistics.  No matter what kind of equipment the I.H.S. hospitals might have, they also have less than half the number of doctors required by the Geneva Convention.  Almost all of these doctors don’t have any experience at all; they are literally “practicing” on Indian people.  The doctors are not Indian, although there are plenty of Indian people who would make good doctors.  Legitimate Indian medicine men under whose care our average life expectancy was over 85 years (and nobody got diabetes, cancer, lice or missionaries) are still being discredited and harassed.  Indian people do not have the choice of medical care and access to second opinions that all non-Indian citizens of the U.S. have [civil rights do not apply to Indian people].  Dr. Kill-me-quick at the Indian Health Service is well-known throughout the Indian community.  This writer stays away from the I.H.S. hospital (that’s why I’m healthy), and would not send my dog there.  There is a reason that there is a law saying that the I.H.S. is immune from lawsuit.

On the surface, Rith-Najarian sounds academic and educated, even concerned.  But, he is blaming the Indian victims of White genocide legislation and United States occupation: he calls Indians “weighs twice what he should,” and lazy “(wouldn’t) walk half an hour,” people who “willfully destroy themselves.”  By claiming the problem is, “how do we convince people to make significant lifestyle changes,” he is focusing attention away from the real problems.

What are the real causes of the epidemic rates of diabetes [according to a non-government diabetes expert, much higher than the 35% the I.H.S. admits to].  The real cause of Indian diabetes is the multi-national corporations which lobby for, and the United States Congress which passes, the encroachment, racist, genocide legislation specifically designed to exterminate Indian people and steal Indian property.

Stress is the triggering factor of Type II diabetes.  The conditions on the reservations created by the United States Government, and the corporations behind it, cause an enormous amount of stress.  The power and authority that should belong to the Indian community was fraudulently taken away by the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (in 1958 in Red Lake).  Powerlessness, and the community conditions created by dictatorial outside control and colonial government, cause intense stress and further disrupt the community.  Indian land and resources are still being stolen, and consequently most Indian people live far below the poverty level, which is stressful.  Our religion and our sacred philosophy of life are called “the work of the devil” by institutions that they say are “Christian Churches”—this U.S. created and supported religious persecution is stressful.  Stress is put on Indian children at an early age by lying sell-out Indian politicians, by racist mass media and by the White teachers in the White-run educational system.  In the schools, our Indian children are fed a diet of racist lies about our identity and origin; a diet of hostility and abuse just for being Indian; and a nutritionally-deficient diet of commodities in the school lunch program.  The writer speaks from experience, and could write a lot more.  The citizens of occupied Nations are always under stress.

Rith-Najarian blames Indian diabetes for not eating moose and wild rice.  Most of us would rather eat moose, buffalo, venison, elk, and passenger pigeon than store-bought or commodity meat from imprisoned animals that have been force-fed chemicals to make them fat.  We prefer maple sugar [which does not raise blood-glucose] and other Indian foods to the White man’s cheap imitations.  But, or Indian Nations’ permacultural systems were systematically destroyed as a part of the starvation-into-submission agenda of the United States Government.  Most of our maple sugar trees were cut by order of the U.s. Government and left to rot.  Almost all Indian “wild” rice beds have been taken away from their rightful owners by racist encroachment legislation—which is a civil and human rights violation.  To harvest our own rice where we planted it, where we maintained it for thousands of years, an Indian must pay the White man for a “license”—and most of our rice beds have been destroyed by Whites whose idea of power is to plunder and try to “conquer” nature.  Our hunting and fishing rights are being sold by illegal colonial governments, and our permacultural system which provided environment for the wildlife is being clearcut and polluted.  [Koochiching County’s proposed toxic waste dump will leach mercury and other poisons directly into Red Lake.  As planned?]

Chronic malnutrition can cause Type II diabetes: vitamin (particularly B-complex) and mineral deficiencies limit insulin production, unbalance the body, and damage the pancreas.  Ironically, chronic malnutrition also makes people fat (craving the nutrition they need, people eat more of what is available).  The conditions legislated by the U.S. Government on the Reservations to force Indian people to eat the U.S. agricultural subsidy programs’ garbage: commodities (rations), which do not provide good nutrition.  Commodities are inadequate in many ways, including B-vitamin deficiencies.  Hence, the experimental material for unethical researchers.

Rith-Najarian quotes a theory that Indians are diabetic because we had “times of hardship.”  This is absolute nonsense.  We were much better off before the white man brought his trading posts, racist paper money controlled by Feudal corporations, deforestation and pollution, 1924 forced citizenship act, welfare systems, minimum wage slave-labor, rations, prisons and churches, food stamps, and supermarkets.  Scarcity and famine were brought to these continents by the White people, whose overpopulation of our land exceeds the capacity of our environment to sustain them.  Indian people were agricultural people who lived in harmony with nature.  Our gardens and our forests provided more than enough for everybody—with less than eight ours of work per week [the reason trade beads “sold” so well in Manhattan was that traditional Indian people had lots of time for arts and crafts].  The starvation that the White man saw among Indians, was what he had intentionally created.  Even the White man’s distorted history books describe an “abundance of game, passenger pigeons that darkened the sky with their number,” and Indian people who were robustly healthy, had good teeth, and were almost all over six feet tall.

Just recently, the United States Congress passed legislation to repay Japanese people for damages.  But, the damages to Indian people go on.  Adolf Hitler of the Third Reich said to his Cabinet that his ideas for the Holocaust came from the “extermination of Indians” by the United States Government of Amerika.

Francis Blake, Jr.

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