Diabetes: Another Navajo Killer - SMSC Tribal Grants
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – Eddie Scott Yazzie used to have a 56-inch waist and weigh around 433 pounds. That was before his doctor told him, “Change your diet or you're going to die.” Now he's down to 300 pounds and has become the media spokesman for the Navajo Nation Special Diabetes Project.
“When the doctor puts it to you that way, it hits you right down in the heart. I carry that with me every day. I don't want the doctor saying that to anybody,” Yazzie said recently during a free screening offered to Navajo Nation Council delegates.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. On the Navajo Nation, diabetes is three times higher than in the U.S. population. In 2007, diabetes prevalence among Navajo was at 11 percent. It is increasing each year and at a much faster rate than for the rest of the country.
The American Diabetes Association, the nation's leading voluntary health organization in the fight against diabetes, brought together community leaders from around the country Nov. 18-19 in Virginia for a two-day meeting to address health disparities faced by minority populations in the prevention, detection, and management of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“When it comes to the impact of diabetes and obesity in minority populations, the statistics are daunting,” said Sue McLauglin of the American Diabetes Association. “The challenges are great, but the urgency to stop diabetes and obesity is even greater.”
Diabetes, the leading cause of kidney disease, has moved closer to affecting one in four Medicare beneficiaries nationally. New data confirms the rate of chronic kidney disease is inching upward, keeping pace with the rising rates of diabetes. Kidney disease in the U.S. Medicare population is now 9.8 percent, up from 8.7 percent last year, according to recent data.
“Diabetes does not discriminate; and it's killing our people,” Yazzie said. When he talks to clients, the common answer he gets is, “My aunt, my mother, my brother, my grandfather have died from diabetes.”
Yazzie believes the increase among Navajos has a lot to do with the introduction of foods which had no part in the traditional diet of the Dine.
“The average meal pre-1940 was mutton and corn-based. Everything was corn-based – corn meal, kneel-down bread. They did the slaughter of horses in 1940 in Gamerco at the slaughterhouse and introduced the 'bacon slab' program – the people were working for slabs of bacon instead of paychecks, so that was introduced to the Navajo diet.”
In the 1950s along came federal commodities, which were high cholesterol foods that contributed to heart disease and diabetes, he said. “A lot of the elders refused to even eat commodities because they just figured it was from the government, it's not good for you. Others didn't have a choice. They had to eat it.”
Spam was first introduced by Hormel in 1937. In the mid-1950s, Burger King and the first McDonald's franchise opened their doors, followed by the introduction of new, more spicy foods in the 1970s and 1980s, Yazzie said. “The average human body wasn't used to a lot of that, so it was getting all the shock.
“With children, you have a child's body which is barely growing, trying to burn off all of the new foods. Mothers are buying them potato chips, candy, soda – energy drinks are the worst. Your body is breaking down all this sugar and your insides are going, 'No, no, no, you're killing me!”
Because the body cannot burn off all the sugar, it starts to store it, and that's where obesity comes in, he said. “The sad part is it's all preventable.”
Because of the poverty rate, Navajos have been living in survival mode. They buy big bags of potatoes rather than apples and oranges, he said. “They're adapted to it for survival purposes, but studies show it costs the same amount now to buy apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes. It's just breaking that habit.”
The Special Diabetes Project has eight service units throughout the Navajo Nation in Chinle, Shiprock, Crownpoint, Gallup, Fort Defiance, Dilkon, Tuba City and Kayenta. “We're a prevention program. We're here to educate on nutrition, diabetes, and wellness, which is physical activity,” he said.
“In each one we have a field staff, which I call the troops, because they're out there every day. They're walking in the schools, they're walking into the tribal council. They're taking sugar levels and telling people what they need to do because they're getting bad readings. They're basically telling them, 'You need to change now or you're going to die.'”
For Thanksgiving Yazzie recommends getting smaller plates and smaller serving utensils. “People will put less on their plates. If they're hungry, they can go back for seconds.”
And one thing to remember over the holidays is that once consumed, white bread and potatoes both turn to sugar in the body”
Shakopee Announce $5 Million In Tribal Grants
By Tessa Lehro, Communications Specialist
Prior Lake, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announces their first round of fiscal year 2010 tribal grants totaling $5,000,000 to seven American Indian Tribes. Donations of $1 million each will go to the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and Yankton Sioux Tribe all of South Dakota; the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa of Minnesota; and the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe of North Dakota.
The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Flandreau, South Dakota, will use their $1 million grant for construction of a Senior Independent Living Project. In previous years the SMSC has helped fund this project, which is desperately needed to give tribal elders a safe and comfortable place to live on the reservation. It will also help provide more and better jobs for tribal members.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will use their $1 million grant for their Turtle Creek Crossing Grocery Store. The new grocery store, which opened in 2009, has a deli, bakery, pharmacy, and, most importantly, healthy foods to help combat the diabetes epidemic on the reservation. The SMSC helped fund this project with $2.4 million in loans and $2 million in grants in previous fiscal years.
The Yankton Sioux Tribe will use their $1 million grant for energy assistance for members and for the Marty Community Center, to complete the community center in Lake Andes, building insulation for the Marty Community Center, and pre-construction design for a new tribal administration building.
The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa Indians will use their $1 million grant for construction of a new 47,000 square foot administration building in Nett Lake, Minnesota. An $8 million loan from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for the same project was announced in August 2009. The new building will house the Tribe’s administration and finance offices; its leasing, grant administration, and language preservation programs; planning, fuel assistance, information technology, a registrar, and the tribal council chambers. The previous building was destroyed by fire.
The Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe will use their $1 million grant for community improvement programs and infrastructure development, including replacement of the heating and cooling systems and for maintenance equipment at the tribal headquarters community building; equipment for the fire department, KABU radio station, utilities, and refuse control; and for the tribal housing program, emergency management funds for recovery from floods, and for youth recreation centers.
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