Healthy Families Make Healthy Communities

Learn how hunting and food gathering is a spiritual experience that allows Native peoples to honor the land and the sustenance it provides. This deer-dressing demonstration, put on by Northwest Indian College during its 2012 Our Food is Our Medicine conference, hoped to motivate others to embrace traditional food gathering ways. The demonstration coincided with other native foods being cooked by traditional methods, including clams, salmon and vegetables.

Healthy living means taking care of the mind, body and spirit. Many indigenous communities are working to incorporate healthier foods into their families’ diets by reconnecting to traditional vegetables, fruits, plants, animals and grains that have sustained Native communities since the beginning of time. There are also national efforts to help get people in Indian Country moving again – walking and exercising for better health.

“We’re hoping kids today will be the generation to grow up healthy and won’t have to suffer through some of the diseases that their parents are experiencing, the high levels of diabetes and heart disease,” says Diane Wilson, who runs youth farming and nutrition programs at The Dream of Wild Health in Minnesota. “We feel if we can teach the kids early about heart disease about living healthy, about traditional foods, then maybe they’ll be the ones who won’t have to suffer the way their parents and grandparents have.”

Within families, parents and elders can set examples for living healthy lives. When they share knowledge with children – through stories about traditional ways or by teaching them to garden or cook – they are helping to build a strong, healthy community. 

Eating Well
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My Native Plate is the indigenous version of the USDA’s latest nutritional guidelines called Choose My Plate. When the USDA replaced its food pyramid with the plate diagram, Indian Health Service went one step further and designed My Native Plate to make food choices easy.

 

Moving More
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First Lady Michelle Obama created the national Let’s Move initiative as a way of fighting childhood obesity, motivating Americans to lead more healthy lives and teaching young people about exercise and good nutrition. Let’s Move in Indian Country is an extension of the national campaign, tailored for Native communities.

 

Teaching Children
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Children love to get their hands dirty! When they grow their own foods, they are more interested in eating it, too. For Native communities, this offers a unique opportunity to also teach kids their own Native language and the traditional ways of their ancestors.

 

Getting Involved
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Parents can take an active role in helping build a stronger connection between healthy habits at home and at school. In many tribal communities, schools are educating students about traditional foods and customs, planting gardens and serving local traditional foods for lunch.