Since the arrival of Columbus in 1492, American Indians have been in a continuous struggle with diseases. It may not be small pox anymore, but illnesses are still haunting the native population. According to statistics provided by Indian Health Services, Native Americans have much higher rates of disease than the overall population (White 1). This includes a higher death rate from alcoholism, tuberculosis, and diabetes than any other racial or ethnic group. Recent studies by Indian health experts, show that diabetes among Indian youth ages 15-19 has increased 54% since 1996 and 40% of Indian children are overweight (White 1).
Even though diabetes rates vary considerably among the Native American population, deaths caused from diabetes are 230 percent greater than the United States population as a whole. Diabetes is an increasing crisis among the Native American population. This could be due to the fact that Native American medicine is based upon a spiritual view of life. A healthy person is someone who has a sense of purpose and follows the guidance of the Great Spirit who represented the central religious figure for most tribes (Chrisman 2).
It is believed that someone is unhealthy because they have done something morally wrong, or not within their cultures boundaries of what is deemed acceptable. If the tribe member did do something wrong, often they would not receive medical treatment because it was believed that they were learning a lesson as a direct result of their actions. Native American tradition of how they view health is just one of many possible answers to why so many have failing health.
Along with their traditional culture, hopelessness, poverty and lack of education contribute more or less to the Native American population health status. Very few classes are taught anymore about Native Americans. The subject Native American is never mentioned in some high schools, which is a huge loss of knowledge and appreciation of their rich culture. Native Americans believe that everyone possesses a spirit. The spirit that lies within each individual Native American is judged by the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit gives guidance and helps one to live a moral life.
Those who have diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease believe that they are being punished by the Great Spirit because they have done something wrong or not yielded to his wisdom or guidance (Chrisman 3). Native Americans have been socialized to abide and acknowledge the Great Spirit. It is the way that they have purpose and understanding to their lives. This understanding can also be their down fall when it comes to their health. According to Hernedez, the many traditions of the Native Indians causes them not accept medical help and/or believe in prevention techniques (15).
There culture teaches them to live a moral life and you will be healthy. The Great Spirit will not lead you astray. One could believe that it is up to the person to live a good life and when he or she fails then that is when The Great Spirit takes over and causes harm to come upon ones life. Works Cited Chrisman, Linda. What the Natives Belief. Native American Press. (1995): 24. Daisy, Hernedez. Got Traditions:American Indians Use Native Foods to Fight Diabetes and Revive Indian Culture. Colorlines. (2005): 15-18. White, Diane. Diabetes Reaches Epidemic Proportions Among American Indians. The Ojibwe News. (1999): 1.