Delores George & Evelyn Umtuch

Lesson 1 – The Orphan: Disconnected from Traditional Lifestyles


To demonstrate how our behaviors can change our health and how these behaviors may be causing us to separate or isolate ourselves from problems, ourselves, family, and community


Read the Introduction and the following material for Lesson 1

  • Listen to the Radio Interview & read the Transcripts of Delores George
  • Read, answer, and discuss questions
  • Do the Change Exercise: Small Changes can make a Difference
  • Use these links to access the available resources with this lesson:  Diabetes Manual, Delores George Biography, History of the Yakama, and the Historical Trauma Resource Sheet.

What is an Orphan?

According to Webster’s definition an Orphan is “a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents”. There are feelings which can create a disconnect that goes beyond the physical, like when we feel different, isolated, separated, abandoned, misunderstood or alone we have become disconnected from either self, family, community, the land, or spirituality. 

Who is Delores George?

Delores George was a sixty-five years old tribal member of the Yakama Nation of Eastern Washington State and had affiliations with the Nez Perce Nation of Northern Idaho and Klamath tribe of Southern Oregon.  She was born in the traditional manner of a birthing tipi in Satus, Washington.

Delores was diagnosed with diabetes in 1985, her weight as time of diagnosis was 260 pounds.

What types of disconnect do we see today?

Our lifestyles have changed.   The Colonization effects outlined in the Introduction and the increased sedentary life has created a disconnection from traditional lifestyles.  A quote from Delores provides a view of the younger generation and how our behaviors have changed and disconnected from an active life to a sedentary life that could lead to diabetes.

Because they drink a lot of pop, sugared pop, they eat a lot of junk food, and they don’t exercise, they’re just sitting there watching TV and playing games or whatever, you know.  They’re not out there in the, where the fresh air is and running and doing things.  And I’m always happy to hear kids doing good in track or basketball, you know, physical, doing things physically.  And then the rest are just, you know couch potatoes at a young age.”                                                                                                                       Delores George

Societal Differences oppose Traditional Values

Delores lost her husband to complications of diabetes and shared her experience with his death. Traditionally a tribal member would stop participating in things like hunting, fishing, and dancing at Pow wows for the year to follow;  a widow would be instructed by the Elders, would dress in black clothing, refrain from eating fresh meats, not  cook foods for others, and would not participate in any type of community events for a year.  They would then do a Ceremony to release themselves.   It has become difficult to follow and honor these values as we have been forced to disconnect and change our traditional values.

People are changing

During the interview Delores was asked the following question:

Q:        “It’s tough trying to live in a world where let’s say you have a job and your employer expects you to    be there everyday.  You can’t say, “Well, I’m going to take a year off.”

Delores responds with laughter saying:

A:         “No, because things have changed, you know.  That’s what you call “the change”.  People say, “The             world is changing.”  No, it’s not!  It’s the people!  This is changing up here.  I always argue with             speakers when they say, “Oh, the world is changing.”  No, Mother Earth’s still the same.  It’s us up here             that’s changing.”

Learning a little more

Following reading the Introduction and quotes of Delores answer and discuss the following questions:

  • Do I feel isolated, different, or unhappy?
  • What might be making me feel this way?
  • Have I changed from traditional ways and how?
  • Do I know my tribal practices?
  • Does my family eat together and catch up on what is going on in our individual lives?
  • Do I eat when I am feeling unhappy or bored?
  • Do I eat fast foods or do I cook my meals?
  • What are my own questions about my feelings and lifestyle?


Change Exercise: Small Changes can make a Difference

From your answers and discussion above, make a short list of small changes you and/or your family can do to work on finding greater connections in the following areas:

  1. communicate problems
  2.  participate in physical activities
  3. attend local events
  4. limit game and TV time.



If you feel like you want to explore more information or have more questions about your emotions or diabetes you can:

  • Go visit your tribal health clinic doctor or Diabetes Coordinator
  • Talk to an Elder, Medicine Man/Woman, Spiritual Leader
  • Connect with local Indian organizations and people
  • Talk to someone who has been dealing with diabetes
  • Go to the library for books
  • Go to the library to learn how to use the internet for research on diabetes and other tribal diabetes programs.

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