Lesson 3 – The Caretaker: Nutrition
Goal: To discover how Nutrition is a part of being a caretaker, not just for meals and health but also in understanding the reciprocating relationships our people share with our mother earth, her natural foods as gifts and the spiritual balance attained through our tribal ceremonies that honor these gifts. Caring and being cared for help us to grow and mature physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually through oral traditions that provided the understanding of this reciprocal relationship.
- Read material for lesson III
- Listen to the Radio Interview & read the transcripts of Delores George (if needed)
- Do the Change exercise
- Read, answer, and discuss questions
When we think of the word caretaker we think of someone who provides care to others, like children, elders, disabled, or anyone who needs some type of care. Usually we associate a “caretaker” with our mother, grand-mother, aunt or a female figure because most of our nurturing comes from them, they feed and cook for us, guide us with our learning, support us in our activities, and when we are sick they help with our “Healing.”
Tribal Perspective of Caretaker
In our cultures the “Creator” and mother “Earth” are both equal as caretakers and are respected for providing plant and animal foods, water, healing roots and plants, and all living organisms that contribute to the life cycle. Our relationship with the plant and animals was obtained through living experiences referred as “Traditional Ecological Knowledge or Indigenous Knowledge.” Our elders and ancestors taught us through example, oral traditions, and participation. TEK is passed on to our children, but we have adapted to the changes from our original ways of subsistence and providing for our families to include new technology which allows us to still incorporate our traditional foods.
Why Is this Important?
Our traditional diet can help in delaying chronic health problems which can develop without following a proper balance of foods and becoming a sedentary population by not participating in our traditional ways of harvesting, hunting or fishing, and preparing foods as our elders and ancestor did. We can create changes in our lifestyles that can allow us to continue our traditional lifestyles while learning how to balance the modern day foods and conveniences of today’s world. Most importantly it is a way to preserve our Indigenous Cultures that were almost forcibly destroyed but our ancestors fought wars on our lands and in the judicial court systems to ensure we as Native Peoples will continue to exist with our own “Identities” and they believed we are both physically and spiritually obligated to protect the earth with our Indigenous Knowledge. This is a reason so many ceremonial food feasts, songs, and dances are still practiced, it is a way to continue the life cycle.
Delores provides her thoughts about diabetes and what we should be doing to prevent it.
Q: What would you say to listeners to this program around the country, Native people who are struggling with their reaction to the news that they have, or the reality of their diabetes? What would you say to them to inspire them?
A: Well, I would encourage them to check their weight and to change their attitude about food, you know. You might be giving up all the fried steaks, French fries, all that heavy greasy stuff and giving up all that sugary stuff. But you’re really doing it for yourself, not your doctor, not the nurse. You’re doing it for yourself. And start exercising. Get that weight down and um, commit an hour or a half an hour a day to exercise. And eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. And drink a lot of water.
And it’s just really something how anything can kill you, you know. People talk about di’, ah, alcoholism. Well, food can kill you too, if you don’t eat the right things. So, food’s a killer. Go to Safeway. See all that stuff there. (laughs) But that’s just the way I think about life, you know, the life choices that you make, things you do. And smoking, you know, I don’t do that because I’m too tight-fisted with my money to take it to the casino. So I don’t have that smoking habit. (laughs) Same way with drinking. I never liked it. I lost two brothers of cirrhosis and I seen how they suffered and died with it. So I said, “Nah, I ain’t going to die like that, you know.” But diabetes came along and that was due to food and being lazy. So, now I’m fighting with that. (laughs)
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.”
A: (laughter) 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.
Q: Very good. Very good statement. That’s true. So we have, that gives, that turns the responsibility around back on ourselves. If we want change or we want to stay, whatever, it’s up to us.
A: Mm hmm. If you want to live.
Delores made some good points about changing how we look at food and that we are the ones changing and not the world or the foods given to us from the our mother earth. She is an elder who worked to make changes to her diet and reduce her weight to control her diet and add some exercise to her daily life. Her ability to care for her husband and take that experience of losing him to complications of diabetes to help herself and care for her children is a way we can help to prevent our children from getting diabetes as well.
Print out the activity sheet or use a piece of paper and answer the following questions:
1) What is my tribe, band, or clan?
2) Where are they located?
3) What kinds of foods did they hunt, fish, or harvest?
4) Do I have access to these foods?
5) If not, where can I get them?
Tip: you might want to talk to a local tribal organization for direction
After answering the questions, do the following exercise:
1) Print the Nutrition Shield example page provided.
2) Print the blank circle.
3) Using paper, pencils, and rulers (colored pencils optional)
a) Make a list of all your tribe’s traditional foods;
b) Make a list of foods you buy at the grocery store;
c) Make a list of Fast food places you go to eat.
4) Try to create a balanced food shield to reduce eating foods that contribute to weight gain and possible diagnosis of diabetes. You can also use this to create a balanced diet to help control diabetes.
5) Keep a list of the foods you eat for at least one week and see what kind of foods you eat and then place them in an empty shield to try and make a balanced shield.
6) Place all foods that need to be reduced in the boxes.