August 14, 2011

Should Indians be vegetarians?

On the ‘right to hunt’ by a Native American vegan

Europeans and immigrants believe that meat is a critical part of the human diet, but ancient Native Americans had a much more varied diet. Linda Fisher believes her American Indian ancestors would say it’s time to stop the suffering and the killing.The conventional, Hollywood depiction of the Native American diet and lifestyle is false. The Americas were a rich and fertile land, providing plentiful berries, vegetables, nuts, beans, squash, roots, fruits, corn, and rice. Most tribal people survived comfortably eating meat sparingly, while thriving on the cornucopia of the land.

European influence introduced Native people to commercial trade, and fire power, and buffalo began to be killed in great numbers. Only recently has meat become an important staple.

Europeans and immigrants believe that meat is a critical part of the human diet, but ancient Native Americans had a much more varied diet.

Europeans are carrying their meaty ways overseas to other lands, as well. In China, meat is now served much more heavily in restaurants where European/Americans eat, whereas locals have for centuries eaten a mostly vegan diet.

It now appears that this introduced diet of “heavy meat” is harming native cultures and causing health problems such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Comment:  Someone on Facebook quickly responded that he'd never heard of Native vegetarians. But Linda Fisher isn't really advocating a pure vegetarian diet. As she said, Indians ate meat sparingly. She's recommending a return to that approach.

For more on Native food and health, see Chef Showdown at NMAI and Grocery Truck at Santo Domingo.


Anonymous said...

She's from the Hitachi tribe. Either way, it doesn't explain all the animal rights activists basically doing Klan tactics to Indians. (If slaughtering chickens is comparable to the Holocaust, then throwing acid in the eyes of Indians because they want to go fishing is comparable to the KKK.) And by the way, if we aren't all as magical as they believe, we aren't real Indians.

"Only recently has meat become an important staple." Tell that to plains tribes and Eskimos. Northwest Coast tribes ate a lot of fish. And, for that matter, since when is meat really a food for the ecologically impoverished? Aren't these same animal rights people saying we should also all go vegan to fight world hunger?

Now, dairy...was not in a traditional diet. You might be able to milk anything with a nipple, but who wants to milk a dog or a guinea pig?

"Mostly vegan" is like "a little bit pregnant". You can't be "mostly a teetotaler", though you can only drink once a week at most.

Also, statistically, I know why the vegans are doing this: Damage control. Indians switched to a high-carbohydrate diet and developed diabetes. Not only Indians, but the same can be said of Australia's aborigines. Wherever white bread, white rice (rice being a health food in vegan circles), and sugar went, diabetes was sure to follow. Hydrogenation, a process recommended by vegan groups to replace butter (and also used in soy candles, by the way), allowed the soybean, not normally a food that would be on the "don't eat" list for diabetics (seeing as its calories are mostly fat and protein, and it has a high level of omega-3s, which are promptly destroyed by hydrogenation), to complicate this issue. When dietitians started putting Indians on the closest modern equivalent of a traditional diet (which was often, you guessed it, Atkins), the diabetics went into remission.

This is not how things are supposed to go if you're promoting a theory. Vegans take Milton Friedman's attitude to theories, that they are sacred. In science, "sacred" is a dirty word.

Rob said...

The Inuit and buffalo-hunting Plains cultures are a small part of 10,000 years of Native existence spread over two continents. I'm guessing most Native cultures relied more on plants than on animals for food.

Also, there are different types of vegetarians, and "pesce-vegetarians" eat fish. So yes, one can be mostly vegan.

I'd say the article's point is basically clear. Most Indians have gone from eating a little meat to a lot of meat. They've gone from being mostly vegetarians to mostly not vegetarians.

And we're not talking about lean cuts of turkey or venison here. I suspect Fisher is referring to the junk most people eat: fast-food hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken. I trust you'll agree that a diet of that kind of meat is bad for you.