But here are some modern cases where the linkage is direct and clear. The US destroyed centuries of health and nutrition habits and basically compelled Indians to eat poorly. The results were predictably bad.
A Dam Brings a Flood of Diabetes to Three Tribes
By Lisa Jones
But even as Wilson and his wife unloaded their four small children and cat from their 1946 Hudson sedan, the disease that has become the scourge of Native American health was on its way. It was coming in the form of water—the recently constructed Garrison Dam was destined to flood that town and seven other Native communities strung along a 30-mile stretch of the Missouri River, which meant the resident Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people had to move to high, barren ground, processed food and a five-decade descent into obesity, hypertension, kidney disease and diabetes. Ironically, the flood would drown the only hospital the reservation has ever had.
As dramatic as it is, their story differs from that of other tribes only in the details. Native Americans in the United States have become 2.2 times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. And they have all gotten there in pretty much the same way—they lost their land, became sedentary, consumed cheap and unhealthy food, and received worse health care than any other group of people in the country.
The Pima Indians thrived for centuries on corn, beans and squash they raised on the banks of the Gila River. They also gathered a huge variety of wild plants, and trapped game and birds. In the 1860s, they grew enough wheat that they could sell—5 million pounds to the U.S. government for the Civil War effort, according to Gregory McNamee, author of Gila: The Life and Death of an American River. A few years after that, white farmers upstream, especially the Mormon colony at Safford, diverted their water supply so much that by 1872 the Pima couldn’t feed themselves. The tribe appealed to the farmers without success, and then went to D.C., to talk to President Ulysses S. Grant. He suggested that the Pima move to Oklahoma. They declined.
In 1900, there was perhaps one recorded case of diabetes among the Pima. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Gila was altered by more dams and diversions to funnel water into growing cities like Phoenix, and the Pima’s already depleted farming enterprises shrank further. And the people got fat. Really fat. They are, in fact, among the fattest people in the world.
Government supersized Indians
It's roughly like condemning someone to the diet in the documentary Super Size Me:
As a result, the then-32-year-old Spurlock gained 24½ lbs. (11.1 kg), a 13% body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation in his liver. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight gained from his experiment with a special vegan detox diet supervised by his future wife, who was a chef specializing in vegan dishes and gourmet.
For more on the Fort Berthold situation, see Al Jazeera to Visit Fort Berthold and Review of Waterbuster. For more on health issues, see "Res-Love" = Abuse and Alcoholism and Spirit Level Is Low in US.
Below: "Lake Sakakawea, created when the Garrison Dam was built in the 1940s and 1950s, flooded the towns of Elbowoods, Sanish and Van Hook, as well as the rich farmlands surrounding them. Signs near the dam show the lake and its relationship to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation."