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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 25, 2003 - Issue 79


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Seminoles Rev Up Campaign To Fight Diabetes

by Tanya Weinberg Staff Writer, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Credits: Art - "Indian Corn of the Americas"

Indian Corn of the AmericasElsie Bowers recalls a childhood on a rural Florida Seminole reservation where walking was the only way to get around. She helped grow beans and corn, and boys helped hunt wild hog and deer. It's not the same for kids, today, she said.

"All they know is McDonald's," said Bowers, 62.

They also know diabetes, something Bowers never heard about until she was an adult. Now a resident on the Hollywood Reservation, Bowers is one of a growing number of tribal members to be diagnosed. She is also an avid walker.

Today the tribe holds its third annual Reservation Rally on the Hollywood Reservation. The 5K run and walk is part of the tribe's revved-up campaign to reverse the spread of diabetes through boosting fitness and improving diet. Like other tribes, the Seminoles have a far greater incidence of diabetes than the general population. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 6 percent of Americans, but nearly 26 percent of southeastern Native Americans, suffer from the disease.

Diabetes can lead to heart and kidney disease, blindness, amputation, and dental disease.

It killed Jo Motlow North's mother at the age of 46. "She wasn't diagnosed till she was 30 years old, when she had her last baby. They said she'd already had it for 10 years," North said.

North's father and four of her seven living siblings also have been diagnosed. Also troubling for North is seeing the disease strike younger and younger children.

"It's just now maybe two years ago, we started realizing there's some hefty little kids," she said.

North said she was hoping for a big turnout at the rally, which attracted 300 of the tribe's 2800 members last year. The tribe's health educator, Suzanne Davis, said the idea is for people to start regular exercise.

She said one idea why Native Americans are more affected by diabetes is called the "thrifty gene theory."

"Native Americans were so adept at living off the land and really efficient at conserving energy when times were hard," she said. "Now food is plentiful and there's not the hunting and the activities that there used to be."

Hollywood Indian Resvation, FL Map
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