As indigenous scholars have argued, ‘there is no such thing as “post colonial”
–including the loss of land; the loss of population through war, sterilization,
disease, policies of genocide’ (Mihesuah 2005). Therefore, I use the term ‘neocolonial’ because I am building on the critical perspective that asserts that colonialism continues to have lasting effects within indigenous communities.
Drawing from ethnographic research on the Yakama Reservation, I propose
that Yakama people must learn to overcome today’s challenges to healthy
living and that women play a particularly important role in this struggle.
Women hold a high position in traditional culture and they control the food
supply. Yakama people can learn to overcome neo-colonial eating habits by
learning from our traditional cultural teachings, as modeled by the women
who are putting these teachings into critical feminist practice in their everyday
lives. The stakes have perhaps never been higher, as overweight and obesity
rates hover near 80 per cent for all Yakama people and one in five Yakamas
aged 50 and over are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, with undiagnosed rates
estimated much higher according to the Yakama Nation Diabetes Program
(2007). Seeing multiple family members diagnosed with diabetes makes the
work both personal and political. These health problems are what encouraged
my own activism and scholarship interest in health issues on our reservation.
Grounded in cultural teachings that situate women as caring for the nation
and based on my collaborative work with community members to coordinate
wellness promotion activities on our reservation, I seek to understand structural and personal barriers to wellness. In order that our people may attain
full rights to live safe and healthy lives, my aim is to abolish these barriers.
It is with this politically radical su
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