The Health And History Of The American Indian

The health and history of the American Indian go largely hand in hand. Prior to European colonization, most Native Americans in North America lived in agricultural communities that subsisted primarily on the Three Sister crops of squash, maize, and beans. The diet was healthy, and though it was not paradise, the people lived their lives in a generally happy state without having to worry about smallpox, measles, malaria, alcoholism, or diabetes, though tuberculosis was present.
With the arrival of explorers and settlers from Europe, the world of the American Indian was turned upside down. Europeans brought many things that were deemed desirable by the Native Americans, such as horses and metal tools. But they also brought other things that were subtly malicious, such as the smallpox and measles bacteria, the mosquito that transmits the malaria parasite (which came over primarily on the slave ships), and mass production of fermented and distilled alcoholic beverages.
The diseases decimated the American Indian population, in some instances wiping out entire villages and towns shortly after European contact. The epidemics have long since passed, but they have been replaced over the last two centuries by the epidemics of alcoholism and diabetes. But there is hope now, through educational programs that seek to help the people of the American Indian community combat diabetes and alcoholism by means of a more healthy lifestyle, which would mean in part going back to eating the Three Sister crops they were growing 500 years ago.

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