‘American Diagnosis’ Episode 2: Reclaiming Native Food Traditions to Nourish Indigenous People

Bram Sable-Smith

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Episode 2: Decolonizing the Diet

Reagan Wytsalucy was looking for a lost orchard. Martin Reinhardt wanted to know more about and better understand the taste of Indigenous foods before European colonization in North America. They followed different paths, but their goals were similar: to reclaim their food traditions to improve the health and vitality of their communities.

Native foodways of hunting, fishing, gathering, and farming have been under threat since the arrival of Europeans. Colonization, forced relocations, and, later, highly processed foods fundamentally reshaped the diet of many Indigenous people. The effects of those changes have rippled through generations. Now, Indigenous people are twice as likely to have diabetes as white Americans, according to a 2017 CDC report.

In this episode, we’ll hear how the history of a scorched-earth campaign, and other disruptive policies, altered the landscape of Indigenous foodways and, in return, Indigenous bodies. History and food experts like Wytsalucy and Reinhardt are nurturing Native food traditions.

One result: The Southwest peach has become a symbol of resilience.

“So it’s almost just a way of saying, you know, we’re still here as a people. Despite everything that’s occurred, we are still here,” said Wytsalucy.

Voices from the episode:

Reagan Wytsalucy, extension assistant professor for the Agriculture & Natural Resources department, Utah State University Roy Talker, Wytsalucy’s father who served as a Navajo translator and assisted with foodways research Martin Reinhardt, professor of Native American studies at Northern Michigan University — on Facebook

Season 4 of “American Diagnosis” is a co-production of KHN and Just Human Productions.

Our Editorial Advisory Board includes Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Alastair Bitsóí, and Bryan Pollard.

To hear all KHN podcasts, click here.

Listen and follow “American Diagnosis” on Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle or Stitcher.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.


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