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How Bison can help Native Americans

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United States
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Chatura R.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Violence and deceit
  3. Federal government
  4. Objections
  5. Federal government
  6. Conclusion

Violence and deceit have characterized the relationship between the federal government and Native Americans ever since the era of policy- driven expansionism. The aftermath of all the bloody wars and cultural conflict is the present situation of Native affairs. After tribes signed treaties guaranteeing protections of their inherent sovereignty, the federal government over the years enacted laws or made rulings in court which severely undermined the guarantees of these treaties. As a result, tribes have little control over the conditions in the reservations and depend on the federal government for their most basic needs.

However, federal aid programs are not enough and actual conditions on the ground are potent reminders. According to Ward Churchill, a former professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Natives suffer the lowest health levels and highest disease rates of all major population groups in America (Churchill 70). Widespread poverty has disastrous effects on Native American conditions, and according to Melinda Newport, the Director of Nutrition Services for Chickasaw Nation, Natives suffer more food insecurity and hunger than the general population as a result (Newport). Trying to make ends meet, a large proportion of Natives choose to consume low quality foods with high fat content and suffer obesity-related problems like diabetes and heart disease.

[...] Past violence against Natives under the colonial justification for expansion should be answered for. Legal guarantees offered by treaties only bolster the inherent moral obligation by responsible actors in this issue. An expansion of the FDPIR to include culturally appropriate foods would realign the relationship between tribes and the federal government. The struggle to put Natives in a position of self- sufficiency in food production plays an integral part in the broader struggle for sovereignty as a whole. The dependence of Natives on the federal government for food aid reifies centuries of colonial violence destructive to Native ways of life. [...]


[...] However, bison are procured from nontribal suppliers, leaving Natives out of a vital cultural process. In fact of federal contracts are granted to two corporate producers (Lulka 82). Bison meat from corporate sources are viewed as culturally insensitive and unhealthy because conventional western methods entail feedlots and the use of grain, which increases the meat's yellow and white fat content and contradicts Native American ways of raising bison in an open, grass grazing environment (76 and 77). In order to address these needs, the United States federal government should acquire culturally appropriate foods from exclusively tribal suppliers for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. [...]


[...] United States Department of Agriculture. Food and Nutrition Service. ESTIMATED RETAIL VALUE OF THE AVERAGE FDPIR FOOD PACKAGE AS DELIVERED IN FISCAL YEAR 2009. June 2011. Web Nov Wexler, Mark. "For Some Native Americans, Bison Herds May Hold the Keys to a Brighter Future." National Wildlife 1 Oct. 2000. [...]


[...] Additionally, bison food aid bolsters a uniquely Native way of life. Putting the responsibility of raising bison in Native hands acknowledges a fundamental antagonism between Native and Western cultures. Natives view Western methods of closed feedlots, hormone use, and grain feeding as unnatural and harmful to bison (76). According to Dr. David Lulka, a professor of geography at San Diego City College, tribal methods of raising and disseminating bison meat deeply embedded within the life of the society Bison meat may be used in ceremonial events, eldercare facilities, and school programs. [...]

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