A team from the University of Northern Michigan launched a study into the effects on the human body when consuming foods indigenous to the Great Lakes Region.
The study was done over the course of one year and the results were documented by lead researcher, Dr. Martin Reinhardt, an Annishnabe man and professor of Native American Studies at the University’s Centre for Native American Studies.
Reinhardt, along with 24 additional participants, abandoned the Standard American Diet (SAD) and instead ate from a specific list of foods that were either historically documented or commonly known to be indigenous to the original people of the Great Lakes region. In what they named the “Decolonized Diet Plan” (DDP), foods such as corn, beans, squash, turkey, pecans and venison were sourced for the participants by local providers.
In addition to the foods consumed by the team, they actively pursued harvesting their own foods directly from the earth wherever possible. This was intentionally done by the team to reduce dependency on factory farming and to bring about another level of decolonizing their diets. Participants collected herbs to make teas and other foods commonly available from the natural world as well. In videos published on YouTube, the team can be seen harvesting cattails and white pine needles for food and teas.
Two Row Times spoke with research lead Dr. Marin Reinhardt about his findings. After a four day fast to cleanse his body of non-indigenous foods, he consumed an all indigenous “decolonized diet” every day for the next 365 days.
Reinhardt said, “On a biological level I lost weight. I went from 192 lbs to 155lbs over the course of a year. I also saw a significant decrease in my cholesterol levels which went from 215 to 155.”
The study found that participants adhering to the foods approved for the Decolonized Diet Plan experienced a wide range of positive effects. Reinhardt shared his findings in “Spirit food: A multidimensional overview of the Decolonizing Diet Project. In Indigenous Universalities and Peculiarities of Innovation”
Reinhardt writes, “The implications for Indigenous peoples’ health are profound. Eating Indigenous foods at a commitment level of 25% or higher on a daily basis can result in significant losses in weight and girth. Eating at a level of 100% could also result in significant decreases in overall cholesterol, LDL, and Triglycerides.”
Reinhardt also told the Two Row Times that on a personal level he received a greater sense of cultural connection to the territory. He said, “It was very intense and the work was very meaningful to me. I invoked my treaty rights to utilize the land. I did what I could to gather food not in the marketplace. It’s so much more rewarding.”
Another benefit to all those involved in the diet plan was an increased sense of community brought about by the participants gathering together to collect and prepare foods. In fact, the participants regularly still communicate together via online forums about food decolonization.
This was just one study in a growing move across North America where indigenous people are taking up the work of reducing their consumption of genetically modified and mass produced foods and moving towards a greater consumption of traditional and home grown or self hunted foods.
From January to March of 2015 the Two Row Times is facilitating our own version of a decolonized diet: the Healthy Roots Indigenous Lifestyle Challenge. This work is sponsored by The Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation and is a collaborative effort in partnership with Six Nations Health Services, Tyendinaga Community Wellbeing Centre, De Dwa Da Dehs Nye’s – Aboriginal Health Centre and the Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative (SOADI).
For more information on the Decolonized Diet Project you can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/decolonizingdietproject and for more information on the Two Row Times Healthy Roots Indigenous Wellness Challenge check it out on our website.