By: Dr. Ojistoh Horn, Family Medicine, Akwesasne Medical Clinic.
Diabetes is a health issue in Indigenous peoples around the world. There is a lot of information available to people describing symptoms, ways of diagnosing it, and treating it. These paragraphs aim to describe it from an Indigenous ‘ways of knowing’ view.
Humanity is realizing the consequences of the poor management of the planet’s most available energy source – oil. The ways in which the lands and her resources have been turned into commodities, how people have been removed from their lands and ability to take care of themselves becoming dependent on an economy that is difficult to thrive in, and how humanity has removed itself from its relationships with all living things have created a profound imbalance. Colloquially called Climate Change, through colonization, capitalism, and globalization, we have disturbed the Great Balance, or the Homeostasis that exists on our Earth. Relationships, reciprocity, taking no more than needed, and looking into the future are indigenous ‘ways of knowing’ that have aimed to maintain the Great Balance in the lands that we take care of.
But there is also a Great Balance to be maintained within our bodies. Diabetes is a physiological condition of profound imbalance and inability of the body to manage its main fuel, or energy source – glucose. Specifically, the movement of glucose in the blood through the vessels to the body’s muscles and organs is disrupted because there is not an efficient or effective amount of insulin – the molecule that moves glucose between tissues. The chronically high glucose in blood vessels causes inflammation, which then cause blockages making it even more difficult for oxygen and other important substances to be delivered to the tissues. Not enough oxygen and glucose to the neurons is called neuropathy, to the kidneys is caused nephropathy, and to the eyes is called retinopathy. The damage to the vessels increased blood pressure, strokes and heart disease, and non-healing wounds or ulcers in the skin. All systems of the body are related.
By being unable to practice our cultures, unable to sustain our diets and physical labors in the ways that our ancestors did, not fulfilling the ceremonies that reaffirm our relationships with each other, to other living beings, and to the lands, waters, ice, and air, we have found it difficult to maintain the Great Balance, or the Great Homeostasis outside and within our bodies. Illnesses today are our body’s progressive inability to maintain the inner homeostasis and balance. Climate change is Mother Earth’s progressive inability to maintain her great homeostasis and balance. Diabetes is the illness of our people that mirrors the health of our mother, the Earth. We are all related.