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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

Staying afloat on the flood

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Lisa Jones aptly addressed all the causes of the "Flood of Ill Health" that has afflicted us since the water came (HCN, 5/16/11). I say "us," as I have been around so long that the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold made me an "adopted" member in 1995, the year of my retirement. I still feel "our" suffering and perhaps can suggest a way out of the current health care dilemma.

Let me relate a recent conversation with nurse Izetta Hopkins, a tribal member. When asked what the biggest health problem is among Fort Berthold's people, without hesitation she answered: "depression." Native people have been depressed for hundreds of years -- since losing their culture, since going down in defeat to European invaders. The Missouri River dams accentuated it for the Standing Rock Sioux and the Three Affiliated Tribes.
Somewhat simplistically, Izetta and I constructed an imaginary chart showing how depression leads to overeating and drinking, which leads to obesity, diabetes, a disrupted social life and early death.

A theme of the Elbowoods Community Health Center must be prevention. Accordingly, we suggest looking for the root causes of depression. What might we find? It might be summed up in a word: disparity, or the separation from the mainstream.

Herbert J. Wilson, MD
Bismarck, North Dakota

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