A’AGA: Something to be told or talked about

January 4, 2019 


By Billy Allen


Within the last 500 years, Natives in the Americas have altered some ideas to make sense of a changing world. O’otham and Piipaash have dropped some old practices and adopted new ones. Among them may be the idea of New Year’s resolutions; resolutions to improve ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now, whether resolutions work is up to us. 


We have the power to alter our lives depending upon how dedicated to the task we are. A Psychology Today article listed some resolutions most Americans—and we are Americans—normally choose: staying fit and healthy, losing weight, spending less/saving more, and spending more time with family and friends. 


Resolutions about staying fit and healthy shouldn’t be that drastic a change for us, more like an old idea in a new wrapper. Our ancestors existed on a diet heavy on plant foods with meat as an occasional dish. Our farmer ancestors worked their fields, selecting and saving the best seeds so future crops would be more plentiful, making a better life. Their way of “making a living,” was one of movement either in gathering, hunting, or preparing food. But any new idea brings out the skeptic in us, not too much energy should be wasted.


Not “wasting” energy was on the minds of our ancestors due to their reliance upon nature and the uncertainty of food and water. (Our ancestors would not hunt for deer up north; it would require too much effort to bring the meat down, not to mention spoilage.) In our modern world, we do a lot of sitting, watching, driving around and don’t burn up a lot of energy.


Today we are lost in a consumer world of processed carbohydrates, sugar, and fats. This could be why losing weight and getting healthier is difficult for some. Maybe dreaming up ways to “waste” energy makes sense nowadays.  We all know motion is good for health, but what ways? Look around, family, friends and the community can help. 


The Gila River Indian Community has always been at the forefront for change and early on our health and medical care was addressed. For our community, Western medicine has made life better.  The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates is often called “the father of modern medicine.” He is commonly quoted as saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And so it was with our farmer ancestors, eating to live but not living to eat. Keli Antonio Azul lived into his eighties. 


If you are not aware, our community and neighboring Native communities offer year around activities to help us fulfill resolutions. Throughout the year, various departments offer walks, runs and other outdoor activities geared to get us moving. The hard part might be getting the family in the car. Take along friends and hit the road.


Most of the walks and runs are offered free of charge and give out freebies, such as t-shirts and snacks. (Who doesn’t need another colorful t-shirt, a “free” one at that, and did I mention it will be free? Being healthy can save money?) Showing up to participate, scoring some freebies, seeing relatives, and making new friends—how much more Native can that be? 


Gila River has tapped Community members to demonstrate old foods in new ways, traditional foods which strengthened our hard-working ancestors.  The Gila River Nutrition Coalition, through the Community Health Nutrition Program, presented how to quickly prepare home cooked meals. Who knows, if we eat less carbs, we might get thinner, our wallet might get thicker. 


If we vow to become more fit and healthy, lose some weight, spend less, save more and spend more time with family and friends, we take a step towards an old way of living. Owl Ear (Chukut Na:k), who lived for 98 years and Keli Tashquinth (Sun Counter), who lived to be 115 years young would nod in agreement: Ha’o. 


Information was taken from Psychology Today Magazine, S.E. Ruckman. “Resolutions for the New Year.” December 30, 2008, indianz.com/News/.