Water Rights and Diabetes in Arizona

Water Rights and Diabetes in Arizona

November 1, 2019 0 By Jose Scott


Lewis:
THERE’S A DIRECT CONNECTION BETWEEN THE DIVERSION OF WATER
IN THE UPPER GILA RIVER AND THE HEALTH STATUS
AND ECONOMIC STATUS OF PIMAS AND MARICOPAS. IN THE 1890s, WATER SIMPLY STOPPED COMING DOWN
THE GILA RIVER. Narrator:
UPSTREAM, WATER FROM THE GILA WAS DIVERTED BY DAMS
AND WATER PROJECTS, GIVING WHITE SETTLERS,
FARMERS, RANCHERS, AND MINING INTERESTS
THE WATER THEY NEEDED. Lewis: AND WE WERE DEPENDENT
UPON THAT WATER TO GROW CROPS, TO PROVIDE FOR OURSELVES. Narrator: NOT EVEN
THE 1908 SUPREME COURT DECISION UPHOLDING WATER RIGHTS
FOR ALL NATIVE AMERICANS COULD PROTECT THE PIMA. THE COOLIDGE DAM — IN 1930,
ONE OF THE LARGEST IN THE WORLD. ITS PROMISE —
TO PROVIDE WATER FOR EVERYONE, THIS TIME INCLUDING THE PIMA. FORMER PRESIDENT CALVIN COOLIDGE
CELEBRATED ITS OPENING WITH POLITICIANS
AND BUSINESSMEN. THEY DINED ON CHINA, CRYSTAL,
AND LINEN. THE PIMA ATE BAGGED LUNCHES
ON MAKESHIFT TABLES. COOLIDGE PASSED THE PEACE PIPE, BUT IN THE END, THE PIMA GOT
LITTLE OF THE WATER AGAIN. Lewis: WE WERE PRACTICALLY
WITHOUT WATER FOR ALMOST AN ENTIRE CENTURY. WE WERE AMONG THE POOREST PEOPLE
IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AS ARE INDIANS WHO LIVED
ON OTHER RESERVATIONS AND STILL ARE
IN THAT SITUATION — UNABLE TO GROW CROPS, UNABLE TO
GET OUT AND WORK IN THE FIELDS, UNABLE TO DEVELOP ECONOMICALLY BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF WATER
FOR ALMOST 100 YEARS. IT’S AN ABSOLUTE SHAME, AS FAR
AS THIS COUNTRY IS CONCERNED AND AS FAR AS THE STATE
OF ARIZONA IS CONCERNED. Dr. Warne: WHAT IS A METAPHOR
FOR THE REST OF THE COUNTRY TO TRY TO THINK ABOUT IN TERMS
OF DAMMING THE RIVERS? IT WOULD BE LIKE SAYING
TO THIS ENTIRE COUNTRY, “OKAY, SURVIVE NOW
WITHOUT MONEY.” AND HOW WOULD YOU DO THAT? HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE
YOUR ENTIRE ECONOMY? HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE
YOUR ENTIRE CULTURE? HOW WOULD YOU CHANGE
YOUR ENTIRE LIFESTYLE? AND WOULD YOU BE SUCCESSFUL?
WOULD PEOPLE DIE? Narrator:
AND THE PIMA DID DIE. BUT THEY DIED FROM STARVATION… NOT FROM DIABETES. A SURVEY CONDUCTED IN 1902 FOUND ONLY ONE CASE OF DIABETES
AMONG THE PIMA. BUT WITHIN 30 YEARS
OF BUILDING THE COOLIDGE DAM, THERE WERE MORE THAN 500. Dr. Warne:
IF WE HAD NOT DAMMED THE RIVERS BACK IN THE 1920s AND 1930s, WE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO HAVE
THIS LIFESTYLE THAT WE ENJOY IN ARIZONA WITH SWIMMING POOLS AND GOLF
COURSES AND ARTIFICIAL LAKES. AND WITH THIS LIFESTYLE, WE’RE REALLY LIVING
OUTSIDE THE LAWS OF NATURE. AND WHAT PEOPLE, I THINK,
GENERALLY SPEAKING, DON’T REALIZE IS THAT ALL
OF THE PROSPERITY OF PHOENIX AND THE PROSPERITY
OF THIS ENTIRE STATE WAS BUILT ON THE BACKS OF
THE HEALTH OF THE LOCAL TRIBES. PIMAS LIVED A VERY,
VERY DIFFICULT LIFE AT THE BOTTOM
OF THE ECONOMIC SCALE. WE HAD ALMOST NO RECOURSE EXCEPT TO BECOME DEPENDENT
UPON GOVERNMENTAL BENEFITS. Narrator: SHORTLY AFTER
THE DAMS WERE BUILT, THE U.S. MILITARY
BEGAN DISTRIBUTING FREE COMMODITY FOODS
TO NATIVE AMERICANS. Johnson: IT DEFINITELY BROUGHT
US THROUGH THE HARD TIMES. THIS IS
THE COMMODITIES BUILDING, WHERE THEY HOUSE
THE COMMODITY FOOD. THIS IS WHERE PEOPLE USED TO
COME GET THEIR CHEESE, THEIR BEANS,
AND THEIR GRAPE JUICE AND STUFF. THERE USED TO BE JUST ROWS AND
ROWS AND ROWS AND ROWS OF THOSE. Narrator:
BUT THIS SURPLUS FOOD — WHITE FLOUR, CHEESE, REFINED
SUGAR, LARD, CANNED FOODS — IS A DIABETIC’S NIGHTMARE,
AS IT WAS FOR TERROL’S NEIGHBOR. THEY ASKED HER, “HOW MANY PEOPLE
IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?” AND SHE SAID, “ABOUT FIVE,” AND THE GUY SAID, “WELL,
YOU CAN GET FIVE BOXES OF FOOD.” AND THERE WAS CHIPS AND CANDY
AND CANNED FOOD, AND I THOUGHT, “WELL, THAT’S
A NICE IDEA ABOUT HAVING FOOD, BUT IT’S JUST THE WRONG KIND
OF FOOD.” AND I ASKED HER, “SO, WERE THERE
ANY KIND OF NORMAL FOOD?” SHE GOES, “WELL,
THERE WERE CANS OF GRAVY.” Narrator:
IT WAS NOT UNTIL 1996 THAT FRESH PRODUCE WAS OFFERED
IN THE PROGRAM. AND AUTHENTIC TRADITIONAL FOODS
ARE STILL NOT INCLUDED. Dr. Warne:
WHEN WE THINK OF TRADITIONAL AMERICAN INDIAN FOOD, FOR EXAMPLE, FRY BREAD IS ONE OF
THE THINGS THAT COMES TO MIND. WELL, IN TRUTH, TRIBES DID NOT
HAVE FRIED BREAD, HISTORICALLY. THE ROOTS OF FRY BREAD ARE IN
THE COMMODITY FOOD PROGRAM. AND FRY BREAD IS, ESSENTIALLY, TRYING TO DO THE BEST THAT YOU
CAN WITH YOUR COMMODITIES — FLOUR, LARD,
AND VEGETABLE SHORTENING. OVER GENERATIONS,
WHEN PEOPLE GROW UP WITH THAT, IT BECOMES A PART
OF THE CULTURE. IT BECOMES ACCULTURATED
INTO THE COMMUNITY THAT THAT IS PART OF THE NORM. Narrator:
THERE IS ONLY ONE SMALL MARKET ON THE 581-SQUARE-MILE
GILA RIVER RESERVATION WITH A SMALL PRODUCE SECTION. A REGULAR SUPERMARKET
IS AN HOUR’S ROUND-TRIP DRIVE. Dr. Warne: IF YOU’RE IN
AN IMPOVERISHED COMMUNITY AND YOU DON’T HAVE
HEALTHY CHOICES FOR FOOD AND YOU DON’T HAVE SAFE PLACES
TO EXERCISE, YOU’RE TREMENDOUSLY DISEMPOWERED WHEN IT COMES TO A DISEASE
LIKE DIABETES. AND THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW MUCH MEDICATION
IS IN THE PHARMACY. IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH
SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH, WHICH INCLUDE
THAT SENSE OF CONTROL, THAT SENSE OF SELF-EMPOWERMENT
THAT IS IMPORTANT TO ALL OF US, WHETHER WE’RE NATIVE
OR NON-NATIVE. IT HAS AN IMPACT
ON SELF-IDENTITY, AND IT HAS AN IMPACT ON ONE’S
SENSE OF HOPE FOR THE FUTURE. Henrietta: SOME OF OUR PEOPLE
HAVE JUST GIVEN UP. OUR PEOPLE LOST THEIR IDENTITY
WHEN WE LOST OUR WATER. WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY,
WE HAVE ELDERS THAT HAVE GONE. I ALWAYS HAVE THAT
IN THE BACK OF MY MIND THAT THOSE PEOPLE
WILL NEVER SEE THE WATER. WHEN I LEAVE THE RESERVATION AND I SEE THOSE SAME PEOPLE
THAT LIVE OUT THERE AND USE THAT WATER, HOW THEY’VE
BENEFITED FROM OUR LOSS… THEY’VE BENEFITED SO MUCH
FOR SO MANY YEARS. Narrator: DECISIONS TO BENEFIT
SOME ARE MADE EVERY DAY. THEY CREATE WINNERS AND LOSERS
IN WEALTH AND IN HEALTH. IN UPSCALE CITIES
LIKE SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA, THE DIABETES RATE
IS ONLY AROUND 5%. IN LESS AFFLUENT TOWNS,
LIKE BULLHEAD CITY, THE RATE IS CLOSER TO 11%. AND ON SOME POOR
NATIVE AMERICAN RESERVATIONS, IT CONTINUES TO BE 50%. THIS IS A DISEASE PATTERN
REPEATED ACROSS THE COUNTRY, ACROSS THE WORLD,
AND NOT JUST FOR DIABETES. WHETHER YOU ARE POOR OR WEALTHY
OR IN BETWEEN IS A POWERFUL PREDICTOR OF
HOW HEALTHY YOUR LIFE WILL BE.