Health Problems

We Are Convinced We Deserve This or, The Boarding School Syndrome (B.S.S.)

Many Natives may have just given up in their attempts to retain their culture (and therefore their pride) and have come to the conclusion that an “Americanized” diet is the best diet. Some, on the other hand, never think about what they eat at all. This attitude stems directly from what I call the “Boarding School Syndrome,” a psychological problem that plagues thousands of Natives. Symptoms include apathy towards racism, stereotypes and other forms of discrimination. Sufferers feel no desire to fight against prejudice or the colonial ideology that Native culture is inferior to white, Christianized, “civilized” culture (as defined by those who believe they are superior). The BSS is a result of generations of young Natives being forced to endure racist teachings at boarding schools that told the students their languages, religions, clothing, hairstyles, world views and foods were inferior. Students were dressed like Americans and were fed Americanized, salty, greasy, fatty and wheat-laden dishes. These teachings were then brought back to their families and what we see today are Natives who make minimal or no effort to regain their cultures. Eating the foods this society presents without questioning the contents of those foods and the damaging or healthful benefits of those foods is one of the manifestations of the BSS.3 One huge step we can take to regain our culture and pride is instead of spending money at restaurants that, in the words of British McDonald critic Dave Morris, “powerful multinationals that shift capital across borders with few qualms, that feel no allegiance to any nation, no loyalty to any group of farmers, workers or consumers,”4 we can grow, cultivate and prepare our own foods that our ancestors ate. And, even if we cannot grow gardens or hunt antelope, bison and elk, we can monitor our diets, make informed choices at the market and include exercise as part of our daily routines.