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Honors Thesis/Project Advisor for this Particular Submission:

Kathleen A. Brown-Perez

UMass Amherst


Type II diabetes and alcoholism are more prevalent in the American Indian population than in any other population in the United States. Alcoholism is strongly correlated with other ailments, such as suicide, violence, and even death. Diabetes is often the result of poor diet and lack of exercise, and results in serious health implications. Together, these two afflictions have detrimentally influenced the mental and physical health of affected individuals and their communities. Although poor economic well-being bears strong influence over the prevalence of these diseases, the historical treatment of American Indians by European settlers and the United States government has proved to be the most important influence. Rum trading by British settlers introduced Indians to the poison which has yet to leave the veins of the majority of its users. In addition, redistricting of Indian civilizations and the depletion of natural resources has produced confined and destitute communities where diabetes and alcoholism are rampant as a result. Commodity foods that were high in fat and sugar became mainstays in many Indian homes. Attempts at assimilation via the General Allotment Act only made matters worse, as a cultural and identity crisis was created that has proved to be irreparable. The future outlook concerning these issues is uncertain, however it is evident that change will have to come from the community and tribal level rather than from the United States government.