United Tribes News Speech Archives

Remarks Of:
Dr. David M. Gipp, President
United Tribes Technical College

Impact of Marketing Food and Beverages on Children and Youth in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities

Workshop Sponsored By
Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on
Food Marketing and the Diets of Children and Youth
January 27, 2005


Dr. David M. Gipp

      On behalf of the nearly 1,000 students, faculty, staff and board members of United Tribes Technical College, I appreciate the opportunity to present to the Institute of Medicine Committee on Food Marketing and the Diets of Children and Youth. On July 1, 2004, our College celebrated 35 years of serving the educational needs of American Indian students and their families. We are proud to be part of the family (Oyate) of America's Tribal Colleges and Universities, which now has a student population over 30,000. Our Tribal Colleges and Universities:


      The Indigenous people of this continent still have teachings that have been passed from generation to generation through oral tradition. In those teachings respect for all of creation is comparable throughout every one of our Indigenous Nations. When the first ships of Columbus reached these shores the land was unspoiled and appeared to be untouched. Yet despite the appearance, thousands of Indigenous Nations inhabited this land for thousands of years. The cultural value of respect for all creation insured that my ancestors left an inhabitable environment for me and for you. Many injudicious changes have occurred over the past 500 years with minimal focus on the research of what the effects would be on our future generations.

      Indigenous peoples of this continent had thousands of years of undocumented research on how to live respectfully on the earth that they passed from generation to generation through oral tradition. Our Tribal Nations today have experienced the results of a fast paced surge of contemporary American life. Today we have a high incidence of Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer and many other infirmities that have been linked to unhealthy foods. Our small reservation grocery stores often have an excess amount of junk food products, numerous pop coolers, as well as frozen burritos, pizzas, and other non-perishable foods. Because many of our homes are remote, media influence is pervasive and healthy food choices are not among the television ads seen by our children and youth. We see thin, healthy, often beautiful individuals eating pizza, chips, and drinking those ice cold soft drinks. Again we have not been given the whole picture of what is being offered to us. It is time for all of us as Americans to become honest and respectful, at least to ourselves, if not to our future generations.


      Based on our own experience and knowledge and research findings of many studies, American Indians/Alaska Natives and their children and youth have many significant health problems as a result of poor nutrition. Few scientific studies have focused on American Indian and Alaska Native infants, toddlers, and young children. Of the studies that have, most tend to focus on particular Tribes or Native communities, thereby limiting the ability to generalize the results to the whole American Indian/Alaska Native population. Data originating from Indian Health Service facilities takes into account only those persons who are eligible to receive Indian Health services and who actually use Indian Health Service medical facilities. We are a young population; according to the 2000 Census, children and youth, under the age of twenty-five (25), comprise nearly one-half of all American Indian/Alaska Natives. The information presented today represents but a glimpse of the devastating effects from obesity and poor nutrition facing American Indian /Alaska Native children and youth:


      At United Tribes Technical College we know the need first hand because our students come from all across the country bearing these problems or the scars left by their personal experiences. The children and youth of the five Tribes in North Dakota (Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) that collectively own and govern United Tribes Technical College, face the same health problems detailed above. The College is a recognized leader in nutrition education at both the College level and in the reservation communities by United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Disease Control, as well as Tribal community members. United Tribes Technical College provides the following:


      Research drives public policy, which directs the development of a society's infrastructure. In order for the health of our American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth to improve, further research on this issue of marketing food and beverages must be conducted. Tribal Colleges and Universities must take the lead if we are to realize the main benefits from grants and partnerships with mainstream universities and major institutions. Those who control the research, control the destiny of their people. Tribes and Tribal leaders are aware of this and are beginning to assert their governance. Our own Tribal communities, colleges and universities need to conduct effective research among American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth at community levels. Our goal is to provide Tribal specific public health assistance, research, training and education on the impact of marketing of food and beverages. For that we need more resources, especially in the development of our own infrastructure, to address the chronic health problems of our growing young population.

      Thank you.