Twenty years ago, John Parmeter, a teacher at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in Cass Lake, was diagnosed with diabetes. Today he said he is free of the disease thanks to a traditional diet of all-natural, locally grown food.
Parmeter was part of a day-long diabetes program for youth Tuesday at Camp Rabideau. The camp was sponsored by the Rabideau Conservation Academy and Learning Center.
Tables topped with locally harvested fruits, vegetables, venison, beef and maple syrup were on display for the campers. Smoke from scattered campfires heating wild rice dishes and tea kettles wafted throughout the former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp.
Parmeter showed the campers how to cook wild rice and brew tea and passed around samples of dried fish.
"When I was diagnosed with diabetes, it felt like my world was coming to an end," said Parmeter. "But after meeting with tribal elders, I learned the importance of eating natural, traditional and healthy foods."
Many of the youth participating in the Leech Lake camp were diagnosed with diabetes, showed symptoms or had a parent with the disease.
"Diabetes is increasing on the reservations," said Parmeter. "We need to know where our food comes from and learn how it is produced."
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, one in 10 Minnesotans currently has diabetes or is at risk for developing the disease.
The state health department also reports diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in Minnesota and is rising, while deaths from heart disease, cancer and stroke are declining.
"Everybody who wants to stay in good health needs to get away from processed foods and needs to think locally," said Parmeter.
Other highlights of the day included the viewing of a solar-electric fence surrounding a garden and touring a 50-foot green house recently built by youth members of the Workforce Enhancement Agency (WEA).
Camp Rabideau is located six miles south of Blackduck.