Marietta King wants to flip the government’s food pyramid on its head.
King says the famous symbol, long used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to depict the types and proportions of food we should consume, is all wrong for American Indians. That’s largely because native peoples are still evolving from their hunter-gatherer roots, the Blackfeet tribal member maintains.
Instead, King says Indians need a “pyramid lodge” of foods, with proteins at the bottom, fresh vegetables, berries, unsaturated fats and dairy products in the middle, and grains and sweets at the top, meaning they should be eaten the least and in the smallest quantities.
“We now know that the typical food pyramid is resulting in the fattening of America,” she explains.
King, 50, says she watched her parents die debilitated by disease. That’s when she vowed to make lifestyle changes and help others do the same.
“When my parents passed away I began to look at my own health,” the East Glacier Park resident says. “I realized I was going right down the same path.”
King researched traditional native diets and juxtaposed them with the well-documented onslaught of health afflictions devastating native peoples today. The outcome was two books, Native American: Food is Medicine, and Renewal of Life: Food Journal, which allows users to track their daily intake of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Both were released last year by McCleery & Sons Publishing (www.mcleerypublishing.com), based in Gwinner, N.D.
King, who also works as an artist, says modern-day foods, especially those that are highly processed, are putting Indian people at risk. While her cookbook contains recipes for ribs, hamburger and chicken, it also includes directions for baked tripe, Saskatoon berry soup and boiled tongue, among other traditional delicacies.
“The life force of the plant we eat or the animal we eat becomes part of us,” King says. “If we’re eating out of the can, there’s no life in that. It’s dead.”