Native Americans' favourite delicacy is 'junk'

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The Independent US

Most of them don't want to hear it, but the one food that Native Americans really consider theirs is under attack. The pancake discs known as fry bread - made of flour, lard, sugar and salt - are being labelled a serious health hazard and a prime cause of diabetes.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, each serving of fry bread contains at least 700 calories and 27g of fat. Meanwhile, the prevalence of diabetes among American Indians in the United States is twice that of the general population.

Leading the campaign to wean her fellow Indians off the stuff is Susan Shown Harjo, who writes a column for Indian Country Today newspaper and has caused a furore by calling fry bread junk food. A fierce and often ill-tempered debate within the Native Indian community has ensued.

"It's the connecting dot between healthy children and obesity, hypertension, diabetes, dialysis, blindness, amputations and slow death," Ms Harjo wrote. She concluded that the food is simply "rotten stuff".

The delicacy was borne out of necessity and adversity when white Americans began marching the natives out of their ancestral homes in the 19th century, separating them from their traditional food sources of elk, deer, rabbit and milk. What they gave them instead were rations of flour and the other ingredients of fry bread.

"Just because it was food that was forced on us doesn't mean we have to keep embracing it," Ms Harjo said.