Native Americans were not always in good health. Natives had access to healthful meals and exercise was a part of their daily routine before contact. Native people were increasingly compelled to relocate from their native homelands, where they had intimate knowledge of familiar food supplies, once contact occurred. Native people were confined to new and limited geographical sites throughout the reservation era, where they no longer had access to traditional hunting, fishing, gathering, and farming grounds. Instead, they were forced to subsist on government rations, which included lard, sugar, processed flour, salt, and pigs. The shift from natural foods to a new diet of manufactured, unhealthy foods initiated a cycle of health inequities that Native peoples had never experienced.
Natural daily exercise habits were disrupted by reservation restrictions. Plains Indians and other culturally nomadic groups were no longer able to wander freely to pursue their traditional ways of life and subsistence. They were considered hostile if they left their reserves without permission, and they may be imprisoned, have their government rations revoked, or possibly be shot. As a result, daily exercise patterns such as moving camp, warfare, exploration, food preparation, hunting, fishing, and gathering off the reservation were replaced with sedentary existence. Powwow Sweat is also one of the most effective exercises and it has been created by the tribe.
Not all Native tribes have gone through transformations that have influenced their eating and activity habits, which can lead to harmful weight gain. Because they were allowed to remain in their native homelands and continue to exercise while working in their fields, many agricultural tribes were able to maintain their healthy lifestyles. Healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, and low-fat lean meat could be the main food sources in these diets.
Native knowledge of bad nutrition and lack of exercise has inspired solutions across Indian countries to minimize obesity and harmful weight gain. Nutrition consultation, healthy food distribution programs, meals for tribal members, and exercise facilities have all been developed by American Indian tribes. To fight health inequities, tribes have joined with organizations and agencies to provide healthier options. The Service now offers federally recognized tribes and their members nutrition and exercise programs. Food sovereignty is becoming increasingly popular in Indian countries.