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Reviewed by:
  • Good Meat
  • John Paul Rangel
Good Meat. Directed by Sam Hurst. Produced by Sam Hurst and Larry Pourier. Lincoln, NE: VisionMaker Video. Home, $29.95; education, $225.00.

Beau LeBeau, an Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, once a star athlete, is obese and facing Type II diabetes. He is not alone. Obesity is an epidemic in Indian Country, particularly on reservations where access to healthy foods is limited. Poor diet, sedentary lifestyle habits, along with poverty and general trauma compound the problem. Life expectancy on the reservation is fifty, which is twenty to thirty years below the national average.

After suddenly losing his mother to cancer and diabetes, LeBeau enlisted primary care physician Dr. Kevin Weiland and nutritionist Kibbe Conti (Oglala Lakota) for wellness education, supervision, and motivation. He embarked on a six-month diet consisting of buffalo and vegetables. He attempted to emulate a traditional Lakota diet with indigenous foods such as the buffalo, which were a staple to the Lakota people. In addition to quitting junk foods, LeBeau decided to also include an exercise regimen to help shed the pounds. Part of his motivation was to “stay alive for my children,” he stated.

LeBeau began this difficult endeavor weighing 333 pounds and facing several physical, emotional, and economic obstacles. Initially, the temptation to consume unhealthy foods was overwhelming, as they were ever present at the family dinner table, in the refrigerator, and at every event he attended. While his family supported his decision to change his diet and lifestyle, they were unwilling to fully participate, having grown accustomed and acculturated to the processed foods readily available at local grocery stores. Even accounting for 180-mile round-trips to Rapid City Wal-Mart, where more foods were available in bulk, it was cheaper to feed his large family on processed foods than healthier choices. LeBeau commented several times that the whole process was frustrating and isolating. He also remarked that eating and shopping healthy was a reeducation process that did not come easy. It is interesting to note that after only a few generations, tribal people who were once able to stay healthy and active and live off the food abundant in their homelands were now encumbered by [End Page 251] excess weight, heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and lack of mobility, resources, opportunity, and motivation. This is the reality for many Native Americans living on reservations.

The film also highlights the modern-day government-subsidized commodities program, which makes meat and vegetables available to reservation families, a distinct difference from the poorly stocked and often spoiled rations program of the past. The problem for most families is that the food was only distributed on a monthly basis and would not last the entire month feeding large households. Also, families are given the choice of food stamps or commodities, which in many poverty-stricken reservations like Pine Ridge makes the choice difficult.

LeBeau was able to raise the money to purchase a buffalo through his tribe’s Parks Department. The film documents LeBeau as he accompanies a team of tribal members to hunt and butcher the two-year-old bull that has been selected for him. Although the cost of the meat comes down to around two dollars per pound, the cost is paid upfront, and it would be hard for families, particularly in the Pine Ridge Reservation, where poverty and unemployment rates are extremely high, to meet this cost.

LeBeau noted that he utilized the tribal community fitness center, and various scenes were shot in the center. He commented frequently about how the loneliness and isolation that his diet and lifestyle change caused were affecting him. Each time he was filmed in the fitness center the place was empty, which underscored his sadness.

Good Meat illustrates the difficulties and realities for returning to or trying to emulate a traditional diet similar to what the Lakota had before confinement to reservations. This speaks to Natives across the United States who face similar dietary restrictions and resultant health problems and mortality. Buffalo, so integral to the subsistence of a nation, is reduced to ceremonial food only eaten on special occasions and at ceremonial...


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pp. 251-253
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