Diabetes mellitus (DM) is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of death in the U.S. American Indian/Alaskan Natives (AI/ANs), who comprise only 2% of the total population. The AI/AN population has a high prevalence of DM in adults aged 20 years or older and is developing DM at a younger age than the general U.S. population. DM is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and mortality from CVD is higher in AI/ANs than the general population, as is the prevalence of stroke and 1-year post stroke mortality for both genders when compared to non-Hispanic whites. A genome-wide scan found a number of chromosome linkages in the AI/AN population that suggest that genetic factors may contribute to their high risk of DM and CVD. Importantly, studies also suggest that in addition to race/ethnicity, cultural norms and historic conditions play important roles in the prevalence of DM and CVD in this population. Therefore, multiple factors should be taken into consideration when establishing prevention programs to decrease the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and CVD incidence among adults and children in the AI/AN population. Prevention programs should focus on behavioral risk factors and lifestyle changes like encouraging smoking cessation, healthy diet, and increased physical activity while taking into consideration cultural, economic, and geographic factors.