"Fifty years ago, diabetes was unheard of among the Tohono O'odham people.
Today, more than half of all Tohono O'odham adults suffer from type 2, or adult-onset diabetes, the highest rate in the world. The type 2 incidence among the O'odham is eight times that of the general population in the United States. And children barely old enough to enter kindergarten are developing the disease.
Among those living with type 2 diabetes is Terrol Dew Johnson, a 35-year-old O'odham community activist and artist, who recently embarked on what he's calling "the walk home" or "a 3,000-mile journey to Native American wellness."
On June 16, Johnson and four of his young relatives began a walk across the United States - from Maine to Arizona - to get fit and to promote native foods and culture. The group will visit native and non-native communities during their travels.
Johnson is co-founder and co-director of Tohono O'odham Community Action, a nonprofit group in Sells that advocates a return to a traditional Tohono O'odham diet as a solution to the epidemic of type 2 diabetes.
TOCA operates a 100-acre farm on which it grows tepary beans, squash, corn and melons. Such crops, along with cholla buds and saguaro fruit, were once staples of the Tohono O'odham diet.
"Every village on the reservation had their own farms, worked the land and grew their own foods," Johnson said. "There there wasn't much obesity.""
Get the Story:
Anne T Denogean: O'odham activist fights diabetes with 3,000-mile walk
(The Tucson Citizen 8/19)
Tohono O'odham group walks from Maine to Arizona