Ancient wisdom from a diabetes microcosm to help us all

I am of Mexican heritage along with a motley mix of other cultures which includes Native American ancestry, but I don’t know which tribes.

I do know my family has been here in southern Arizona for hundreds of years. The earliest written documentation I have found, has been family living in the Spanish presidios or forts.

Because of this I pay a lot of attention to the tribes from this area. Not only is there a possibility of some familial ties, but for sure our histories are intertwined. My great-great grandfather was a settler but it’s been written he never denied peaceful tribes access to his land for their cultural ways. He held great respect for them.

I am very happy to share history and possibly blood with them. However, there is one element I am NOT happy to share - and that is diabetes.

In my family diabetes runs rampant. It’s pretty much a given that someday you will get it. I received the family honor of type 2 diabetes in my mid twenties.

I know many families like mine - usually other ethnic families. It used to be primarily an ethnic problem…but that is quickly changing. It’s becoming everyone’s problem.

There is a tribe in my area, the Tohono O’Odham, who have the highest incidence of diabetes in the world. Yet in 1960 diabetes was unknown to them. What a difference mere decades made!

These people have learned that if they return to traditional foods they can prevent diabetes and help current diabetics get better control and health.

I’m not talking about traditional foods as in fry bread…I’m talking earlier than that, before they were introduced to processed, frankensteined foods. I’m talking back when a bowl of gruel and reconstituted sun-dried vegetable was the norm. I’m talking back when they gathered wild greens, seeds, and cactus for food.

There is an organization called TOCA (Tohono O’Odham Community Action) that is trying to reintroduce traditional foods, tradtional farming, improve health, and revitalize culture. I feel the whole world should be paying attention to, and supporting this community. They represent a microcosm of diabetes in the world - and hopefully we can learn a lot from their traditional foods and traditional ways. We can learn a lot as they fight their way back to health with food.

See the video on my blog to meet these people.