Hoopa Woman Swims From Alcatraz Island To San Francisco Crossing For Diabetes Awareness

American Indian and South End Rowing Club, San Francisco support swimmers, take time out for a “We can do it!” cheer during a training swim prior to the 1.5 mile Alcatraz Island to San Francisco  swim on October 10./Photo by PATHSTAR.

American Indian and South End Rowing Club, San Francisco support swimmers, take time out for a “We can do it!” cheer during a training swim prior to the 1.5 mile Alcatraz Island to San Francisco swim on October 10./Photo by PATHSTAR.

The 14 Annual Alcatraz Swim Week began on October 2 and included an eight-day event, which is a component of PATHSTAR’s (www.pathstar.org) year-round program to educate and encourage wholesome nutrition and a stay-active lifestyle among American Indian and Alaska Natives.

According to the American Diabetes Association, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives have the highest rate of obesity and diabetes of any race or ethnicity in the United States.

Among the participants is Hoopa Tribal member Shawna Jackson, along with other Native American health activists from all around Indian Country.

Jackson and her team were taken out to Alcatraz Island and began the 1.5 mile swim back to San Francisco crossing on October 10.

While not a long swim, about 1.5 miles, the participants had to brave the perilous currents and frigid water (mid to high 50 degrees) water of the San Francisco Bay. Fog, wind and choppy water contributed to the worst conditions in the 14-year history of the swim. Seasoned triathletes regard the crossing a daunting challenge with ideal weather conditions.

Moreover, 50-year-old Jackson, and a second-year participant, developed severe leg cramps during the swim; but insisted on completing her swim with the assistance of a paddle-board.

“I’m not a quitter,” she said when she came ashore.

Obesity is a leading precursor of diabetes. Nationally, nearly half of American Indian children are overweight or obese, a rate almost double that of their Caucasian peers, according to the 2015 State of Obesity report from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Swim week participants make a year-long commitment as ambassadors for healthy change, sharing their experience and successes with their family, friends and tribal communities.

PATHSTAR alumni have given presentations and workshops at national Native wellness conferences and developed community and school gardens, coached high school and community sports, and worked on anti-obesity initiatives and fitness and diabetes prevention programs throughout the United States.

Type 2 diabetes can be avoided with a healthy diet and increased physical activity.

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