Native Americans Coming to Bay Area for Alcatraz Swim and Health Boot Camp

American Indians three times more likely to die from diabetes-related complications


WHAT: It’s about 1.2 miles from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore, which doesn’t seem a long swim until you consider the frigid, mid-50 degree water and perilous currents of the San Francisco Bay. On October 17, Native Americans from South Dakota, Alaska, Washington and the Bay Area will make the swim — with just six days’ training.

Participants range in age from 14 to 62; most are novice swimmers. Few have seen a large body of water, let alone attempted an open-water swim. The event concludes the ninth annual PATHSTAR Alcatraz Program, a weeklong (October 9-17) event. PATHSTAR (, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, inspires active lifestyle and healthy nutrition within Indian Country communities.

WHY: The Lakota message, “Oyate kin nipi kte: So that the people will live,” succinctly expresses the motivation for the participants. The national diabetes epidemic is devastating in Indian Country. When compared with the population as a whole, American Indians are three times more likely to die from diabetes-related complications, according to federal Indian Health Service statistics. Obesity is a leading risk factor of diabetes. Native youth are twice as likely to be overweight than are young people in the general population.

“I was diagnosed as being borderline diabetic. Both of my parents were diabetic. My father died of a massive heart attack and my mother of cancer. So I realized I had to make a change in my life and eating habits…”
– David Tobacco, Oglala Lakota; 2010 PATHSTAR participant

WHEN: October 9-17

WHERE: Monday, October 17: Alcatraz to San Francisco swimmers will depart by boat for Alcatraz from the Hyde Street Pier at approximately 8:30 a.m. with swimmers coming ashore at the South End Rowing Club (500 Jefferson at Hyde) in about one to two hours.

Week Event Highlights

– Wednesday, October 12 (3:15-5:30 p.m.) Gardening and cooking class with after school program children at Edward R. Taylor School, 423 Burrows Street, San Francisco.

– Thursday, October 13 (1-3 p.m.) Assist in harvest at Addwater Farm, 3800 Cloverdale Road, Pescadero.

– Sunday, October 16 (12-3p.m.) Kayaking outing at Sea Trek, 85 Liberty Ship Way, Sausalito.

For complete list of activities, times and locations, please contact PATHSTAR Director Nancy Iverson at

See Related: Health Care Archive

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