By Kathy Day
The Longest Walk 3, a 5,400-mile walk-run relay across America to draw attention to the epidemic of diabetes among Native Americans, will take off from La Jolla Shores Monday morning.
Pre-event presentations will begin at 6 a.m. with the walkers taking off at 9:45. They will spend the night at the San Pasqual reservation. On Tuesday they’ll go from Rincon to Pauma, Pala and then Pechanga reservations.
La Jolla was chosen as the starting point because of its historic significance to the Kumeyaay Nation. Members would stay along the ocean in the winter and journey back to the moutains and deserts as the weather warmed, said Louie Guassac, assistant coordinator for the Walk and a member of the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians.
Many of San Diego County’s tribal members — from the Kumeyaay, Luiseno, Cahuilla, Coupa and Chemevi nations — will participate in the event that is due to end in Washington, D.C., on July 8.
Guassac said the effort is aimed at minimizing the effects that diabetes has on tribal members as well as “to keep diabetes from becoming a reality for others.”
He said they are hoping to see about 300 people for the start.
“Diabetes is not part of our lifestyle,” Guassac said. “Our people did a lot of activities and grew and ate healthy food before being put on reservations, but this has become a true epidemic.”
The event is a combination of a walk-ride-run, he said. Among the participants are the Reservation Riders, a motorcycle club.
A Facebook page describing the walk, being led by A.I.M co-founder Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, notes the route will cover Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Banks, himself a diabetic, says on the site that “eiabetes has reached an epidemic state in Indian Country and the percentage of diabetes amongst Native Americans may be as high as 75 percent,” although the Indian Health Service’s estimate is at 35 percent.
Anyone interested in pledging support for the walkers can call (763) 242-4242 or show up on Monday morning at La Jolla Shores.