Photo courtesy Albert Renteria Jr,
James Rodriguez lost his kidneys to diabetes, but made a commitment to keep his health under control through sobriety and exercise.

Must-See Mini Doc: Awakening the Spirit for Diabetes Awareness

Chelsey Luger

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in collaboration with the American Diabetes Association of the Greater San Diego Area just released a mini documentary to show not only the hard facts about the severity of the diabetes plague in Native country, but more importantly to show that diabetes is a manageable and preventable disease.

“Awakening the Spirit” is the name of the film and also of their larger collaborative effort toward diabetes prevention. The mission is to share some important messages: that no one should have to fight diabetes alone; that people with diabetes can manage it; that people with diabetes can live full lives; and that people with diabetes can be well enough to watch their grandchildren grow up.

“We really hope that this video brings awareness to a preventable disease and inspires change,” said Albert Renteria Jr., the director of the film.

Bradley "Baad Medicine" Guachino teaches MMA as a means to promote healthy active lifestyles for diabetes prevention in his community.  Photo courtesy Albert Renteria Jr,

Most of us already know that diabetes is a disease that plagues Native communities at alarmingly high rates. But it hasn’t always been that way - not by a long shot - and it doesn’t have to remain that way either. Recognizing and understanding that the culture of Native people is rooted in extraordinarily healthy lifestyle practices is the first step in instilling a sense of confidence and determination in those who are hoping to improve their health. It’s never too late, and anybody can do it.

“For anyone, you go to the doctor and they tell you that you’re pre-diabetic and you have to watch what you eat and exercise, and the way people translate that in the brain is ‘I have to be a vegan triathlete,’ said Larissa Roman, a producer on the doc and the Area Director of the ADA, “but the people in this video show that they are everyday people, that they did it, and that you can do it too.”

The documentary focuses on the stories of three Native men from southern California who have struggled with diabetes in some way. It’s a story that many Native people can relate to. 

Ronnie Whitehorse of the San Diego American Indian Health Center says that a lot of people don't want to hear or acknowledge that they might be pre-diabetic or diabetic, especially if they are young. Photo courtesy Albert Renteria Jr,

Richard “Shot” Linton (Santa Ysabel) talks about the traditions of health and wellness in his culture, and how returning to these practices can save lives today. James Rodriguez (Mojave) is a recovered alcoholic who lost his kidneys to diabetes but never gave up the fight to get healthier. Bradley Guachino (Pala) is an MMA fighter who teaches Jiu Jitsu to kids in his community to encourage health and fitness, because he remembers what it’s like to grow up overweight and unhealthy.

“The effects of diabetes on our Native communities is most often presented in terms of the statistics and not in the direct impacts on individuals and their loved ones,” said San Manuel Chairwoman Lynn Valbuena. “By working with the Awaking the Spirit program on projects like this short documentary, we are showing the Native people behind the numbers and their stories of strength and resilience as well as ways to prevent diabetes.”

It’s a must-see. Check it out here: 


Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Ideas for articles? Email her: [email protected].

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Submitted by iDiabetesDestro... on
Awakening the Spirit is working to encourage your spirit to fight diabetes, to make healthy food choices and be more active. All of these things will help create a healthy pathway for you and the generations that will follow after you.