Mohawk teacher from Tyendinaga reversing diabetes through indigenous foods

Tyendinaga Mohawk Karihwawishon Joe Brown has been participating in the Healthy Roots Indigenous Wellness Challenge for just six weeks and has already seen big changes to his life including a 25lb weight loss and a reduction in the amount of medication needed to control his diabetes and cholesterol.

It’s so awesome to have you as participant in this challenge. How are you feeling six weeks in?
I’m feeling awesome. I feel really good and I have way more energy than I ever had before.

You shared with the Facebook group that you were able to reduce the medication you need to control your blood sugar?
I was on an injectable medicine. It’s not covered by Indian Affairs so my doctor was just giving me samples to get me by. But I stopped taking that as soon as the challenge began. I was on eight pills a day for my sugar and one pill a day for my cholesterol. But my sugars have stayed at about 4 or 5 so I was able to stop taking the needle and now I only take 4 pills for my blood sugar instead of 8.

That is great news! All of this from eating healthy and getting active?
Yeah. I knew it was reversible and I knew I could get off those pills. They told me I had to lose about 100 lbs. first. But I thought, ‘no I’m gonna change my life before then’. So then this challenge came along.

And you’ve already lost weight?
When I started the challenge I was at 337lbs and now I am 314lb.

You’re really inspiring a lot of people online. How do you feel about being a role model?
My wife works at FNTI and everyday people are asking her about what I’m up to now. My sisters are also participating now and it feels really good to be able to be inspiring somebody else. It’s cool that this is confederacy wide. It’s not just restricted to Six Nations or Tyendinaga but there are Haudenosaune people all over, participating in this way of eating and healthy lifestyle.
I am a Mohawk teacher for a local high school and I also teach adult classes. One of the things we have done for years is we cook together every Friday. Since I started the challenge now on Friday’s our group cooks an all indigenous paleo-style meal that we can all eat together. Every Friday is a new recipe.

What a great way to connect and get healthier together. What are you doing to stay active?
In Tyendinaga we’re doing a Virtual Rez Walk Challenge. Participants are given a pedometer and they have to each week keep track of their steps and try to “walk” all the way from Tyendinaga to Six Nations, up to Wahta and then back to Tyendinaga. There are about 22 teams registered with 4 members on each team. This week my team came 3rd.

The Healthy Roots Indigenous Wellness Challenge continues on through to March 31st. See for more info.

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