Terrol Dew Johnson has stopped in Lawrence during a 3,000-mile journey to raise awareness of the obesity rate among American Indians.
Johnson started in Maine in June 2008 and is on his way home to Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona. The reservation has the highest rate of adult-onset diabetes in the world with over half of the population suffering from the disease.
Johnson, 37, is one of them.
The Walk Home
Terrol Dew Johnson is walking and bicycling from Maine to Arizona to raise awareness of the obesity rate among American Indians.
If you would like Johnson to give a presentation, join him on part of his journey or donate money to support his efforts, contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 520-235-1030.
Johnson plans to leave Baldwin City on Sunday afternoon and travel along U.S. Highway 56 to Dodge City.
For more information, visit Johnson's Web site.
“For years, I have not been following any kind of regime to get better,” he said. “I really decided to do this walk and really take time to focus on myself.”
In 1996, Johnson co-founded Tohono O’odham Community Action, commonly known as TOCA. The nonprofit promotes traditional food and cultural activities as a solution to diabetes.
Now, he is walking the walk.
“If I can do it, anyone can. I was lazy,” he said, adding he has shed 60 pounds during the trip. Before he started, he weighed 297 pounds.
He has the support of his nephew Shane Johnson, 17, and niece Maray Johnson, 16, who have accompanied him during the entire trip. Shane Johnson said he “was sitting at home being kind of lazy” before the trip that has proved to be life-changing. Not only is he improving his health, but he is learning about financial struggles and the kindness of communities.
The family began by walking from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Sharon Springs, N.Y., and then stopped in November 2008 for the winter. In July, they walked from New York to Quincy, Ill., and then decided to start bicycling to pick up the pace.
They arrived in Lawrence on Nov. 15 and plan to leave from Baldwin City on Sunday. The vehicle that picks them up at the end of each day needed a new part, so during the wait they have taken advantage by spreading their message.
The family visited the Prairie Band Potawatomie Nation near Topeka and have attended activities in the Lawrence community.
On Thursday, Terrol Johnson spoke at the Harvest Food Festival at Haskell Indian Nations University. He was glad to see traditional American Indian dishes being served.
“TOCA focuses on incorporating traditional food that our ancestors ate long ago,” he said. Such foods include squash, beans, corn, rice, melons and wild game like rabbits and deer.
“We have veered away from that and are eating a lot of modern foods that have high calories and saturated fats and processed flour and things like that, which have been known to really be bad for Native Americans' metabolism.”
Terrol Johnson said he has learned that being overweight isn’t just about food and exercise.
“It covers a lot more than that. It goes a lot deeper psychologically,” he said. “We are basically talking about historical trauma. The whole idea is to peel back the layers and figure out why we are like this. Why did we let ourselves get to this point?”