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The Gift of Diabetes

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Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions among Indigenous peoples in Canada. Poor dietary habits, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, have led to high incidences of obesity. These factors are believed to play a pivotal role in the onset of diabetes. Add to this the ever-increasing costs of drugs and treatments for a disease that has no cure and, clearly, a health crisis is close at hand.

Ojibway filmmaker Brion Whitford lives with the pain of advanced diabetes. In 2001, complications from the disease left him with only 50 percent kidney function and blood sugar levels that were spiralling out of control.

Having been raised in the city, Whitford grew up without knowing his culture or heritage. Consequently, he had little faith in traditional Indigenous medicine and healing. But the more his health deteriorated, the deeper his interest grew in connecting with his own culture and traditions.

The Gift of Diabetes follows Whitford's struggle to regain his health by learning about The Medicine Wheel, a holistic tool grounded in an Indigenous understanding of the interconnectedness of all dimensions of life: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. He also explores how the historical trauma of colonization continues to exert a negative influence over Indigenous people's psychological and physical well-being. Only by making peace with this fact and his own troubled past can he move forward to a healthier and better life.

Whitford's journey is a moving account of a man coming to grips with his own mortality, while trying to re-establish balance in his life.

2005, 58 min 24 s

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Also available under

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Bronze Plaque - Category: Physical Health
International Film and Video Festival
November 9 to 13 2005, Columbus - USA

Best Public Service Award
Annual American Indian Film Festival
November 5 to 12 2005, San Francisco - USA

Award of Excellence - Category: Documentary Short
Indian Summer Deltavision Film & Video Image Awards
August 8 2005, West Allis - USA