Dr. Nancy Iverson, a San Francisco-based pediatrician, is getting ready to swim from Alcrataz to San Francisco. Nothing unusual in that right? Nancy swims in the Bay daily.
But get this. On October 11th, she and her volunteer support team, will swim from Alcrataz to the city with nine participants from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Most of the group is made up of young people, some of whom have no prior experience in the water.
It's their eighth annual swim.
I met Nancy about 16 years ago- no coincidence- in the water. We were at a conference in San Salvador in the Bahamas and were snorkelling buddies. Nancy carries a unique combination of gifts and talents – doctor, activist, humanitarian and warm human being. She is probably more at home in the water than she is on land.
I had great time swimming with her and I expect that her Pine Ridge friends do too.
Nancy, and her foundation Pathstar, are committed to the preservation of authentic traditions and healing. The Alcatraz swim is the culimination of six days of preparation and healthy lifestyle and nutritional education that the participants can use to influence positive change back in their communities.
As well, the swim has been captured on film! "From the Badlands to Alcatraz," which was produced and directed by Nancy, is an incredibly moving documentary. It follows the journey of these remarkable young swimmers as they prepare and make the swim. It is already an award winner:
"This award-winning film weaves the past and present of both Alcatraz and the Pine Ridge Reservation into a vivid depiction of the awe-inspiring journey the five youth navigate. It follows the group’s first plunge into the San Francisco Bay through their personal and collective challenges, disappointments and triumphs. Together, they strive to conquer both the Alcatraz swim and the dispiritedness connected to conditions on Pine Ridge."
When I saw Nancy last week-end, she shared that one of her motivations in making the film was to offer a positive vision of the lives of contemporary aboriginal people, a story that is often forgotten or ignored by the mainstream media.
She, and the swimmers, have accomplished that and more.
Pathstar could use your support. Here is a link that you can use to take a closer look at the remarkable work that Nancy and her friends are doing:
© Patrick O’Neill 2010. All rights reserved