Native American tribes have long struggled with high rates of diabetes. COVID made the problem even more urgent.

Heather Mars-Martins and her family would dive off the coast of Westerly, Rhode Island, to catch quahogs, clams native to the eastern shores long foraged by her Narragansett tribe.

Mars-Martins and her family would swim back up to their canoes and head home to make traditional chowders or shellfish pies.

But often, her diabetes complications interrupted those trips, and she’d have to race to the emergency room when her blood sugar inevitably crashed to low, dangerous levels.

“That sort of fun, activity-filled life that I always had, it slowly escaped me,” she said. “I became more aware that this disease is robbing me of some freedom.”