A 1992 chart review in the Haida Village of Skidegate, Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada, revealed that 17% of the unscreened population aged 35 or over have been diagnosed with diabetes. The Haida Gwaii Diabetes Project was designed to develop a culturally sensitive community-based participatory action approach to the management of noninsulin-dependent diabetes (NIDDM). Phase One included obtaining community support, conducting a chart review, holding clinics to measure biophysical indicators, conducting focus groups, and planning response activities with the communities. A list of activities was developed, based on the focus group results. In addition, the project team developed a set of operating principles that ensured and reinforced collaboration. Phase Two included implementing and monitoring planned response activities, and holding exit clinics. The best attended activities were trials of traditional herbal medicine and traditional diet, and an exercise programme. While participation levels were not high enough for causal conclusions, a significant decrease in total cholesterol (0.45; P = 0.005) and rise in HDL (-0.097; P = 0.05) was found for participants for whom paired values were available. Diabetes intervention research in First Nations settings involves small numbers of participants, making it difficult to quantitatively assess outcomes. To increase participation it is advisable to open activities to the whole community, to tie planned activities into other scheduled community events, and to share findings concerning managing illnesses of acculturation with other communities.