Today, you will hear the views and ideas of our pozcast guests. We are eager to showcase their expertise and provide a platform for their views, but they may not always reflect or align with the views of The Positive Effect, or the MAP Center for Urban Health Solutions.
Welcome to the pozcast. We are created by and for people living with HIV. On each episode, we explore what it means to be poz. We challenge the status quo and we share stories that matter to us. I'm James Watson and I'm HIV-positive. If you're living with HIV, listen up.
We have a very special show for you today. June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. And this is a time when we honour the history and heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. It's also an opportunity for us to recognize the strength and resilience of Indigenous communities across this land. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in its final report urged all of us, all Canadians, to educate themselves on the lived realities and histories of Indigenous people. And I'm grateful to be able to do what I can in my own little way and use pozcast to help celebrate this very special month and day. In order to learn of course, we all need to take the time to listen, really listen. So I'm stepping aside for this episode and turning it over to my friend Doris Peltier, an Anishinaabe mother and grandmother and great grandmother, and person living with HIV. In fact, when you get the chance, you should tune into the pozcast episode Story to learn more about Doris. She's a she's a modest person, but let me tell you Doris is an inspirational leader and champion in the HIV sector. She's extraordinary. She does great work as the Community Engagement Coordinator with a Feast Center for Indigenous STBBI Research, and the Feast Center is a partnership between McMaster University and the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. She's also a former CBC radio host, so I am going to leave you in very good hands, folks. Let's listen in.
Welcome to the special National Indigenous History Month episode of pozcast. My name is Doris Peltier, your poz host for today's episode. First, a big shout out to producers, The Positive Effect, who bring pozcasts to you through the MAP Center for Urban Health Solutions. And a very special thanks to my friend, James Watson for inviting me to guest host. We have a special Indigenous HIV historical journey to take you on today. You are in for a treat. For this episode, I invited two very special guests and we talked Indigenous HIV history, and they gave their perspectives on our collective Indigenous HIV history to the present. But first, let's begin with a very special song to honour all our collective legacies in forging the path forward in the Indigenous response to HIV and AIDS in Canada. The song is a Western doorway song called Mushkodebishiki sung by Dave Boulanger, Kiwizenz-Tawagun of Burnt Project1 he is accompanied by his wife, Janine Twoheart (Niizhode) in gifting this song to us. This is a ceremonial song, so think about our ancestors as you listen. After the song we will hear from David explaining the importance of our songs [song plays].
Aniin, Boozhoo [speaking in native language]. My English name is David Boulanger, it's an honour to also introduce my wife and my life partner.
Boozhoo, Aniin [speaking in native language]. My English name is Janine Twoheart (Niizhode). I am from [native language]. It is an honour to share here from...
[Native language], where the creator sat here in Whiteshell, Manitoba. Currently my wife and I are on the land at the sacred site. In a small little camper celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day with the grandfathers and with the land.
We'd also like to acknowledge the 215 children found in the residential school in Kamloops BC, along with the ones found here in Brandon, Manitoba, and all the ones yet to come home.
It's an honor to be invited to come and say a few words about Mushkodebishiki, which translates to Buffalo Spirit, come in. And the first time I heard that song was through the late Stan Williams, who was a [Indigenous community reference] practitioner in the community. And he took me under his wing a long time ago, roughly 25-30 years ago, and started teaching me about the [name] and the songs and some of our beliefs. I spent a lot of time with him. And I just wanted to acknowledge him for sharing that song with me, way back when. But we also have another understanding of what the buffalo represents in our community over here in the center of Turtle Island. And one example I can give you is through David Courchene Jr. at the Turtle Lodge, and he talks about respect. In that word, the word respect, it has a different meaning with our people, with our nation than it does the western English version. You know, in its form it's aggressive and authoritative and it's sometimes not looked at as a positive word, though, depending on how you deliver it. But in our community here, when you talk about respect, it's about giving the highest honor of respect that you can show for anything or anybody is to give of yourself like [name] did for his people, he gave everything himself, for everybody, for everything, so that we can survive. And so to this day, that's where we draw that definition and understanding that respect. So those are the kinds of things we embody and practice when we think about that buffalo. And when we sing this type of song, this ceremonial song.
The other portion of this pozcast, was to share the reason why we recorded this song. And it wasn't long ago, where I was doing some work with youth in the education system in Manitoba, and I came, you know, I realized that, you know, they were singing O'Canada, and all these things. And that was a part of that movement here, where we started to sing our own songs, and I was one of those people that brought the drum, and the songs and the language back into the schools with youth. We made drums, hundreds of drums, 1000s, of you know, rattles and, you know, did many, many workshops with many different schools, and we taught them different types of songs. And I figured, you know, it would be really nice to protect, preserve and prevent the loss of these songs, and try to get them, I guess, into the curriculum, like, instead of hearing O'Canada, like, just on its own, why can't we have, you know, the buffalo song or the bear song or one of our own flag songs, then we can stand in honor as youth together. So that was implicated here. And we got that achieved, and they're starting to acknowledge, you know, our language and our songs, and you know, how we we choose to honour our relatives. So that was something I'm proud of, and recording the songs here, which we have a collection of different types of songs, midday songs, and we have songs from Lakota, Dakota, Cree songs, we have Anishinaabe songs from [name] and all over and abroad. And we recorded them for young people to be able to get the correct translation and then the correct spelling. We even put together a songbook that accompanies that, for youth that do want to pick up the drum and live by the drum. So we kind of make that available, we wanted to make that available for for young people that didn't have any other resources that didn't have, you know, exposure to that type of thing. You know, like for me, when I was sitting in school, and I happened to be one of the only Aboriginal kids in that school. And I used to resent—even though I didn't know much about the history of our people, I used to resent standing at attention during O'Canada in class. But, you know, as time went on, I moved on and learned more about where I come from and who I am. And I found the language. And I found the songs. And it was like, those songs were the theme music for what's really happening in my young life as I was experiencing the world. It was really an adventure for me to, to discover, where we come from and who we are, which I'm very proud of. And I thank a lot of many teachers and a lot of people that have helped me come this far in my life.
Another reason why we use this song, why we sing this song is to honor the ones that have gone on before us, our ancestors, which sit in the western doorway, and we acknowledge them for all the love and for caring for our people. And we sing that to acknowledge them and to pay our respect to what they have given us, and what they kept safe and alive. A long time ago, our people had the ability to see very long distances, we had the ability to see a long way into the future. Not like today, where today we struggle to even have the ability to see what tomorrow brings. So that gives me hope, it brings hope, when I think about the ancestors, and my sing that song, and thinking about, you know, how intelligent and gifted our ancestors were, and continue to be to this day. And those songs were kept alive all those generations, just so that we can have that hope so that we can have something to anchor us and to bring us back to the beginning. You know, to bring us home.
Beautiful, miigwech, David, [native language] for sharing your traditional teaching on the sacredness of the song, Mushkodebishiki. Amazing how our Indigenous communities across the country are so interconnected. We love our artists like David. This song was chosen to acknowledge the ancestors in the spirit world, which includes our HIV family, who passed as a result of HIV and AIDS. And to also acknowledge that as Indigenous people, we are deeply connected to our ancestors. Now, let's go to my conversation with my two guests. Finally, you will get to meet them.
The historical narrative of the Indigenous HIV movement in Canada has not been told in a true historical sense, with Indigenous people as the narrators of their own HIV history. The story of disease and the pathologizing of Indigenous peoples predates HIV. And this pathogenic narrative is what mainstream Canada has gotten used to hearing and reading about when it comes to our people. How do we disrupt this colonial narrative of the past that is embedded in the present? In this pozcast edition, we are going to discuss Indigenous HIV historical narrative, and who better to do this with then my two guests. In my view, both are HIV historians for our community. I also know that both of my guests have voiced an interest in doing an HIV history project and I would like to introduce them now. Albert McLeod is a Status Indian with ancestry from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the Metis community of Norway House in northern Manitoba. He has over thirty years of experience as a human rights activist and is one of the directors of the Two-Spirited People of Manitoba. Albert was the director of the Manitoba Aboriginal AIDS Task Force from 1991 to 2001. In 2018, Albert received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Winnipeg. Albert lives in Winnipeg, where he works as a consultant specializing in Indigenous peoples, cultural reclamation and cross-cultural training.Welcome, Albert.
It's great to be here, Doris.
And I'm going to introduce Randy Jackson now, Randy, originally from Kettle and Stony Point First Nation (Anishinaabe), Jackson explores lived experience among Indigenous peoples living with HIV/AIDS (IPHAs) using Indigenous knowledge, perspectives and values. Jackson is the Nominated Principal Investigator—co-leading with Renée Masching—of the Feast Centre for Indigenous STBBI Research. Jackson’s program of research explores the use of Indigenous knowledge across diverse topics, including experiences of depression, Indigenous masculinity, Indigenous trans health, two-spirit resilience and Indigenous peoples living with HIV leadership. Randy was the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and was awarded the CAHR-CANFAR Excellence in Research Award for his community-based research work in HIV with Indigenous peoples. Thank you so much for agreeing to be my guest today, guys. So in thinking of the title for this pozcast, there are two ideas that are connected to you both. For Albert, it was the concept of reconstructing our home fires that I heard you speak about in a presentation to the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada. For Randy, it was the concept of survivance that I have heard you speak about on numerous occasions. Both of these concepts are grounded in strengths and resistance, I think, and could really help frame our conversation that we're going to have. So how does that sound?
I love the idea.
Okay, my first kind of conversation opener is in the beginning of this epidemic, from both your perspectives, how did our communities rally?
Well, I think I could start the conversation. I was in Vancouver at the time of the epidemic beginning in North America in 1979, to 1983. Regarding home fires, I returned back to Winnipeg in 1983. Once I realized that it was infectious disease spread by—could be spread by sex and thinking I could outrun the virus, coming back to Manitoba. And then it wasn't until 1988 that we began the first international Two Spirit gathering in Minneapolis. And part of that was around our response, our North American Indigenous response, to the reality that many of our friends had already died of AIDS, who were gay men who were Indigenous. And that began this process of our response from the two-spirit or Indigenous LGBTQ+ level, and it's continued to today, you know, this will be the 34th annual International Gathering. So I like to characterize it as one of the North American responses to HIV, the pandemic. An Indigenous response to the pandemic, as well as a queer response to the pandemic. And that's probably one of the longest standing LGBT movements in North America. And so part of that was really about reclaiming identity, culture, teachings, traditional healing knowledge, as part of that response. And I think it served us well, you know, since in the last 31 years. So, in terms of responding responses to epidemics, this certainly is an example of how Indigenous people responded to HIV. And I see some parallels now with existing COVID-19 pandemic and the same type of culture-based responses that are happening right now.
Randy, what's your perspective on in the beginning of this epidemic, from your viewpoint? How did our communities rally or did they rally together?
I think they rally together. I mean, there was the early organization that was about Aboriginal people, Indigenous people, who were living with HIV banding together in this national organization, which existed for a couple years before it became the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network. It's sort of morphed into that. And I was at that meeting in Winnipeg back in I think it was about '94, roughly where that happened. And [name] came and spoke, and there was a lot of goodwill and energy towards responding to the threat that HIV posed to Indigenous communities in ways that was very inclusive.
And I'm gonna throw that question back to you again, Albert. You were around early on, the two of you, and when I think about communities rallying, were there other communities besides the Two-Spirit community that were rallying at the onset?
Yeah, the onset—in my research, one of the first federal meetings actually was with traditional Indigenous healers in 1988. Right, that is who the federal government actually went to, to understand the introduction of this new virus and its complications, like it was sexually transmitted and could be transmitted through injection drug use, and all of those sort of issues around stigma and that. And in my research, one of the first meetings actually was with traditional healers. So I found that as a tread or theme throughout the agenda, you know the time the decades that have passed since, in that in 1992, two HIV positive men, who were living in BC returned to Alberta, and consulted with their traditional people about this infection they had, you know, they were in the end-stage with AIDS, and that was Leonard Johnston and Frederick [name]. And they came back with what is known as the HIV AIDS teaching wheel that incorporated some Indigenous perspectives around the cycle of life, you know, how HIV fit into that framework, and became a visual tool for many years, and in doing the education and outreach around the reality that we had a new virus in our midst, and we have to respond. And then later on, we've incorporated other elements of our culture into our messaging around HIV. We have the HIV/AIDS teaching turtle, where [name] went to his first nation and Treaty 3 area and expanded on the HIV/AIDS medicine wheel and came back with the HIV/AIDS teaching turtle. So it's always been this return to community, return to knowledge keepers, return to healers in medicine—people for the guidance—and balancing that Western medical scientific knowledge with our cultural knowledge in how we are and our social norms in transferring the information
Sorry, I'm just going to jump in, Doris. I, you know, I think also I mean, there was a couple reasons, I think that drove that early response. And there was just no research being done on Indigenous and HIV back in the late 80s, early 90s. And, and so we went to find out information about how to respond to it, it was just wasn't there. And it was really communities, I think, who push for that to happen. And they push for it to happen in a way that aligns, I think, what the second idea why this happened. And it goes to your point about the pathologization of Indigenous people and wanting to push back against that. In many ways, what little information was out there was really about how Indigenous people were infectious agents of disease, that kind of thing. And it was completely absent of any inclusion of what makes Indigenous cultures beautiful, what keeps us as Indigenous people healthy. And it was that push those two things that really—when it was really about starting, I think, the movement.
So those cultural teachings kind of emerged by the sounds of it early on.
Yeah, I think so. Yeah, very much so.
Well, I think it's brought us to a place now where we are negotiating with, you know, contemporary research institutions about, you know, the efficacy of our knowledge and our practice with Western processes around what constitutes health research. So I think, you know, it's taken decades to get to this place, but I think we're now in a position where, you know, academia and science are willing to listen to us, and collaborate from our perspective. And here in Manitoba, we've undergone this process where we actually call it ethical space, in terms of navigating that space, where you have sort of two, you know, historic experiences of developing culture and identity and healing coming together, and how do you move forward in an effective way, in acknowledging each other's existence. And it's been stated that it is, for many, uncomfortable space and today, you know, we have, you know, terminology introduced to us about genocide. Yes, that's an uncomfortable topic with regard to Indian residential schools and anti-Indigenous racism, but, you know, to get to the ethical, moral level of accomplishing something about it, you have to go through the discomfort.
That's so true. I also wanted to find out about, like, who took leadership roles early on. I know that I've heard that there was a lot of our community that were not living with HIV that stepped in to fill that gap and were vilified quite often or thought of as living with HIV by the rest of the community. What was that like? For those people that stepped in you know, are a non-poz community members that stepped in to to help. Somebody recently talked to me about that and really wanted to honour them, you know, for stepping in and rolling their sleeves up to do the work. What was that like for them? Maybe you can answer that, Albert?
Yeah, I think generally in Canada, there's still a lot of stigma and fear about HIV and AIDS. And that, you know, to do this type of work, there is a cost, you know, I think there's a personal cost, I think there's a professional cost. Again, because it is stigmatized and our provincial governments, federal governments are very conservative with regarding to sexual health information, or just, you know, substance use, you know, there's still a lot of stigma attached to safe consumption sites, and all of this sort of, you know, moral politicking, that happens. And I think, you know, those people who have worked alongside with Indigenous people living with HIV or AIDS, you know, have paid a price, maybe, you know, culturally, socially, professionally, for doing this work. But you know, from what I've learned in terms of working with our knowledge keepers, there is practice in Indigenous culture, and is called about kinship establishing kinship. So over the last 30 years, you know, we've become a family, we've parented each other, we've adopted each other, you know, we've been that cousin, we've been that Auntie, we've been that grandmother, that grandfather, that we may not have had in our lives. And that really, historically is a traditional practice of establishing kinship beyond your birth family, because we were people who travelled across this continent, constantly meeting other cultures, living with other peoples. And I remember the early days, when I went to Vancouver, it was a local, you know, Two-Spirit [name] person who informally adopted us, and I believe, save our lives. And I think we do that in all our communities across Canada, we welcome the stranger. And we established that that support through this sort of kinship approach, right.
Yeah, I wanted to kind of float those two concepts again, around, you know, what I've heard you talk about, Albert, about reconstructing our home fires. And for Randy, I've heard you talk about survivance and I'm quite intrigued about it. It actually resonates for me in terms of...I don't know enough about it to actually say exactly what it is. I'm wondering if you can explain that. When you explained it to me before, I thought it was a really good approach.
Yeah, we talked a little bit before about, about how Indigenous people tend to be pathologized, by governments, by researchers, by non-Indigenous people. And I think in large part, they do that and I think this is necessary in order to understand survivance. But when you paint a picture of a people and the way that we've been painted as being sick, or disorganized, or unable to care for ourselves, it really constructs in a really powerful way, the way in which people start to think of Indigenous people becomes, in fact, the only thing that they can think about when they think about Indigenous people, if that is the dominant narrative out there in the world. And of course, this leads to things like unequal power relations, justified colonialism, and it's used to justify, I think, continuing patterns of paternalism and dependency, to take those up. And so you get this idea of a survivor. And so this was a term that was put out in the world by George Vizenor, a US Indigenous academic. And it was really about him writing about this idea of Indigenous people standing up and pushing back against that image in ways that said, No, I'm going to control the self image that's out there in the world, right. And so, George Vizenor talked about this idea of the post-Indian warrior, and about the how the post-Indian warrior was really about defying those kinds of things that this dominant culture told us who we were. They didn't tell a full story. They didn't tell anything about our cultures, the beauty of it, the strength of it, the way in which it keeps us healthy. They don't tell those stories. And so these post-Indian warriors and I consider many of my brothers and sisters in the Indigenous HIV movement, if not all of them, to be post-Indian warriors because they are standing up, they are pushing back against this pathologization of Indigenous people in HIV research. And they're saying to everybody, that "No, we're going to talk for ourselves, we're going to tell you exactly who we are. We're beautiful, strong people." And we should always lead with that rather than, well, let me back up here. It's more about the way in which people talk about their strength and beauties in the context of the challenges that they live their lives in. Because I mean, those challenges still exist, but it's only a part of the story. We have a responsibility, I think, to tell a much fuller story about who we are as Indigenous people, to shift that narrative, to take back control of it. And to push back against this continuing, pathologization of Indigenous people.
I think that's a really good approach that he came up with. I actually did some reading—a little bit about him. He's written many books and there's a couple of them I really want to read. So, Albert, when you were talking to the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada, when you were talking about reconstructing our home fires, you were referring to a teaching that one of your teachers that you've been working with for many years have connected to this piece. Like, I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about that and that teacher? I believe his name is Roger Roulette.
Yeah. What we've been doing here in Manitoba, especially with regard to Indigenous knowledge, because there's a lot of pan-Indigenous knowledge. Some of it is tokenism. Some of its very superficial. And I think people just sort of grab what's closest and say, Well, this is Indigenous without really knowing whether it is not, or whether it is specific to that territory, or the Indigenous people of that area. And so we're really in the last number of years we work together, we have this process of authenticating Indigenous knowledge to the language, right? Because the language predates colonization and it is the lens or the tool that we would work towards authenticating. So it's just not literal translation of terminology or words, right? It's the nuances of social norms, the loss of culture, and then life philosophies. Those are key, as Randy said, you know, to sort of address the pathologization in the narrative to say, Well, you know, Indigenous people have been here for over 20,000 years, we wouldn't be here if we didn't have effective knowledge, or tools or philosophy. So we're here to share that. So that's that balance. So when we're in a process of deconstructing colonization, we have to reconstruct, but using the foundation of Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous language to do it in an authentic way, right? To respect the knowledge of these ancestors who preserved that for us, right? Right through the Indian residential school era, the era of the Indian Act that Indigenous people valued it so much, they preserved it, you know, and many times in secret, right? That they knew it would be useful for us today in the 21st century. And so there's that piece, right, using that Indigenous life philosophy using the language as the steps of moving forward. And we I'm doing it more so here in Manitoba, that we have these linguists available to us to guide us in this work. And I think other other people should be doing that as well. But it's just raising that consciousness and other other people like academics of researchers to say, this exists here, right? And it is a requirement of moving forward. You can't go around it, you can't go underneath it, you can't avoid it. Right, you have to come to terms with this reality. So we're doing some of that here and we actually are working with the group of Indigenous women diagnosed with HIV and they have the word, the name, the Sisters of Fire.
I'm familiar with them.
Yeah. And these women are very informed. They know systems because they grew up in these systems. They have children, so they kind of know a lot of the issues, and they're able and willing and they're ready to move the needle forward. If you want to address this issue, then let's do it. We're going to do it from a balanced perspective and perspective of equal rights and equality. So it, to me, it's very exciting that we have them involved, as you know, as collaborators and leaders in this work.
Wow, that's great. I am familiar with the Sisters of Fire, they were part of our Visioning Health Study, when we did the intervention. And I hate that word, "intervention", and the women hated that word, too. We've got to come up with a better term for that kind of work. So I just want to follow up on a little bit about the language piece, that our knowledge is within our languages. And that's something I'm in hot pursuit about. I think the three of us speak the same language, when we're all in hot pursuit of the knowledge that's contained in our Indigenous languages. I think the two concepts of survivance and reconstructing our home fires are complimentary to each other. So because we are talking about history, I think our discussion should be about how do we narrate the story? How do we move forward and reclaim that narrative and disrupt that colonial narrative? How do we do that? Because sometimes it feels a little bit like it's patchwork, and we need something that's, we need that quilt that tells the whole story, much like that AIDS quilt that the Grandmothers made in Manitoba, Albert. The one that's at [name] that tells the story there. And there's a narrative with that, because those women sat together for hours on end, educating themselves about HIV and AIDS and educating the community about HIV and AIDS, while they were making a quilt.
Well, this process of a community, like the metaphor for reconstruction can be sort of simplified in the work of artists who use their hands, right? To create something that is, you know, either beautiful or utilitarian are both. For Indigenous people, art was also useful. And that there's a parallel growing now in Manitoba around that first year of the pandemic of HIV that our society is more or less forgotten about, and the work that we're doing now around the COVID pandemic, which is another global pandemic, right? And trying to bring those experiences together. And what did we learn from the HIV pandemic that can be applied to COVID? And I have a good example that I worked on recently, was about memorializing those people who died, and there's over 25,000 Canadians who died in the last, you know, 14 months. And because of you know, the way COVID is, you know, you don't have a wake, you don't have a funeral, and many times people can't attend the burial of someone. So I approached the Canadian AIDS Society, Gary Lacasse and I said, you know, in that early decade of the pandemic, we had the North American AIDS quilt, one in Canada and one in the US as a way to remember these people. So I said, can we do with people died from COVID? And he agreed we could, and we just recently received funding to begin this process of making memorial quilt for people who have passed away from COVID, making fabric panels to remember them. Because we're still distancing, we still cannot come together as family. So to me, that is a parallel when people say, Well, did you learn anything from HIV pandemic? Did you learn anything from SARS, from H1N1? And now we're in the midst of this global pandemic, we're still social, isolating a year and a half. So what have we learned, if anything? And as a survivor of the first era of the HIV pandemic is—we were young and you know, we were losing friends every week, and we didn't know about death. And we were learning about multiple loss of loved ones, by ourselves. You know, we were away from our elders, we were away from our parents. We were away from our communities. And we had to learn about that loss as, young people. And to me, nobody asked me about that. What was that like? Who were those people? And in the worst case, no one even talks about those people who died. There's a need to, just the same way as those children and Kamloops who were buried there—who were they? Because many other people have died from AIDS who never went home either. And they were gay people, you know, they were forgotten by their communities, by their families. Many of them never were buried in their home communities. So that—I see a lot of parallels happening, and to me, you know, doing this memorial quilt around COVID, to me reawakens what we had done in those first two decades of the AIDS pandemic, in remembering those people that that we couldn't mourn or grieve for.
Yeah, I think one of my elders actually talks about art as medicine and healing within art. Even when you're making a quilt, you know, an AIDS quilt like those grandmother's did in Manitoba, they had these long conversations, and there's a film about them and they educated themselves and talked about sexuality. I kind of wonder if our historical narrative takes different modalities, but research is definitely documenting part of that, that historical narrative. But how do you weave in all the other elements, the other modalities, like art and quilt making, into all of that?
How do you do at I made it really depends, I think, on the art modality. But I just want to say a little bit about art modalities, first of all, is that these are different ways of representing experience. And you can make that experience much more accessible to many more people. It also allows people to talk about themselves through that art piece of they created in the context of a research project. So there's a lot of good things about arts-based approaches to doing research, or even to doing the kind of the work that we do. I mean, you think about beadwork, for example, beading tells a story, and giving those kinds of tools to people and having them tell the story of their life on the beading or whatever the case may be whatever story they want to tell, these are really, really interesting things that can be done.
Yeah, we do have an artist Ruth Cuthand, who is a creative artist who's done that, that work, you know, just at a more nuanced sophisticated level than just literal art expression. And as Randy said, she's incorporated cultural ways of doing cultural expression and she's also embraced the scientific medical aspect of infectious diseases. And so, her first exhibition was around the first viruses and microbes at the time of contact, like scarlet fever, smallpox, influenza, and her first exhibition was actually beading them, you know, to a certain size. And that to me is control. The virus is not an abstract thought, it's not in a textbook, it is like constructing it yourself with your own hands, you are creating a relationship with it, like, you're actually going to the microscopic dimension level as an artist. And you're you are creating that relationship, because you're handling it, you're owning it, and then you control it. And then her second series is more around current viruses and microbes, like syphilis, COVID, HIV—so to me, that sort of demonstrative culture, where she is embedded in in the community the ways of communicating through beadwork, which again, is very visual, very utilitarian, as well. And the as an artist, bridging those communities of science and, you know, disease prevention and Public Health, and then the Indigenous perspective—the Indigenous understanding—bridging it with arch and the beadwork that brings them together and creates a conversation. You know, when you beaded, you know, three inch or four inch diameter of smallpox, and you look at it, the question is, what is this? And you begin a conversation, right? Historically, it almost wiped out over 90% of the Indigenous population of the Americas. So it is significant to our history and our identity.
And for the astute observer of this artwork, right, for the person who is part of that culture, it's also a way of speaking with each other that is private. It's not understood well that Indigenous knowledge, even if it's sacred knowledge, not well understood outside of those community circles. And that in of itself is an okay thing to have happen, right? But it's just a way of also I think of speaking to one another in a way that rises above some of this. These things when they describe us as Indigenous people, as you know, having chaotic lives or being oppressed or being at high risk, poor mothers— there's a whole slew of language that we are all familiar with. And rather than use that language here now, I think it's really important to say that this artwork that Albert's talking about working on and that other people I know work on, it's a really a way of taking that away from or taking it outside—taking back being a post-Indian warrior and doing work this way. It really is contributing to this pushing back against colonialism and the ways in which colonialism has damaged us and created trauma. And it's this message I think that gets sent out there that says to the world, we are more than the trauma we experienced, right. And I think artwork can potentially do that.
Do you feel comfortable that it's kind of in pockets? Some artwork can go on for a long time, like Kent Monkman's art, for example, has legs and other art pieces don't have those legs to share that knowledge, you know. And I'm just wondering if there's something that can be done, like, is there need for more investment in art? Because I remember hearing, that's where the healing is gonna begin with the artists.
I think I believe that too, Doris. And that's why I started to draw on artwork in my own research that I do.
Well, I think, you know, we are in between generations now and this generation of Indigenous people, you know, they're from like, you know, 15 to 25, they have a lot of tools, right? They have podcasts, they have Facebook, they have, you know, TikTok and Instagram and all of those to begin to share their narrative, right to begin to ask their questions and begin to lead. And that's what we work towards, right? In terms of that they are the interpreters of the future. They are the ones who are developing the context of doing public health, whether it's sexual health, you know, whether it's, you know, relationships, whether it's gender identity, you know, sexual orientation—all of those is going to be this generation. And let me tell you, they've studied hard, you know...
And they're unapologetic.
Yeah. And they've grown up, you know, in kindergarten learning Cree, Ojibwe or Mohawk, right? They learned to write syllabics, right, and now they're 17-18. And they're out in the world. You know...
Yeah, it's not your typical historical narrative we're talking about when we talk about Indigenous historical narrative. It looks very different from mainstream, you know, that colonial narrative. So I just want to kind of wrap it up here now, but I do have five rapid fire questions for both of you. So Albert, I'll start with you. I have five rapid fire questions for you, Albert. And you can only choose one. Ready? Queen or princess?
RuPaul's Drag Race or drag Bingo?
Okay, city or woodlands?
Movies or books?
Okay. Now I'm gonna switch over to you, Randy. Here's your five rapid fire questions. Rhett Butler or Scarlett O'Hara.
Sourdough or frybread?
Oh god, frybread. Hello?
Singing or dancing?
Oh my god. Do I have to choose? I would say dancing.
Okay. Rez or city?
Plaid or floral?
I always wear plaid shirts and Doris always comments. So I'm gonna say floral, Doris.
So I want to thank you both. This was a really great conversation. And I just want to say chi-miigwetch to both of you. Miigwetch, Albert, aka Mama.
Thank you, Doris and Randy.
Thank you, Randy.
Thank you, everybody.
Thank you. Bye bye.
To conclude this special episode of pozcasts. I want to thank my guests, Dr. Randy Jackson and Dr. and Elder Albert McLeod and David Boulanger of Burnt Project1 and his wife, Janine Niizhode, for the songs and the teachings. They have provided us with many takeaways to consider when thinking about Indigenous HIV historical narrative. And notably, HIV is one piece of the overall narrative of Indigenous peoples. It is important that we continue to weave HIV into our history. We need to embrace being post-Indian warriors and continue to utilize different ways of doing so, like using art as medicine, and to know how our people have navigated through other pandemics. We also heard about moving away from pan-indigenization of our culture. After all, we are very diverse, beautiful nations. And lastly, we need to take a deeper dive into our languages to continue to weave in and reshape Indigenous knowledge is in our research and in our stories into the present. Perhaps we need to also consider building on the orality of HIV historical narratives by utilizing the tools of the present like podcasts. Miigwech for listening to pozcast. Thanks to The Positive Effect and James Watson for sharing this platform. I leave you with a more contemporary song by Juno Award winning David Boulanger titled, The Veteran. [Native language]. This is Doris Peltier, miigwech. [Song plays].
That's it for us this month. Thanks for tuning in. We hope you'll join us next time on pozcast. And if you have any comments or questions or ideas for new episodes, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's the number four and the letter U. Pozcast is produced by The Positive Effect, which is brought to you by REACH Nexus at the MAP Center for Urban Health Solutions. The Positive Effect is a facts-based lived experience movement powered by people living with HIV and can be visited online at positiveeffect.org. Technical production is provided by David Grein of the Acme podcasting company in Toronto.