March 20 was National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. On this important day, NMAC stands in solidarity with Native communities as they work to end the HIV and Hepatitis epidemics. As part of NMAC’s 35th Anniversary, I wanted to share the story of Ron Rowell. Ron was not only the founder of the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, he was also an original NMAC board member. Ron told his story as part of the 2020 International AIDS Conference. Back in the ’90s, we were part of a cabal of people of color working to fight and collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they built the CDC’s community planning process. Other leaders included Reggie Williams from the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention and Charlene Dora Ortiz from San Antonio. We were a powerful and hell raising coalition of people of color who understood the value of collaboration.
NMAC is fortunate to work with so many leaders in the American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders.
Christopher J. Paisano (above left) is NMAC’s program coordinator for Indian Country. His email is CPaisano@nmac.org or 202-997-0396. Christopher is a member of the Navajo Nation and lives in Fort Defiance, Arizona – the Navajo Nation. He is Kinlichiiní (Red House People Clan) and born for Tohtsoni (Big Water People Clan). His maternal grandfather’s clan is Taachiiní and his paternal grandfather’s clan are Haatbani Hanuu from Laguna Pueblo. Brenda Hunt (above right) is a long term NMAC board member from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.
American Indian and Alaska Native CAP Members
Here is the American Indian and Alaska Native Community Advisory Panels (CAP). Its members include (from left to right by row): Kerry Hawk Lessard (upper left), of the Shawnee tribe and the Executive Director of Native American Lifelines; Savannah Gene (upper middle), a proud member of Diné Nation. She is Totsóhnii (Big Water Clan), born for Hashk’áánhadzohí (Yucca Fruit Strung Out in a Line Clan). Her maternal grandfathers are Ta’neeszahnii (Tangle People Clan) and her paternal grandfathers are Tł’izíłání (Many Goats Clan). Next is Sheldon Raymore, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
In the second row is Kurt Begaye, Diné Nation who is Hashk’ááhadzohí (Yucca Strung Out on a Line Clan), born for Tó’aheedliinii (Water Flow Together Clan). His maternal grandfather is Naashgalí Dine’é (Mescalero Apache People), and his paternal grandfather is Tł’ááshchí’í (Red Bottom People). Finally, we have Greg Gurrola, of the San Carlos Apache Tribe is from Phoenix, AZ, and currently lives in San Diego, CA.
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander CAP Members
Our Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders CAP includes (from left to right by row): Vince Aguon from Guam; Keiva Lei Candena, a Native Hawaiian born in Hawaii and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area; Kuane Dreier from Hawaii; Cathy Kapua from the leeward side of O’ahu, Hawaii; Carolyn Kualii who is Hawaiian/Apaches; Bianka Tasaka, Mahu Wahine and Mahu Kane; and David Utuone, a gay Sāmoan HIV advocate who has been living with HIV since 2014.
I honor and thank these leaders. Our movement is very diverse. Our work to end the HIV epidemic must be a big tent.
Yours in the Struggle,