Working with very tight timelines to put this project together, our first step was to find 4 Aboriginal people living with HIV who were willing to share their story. We also needed to recruit 4 Aboriginal artists to develop these stories into picture form. Most importantly, we had to find one writer who was able to bring these stories together into a single book.
The first thing we did was put up posters calling for Storytellers. This was not an easy task – as in many communities, HIV is stigmatized and people are not always comfortable talking about their experience.
Michelle was one of the first people to call about participating in the project. From southern Saskatchewan, Michelle was raised in the city where she attributes her introduction to hard drugs at an earlier age. In and out of prison for most of her life, Michelle was able to reconnect to Aboriginal teachings through prison programs. She attributes her healthy lifestyle to Native spirituality and her family. Grant Smith from Edmonton provided the artwork for Michelle.
For the final interview we contacted Krista, an HIV+ mother who has given birth to HIV- children after her diagnosis. Krista is an advocate for HIV+ mothers, having faced discrimination and stigmatization in the medical system herself. Krista shares how she got to where she’s at and how her family has been her support and source of strength. Lydia Prince from Prince George illustrates her story.
With the guidance of the Strong Voices Advisory Committee and a local Blackfoot Elder/Cultural resource, we were able to include the medicine wheel teachings and provide examples of these teachings throughout the book.
For a copy of the book (hard copy or digital) contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org