March 20th is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD), a national mobilization effort designed to encourage American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians across the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, get tested, get involved in prevention and get treated for HIV.
In many Native cultures across the United States, the four seasons are highly respected because they closely represent the cycle of life. Spring represents a time of equality and balance and is the only time of the year when day and night are at equal lengths. It is considered a time of profound change, new beginnings and birth, a celebration of life for all living things. It was for this reason that the Native community chose March 20 the first day of spring as the National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
The National AIDS Memorial honors Native Americans lost to AIDS with this special virtual exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which features 16-Quilt blocks that contain panels made to honor loved ones from the American Indian, Alaska Native and the Native Hawaiian communities.
Through this virtual exhibition, part of the National AIDS Memorial’s ongoing 50-state virtual Quilt exhibition, we share their stories, told through the surviving family, friends and lovers, who stitched together these panels of hope, healing and remembrance, to ensure their lives are always remembered through the power and beauty of the Quilt. Weaved throughout the displays, visitors will experience the beautiful cultural symbols sewn into the panels that are representative of the Native community.
The Quilt is a powerful symbol of hope, healing and remembrance. It is also a teaching tool that connects the story of AIDS, finding a cure, and helping in important prevention, awareness and education efforts to tackle the growing rates of HIV infection in the U.S., particularly among communities of color.
Indian Health Service analyzed HIV surveillance data reported to CDC by state and local health departments focusing on the non-Hispanic AI/AN population more than 13 years old from 2014-2018. Overall, from 2014 to 2018, among non-Hispanic AI/AN, the HIV diagnosis rate remained stable (2014: 7.6, 2018: 7.7 per 100,000). Increases were observed among those in the 13-24 years (8.2%) and 35-44 years (13.8%) age groups, with the latter having the highest percentage increase among all age groups. Overall, the death rates from 2014-2018 decreased by 31.4%.
As for the Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population, according to the HIV Surveillance Report 2020:31, HIV diagnoses increased 51% among NHPI overall from 2014 to 2018.
Community Partners for this exhibition include the Indian Health Service, Kua`aina Associates, The National Native HIV Network, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, and Hawai`i Health & Harm Reduction. In appreciation to Gilead Sciences and Vivent Health for their long-standing partnership with the National AIDS Memorial, helping ensure the stories of the Quilt are forever told and providing critical funding in support of our Quilt programs. Special thanks to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for providing Quilt archive materials for some of the displays. Special thanks to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for providing Quilt archive materials for some of the displays.
Resources: IHS HIV/AIDS, NNAAAD, We R Native, Project Red Talon, Healthy Native Youth, Kua`ana Project, Bay Area American Indian 2-Spirits, Montana 2 Spirit Society
Website Banner Photo and Artwork (above): Photo Credit, Britt Bradley, from the exhibition “The Continuous Thread: Celebrating our Interwoven Histories, Identities andContributions” at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, curatedby Carolyn Melenani Kuali`i (Native Hawaiian/Apache). The motif design in thebanner image is from the Pendleton blanket that was especially designed for the firstNational Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The motifs represent the diverse Nativecommunity with the red ribbon in remembrance of those who have passed. Blankets inmany Native cultures are given as honor gifts and this special edition Pendleton blankethas been gifted to honor community members for their devotion in HIV work and advocacy.
Display 1: This display honors Native Lives Lost to AIDS. (Click on Quilt image above to enlarge)
BLOCK 0792 has a panel with the name of Dennis Huckabee, made by his lover Alan. According to a letter written by Alan, the panel was made from Dennis’ black satin cape, and sewn into it are feathers that represent his birthplace, Oklahoma City, and his Cherokee heritage. Sewn into the panel is a special message of love, “We-2-R-1”, symbolizing their four year relationship together. Dennis served in the U.S. military as a Sergeant and Alan praised the care he received during his illness and final days.
BLOCK 2764 features a beautiful panel for Peta I gigi Chi wa I Wanka, fondly known as Peta by his friends. A letter submitted with the panel includes a poem Peta wrote before his death. The letter describes how Peta lived with AIDS for twelve years, most of which he cared for others who were also living with the virus. His beautifully-stitched quilt panel shows a bird with personal items and feathers, reflecting Peta’s Native American Lakota heritage, where it is believed that all things possess an inherent virtue, power, and wisdom. The feather is a powerful symbol that signifies honor and a connection between the owner, the Creator, and the bird from which the feather came. Two poems are also shown on the panel, one of which is “A Lakota Indian Way of Prayer.”
BLOCK 3442 was made by the Hawaiian NAMES Project Chapter in Honolulu in 1994. The quilt contains eight panels with many names stitched into it. Some include a rainbow, which in Hawaiian culture refers to `ike papalua, the ability to operate in two dimensions: the tangible physical world and the intangible spiritual world. The quilt is representative of the Native Hawaiian people honoring loved ones lost to AIDS.
BLOCK 3967 includes a beautiful panel made by the Native American Coalition of Kansas City, Missouri in 1995. The panel includes symbols of Native American heritage, including star quilt designs and a medicine wheel or sacred hoop, which embodies the four directions, health and cycles of life. The panel was featured as part of displays with the Aspen Institute and a National Library of Medicine exhibition.
BLOCK 4421 includes a panel that honors David Brian Warrior. A letter written by David’s brother says that David was a member of the Osage Nation of Indians, a tribe located innorthern Oklahoma. Not long after his death in 1992, an Osage woman named Mary Jo Webb contacted the family and asked permission to make a Quilt panel in memory of David. This panel is the result. The panel's design is inspired by blankets and other textiles traditional to the Osage people. The cut-away ribbon work is unique to the Osages. Grayhorse, the village referred to on the panel, is the place where a number of David's relatives come from. David’s brother also wrote a touching memorial to him, openly sharing David’s struggles, success and life.
BLOCK 4460 was submitted in 1996 by the Living Well Project at the University of Hawaii. It includes eight panels beautifully made with the names of nearly 100 loved ones lost to AIDS from Hawai’I and whose lives were touched by the Living Well Project. Sewn into the quilt are symbols of Hawaiian culture and heritage.
BLOCK 4986 includes a panel onoring the life of Dwayne S. Norton, made with love by his parents in 1997. Sewn into the panel are powerful symbols of his Native American heritage. There is a dream catcher, feathers, beads and a photograph of Dwayne. Two brown bears represent courage, strength and protection of life. The deer are symbols of power, gentleness and peace. Centered on the panel is a sewn image of the End of the Trail Indian Warrior, which depicts a weary Native American man hanging limp on his weary horse, embodying suffering and exhaustion.
Block 5542 has a panel honoring Rena Bad Horse. Rena was a member of the Crow Nation of Montana. She was 33 years. Her sister made the panel along with other tribesmen in 2003. Sewn into the quilt is a photo of Rena, star quilt designs and a beautiful quote, “You are heart and soul – your spirit lives on in our hearts forever.”
Display 2: This display honors Native Lives Lost to AIDS. (Click on Quilt image above to enlarge)
BLOCK 1416 is a collection of panels made to honor loved ones from Hawai’i lost to AIDS. Made in 1990 in Kailua, Oahu, the panels show various floral appliqué unique to Hawaiian quilt patterns inspired by the natural beauty of the islands. Each panel provided tells a beautiful story of aloha and remembrance. This letter accompanied the panel for Robert Mitchell, that shares his love of the ukulele and native flowers.
Block 1557 features a panel made for Thomas Harvey Skinner with cultural symbols from his American Indian heritage, including a ceremonial pipe, tipi and motif designs. Another panel has stitched in it “In memory of our unnamed sister” with symbols from her Native culture. Both panels were made in 1998 from quiltmakers in Texas.
Block 2237 has a panel made in memory of Richard “Brown Bear” Cramer. Richard died in 1990, just shy of his 34th birthday. He worked for Federal Express. His mother and nephew made the panel in 1992 and in letters that accompanied the panel, she writes that Richard used and appreciated the strength of bear medicine and in her works, “If a man is sick I turn into a bear, the great Bear of the First Creation.” In notes about Richard’s passing, his mother and nephew write, “there is a grief that can’t be spoken and the pain goes on and on… the Quilt panel is a symbol of great comfort.”
Block 2770 features a panel dedicated to “All the Anishnabe who’ve journeyed back to the Spirit World”. The panel was created in 1993 and submitted to be part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The origin of the panel is unknown, but in 2006, the panel traveled to Whitehorse, Canada, and was on display at the Yukon Arts Centre, as part of a 10-block Quilt display organized by the Blood Ties Four Directions and the Yukon Arts Center. During the exhibition, several panels were dedicated and are now part of the Canadian AIDS Memorial Quilt. A local newspaper article describes the story of William G. Dawson, the first aboriginal man from the Yukon to die from an AIDS-related illness. The other article shares the story of Cassy Hanifan, a young girl who died of AIDS-related complications from a blood transfusion. The Anishinabe people originated in Canada and the United States. They include the Odawa, Saulteaux, Ojibwe (including Mississaugas), Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, and Algonquin peoples. The word Anishinaabeg can be translated to mean “the good humans”, meaning those who are on the right road or path given to them by the Creator.
Block 4308 includes a beautiful panel created for White Eagle Moore, also known as Wanbli Ska (pronounced Wan-blee Shka in Lakota). White Eagle was a member of the Rosbud Sioux or Sicangu (see-chan-gu) Lakota tribe. He spent his last few years of his life on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. An internationally acclaimed operatic tenor, he sang for President George Bush’s inauguration in 1989. He was diagnosed with AIDS in 1990 and went public with his diagnosis in 1993, becoming “the face of AIDS” in the state. This quilt panel was made by a registered nurse who cared for White Eagle. In a letter accompanying the panel, he wrote that the panel contains a star quilt in the center, explaining that the star quilt is a traditional art form of the Lakota and given as an honor gift. This pattern is called “prairie crocus”, a plant that is the first plant to bloom on the prairie each year that symbolizes the circle of life – birth, growth, death and rebirth – as contained by the power of the Great Creator. The song on the panel is the memorial song, in English and Lakota, which was sung at White Eagle’s funeral service. The quotes are from White Eagle’s last media interview – “I am White Eagle….I am a free spirit.” Read this news article to learn more about his life.
Block 4699 features a panel made in memory of Tom B, fondly known as “Hopi of Hope” which is sewn into the quilt. According to the panelmaker, “Tom B. -- the Hopi man – you taught me about being two spirits in the land of Hopi and Zuni. You welcomed me, I remember Osomuy, the night dances on Hopi Mesa. Through you, I met Zuni and the hidden treasures of the land. Kwakwhay (thank you) Tom, we miss you still.”
Block 4737 features a panel made in 1997 by the Seneca Nation Health Department of Salamanca, New York dedicated to all Native Americans who are affected by HIV/AIDS. The panel includes names of Native Americans who died of AIDS, along with cultural symbols – feathers, traditional clothing and imagery. Sewn into the panel is the question, “What’s Missing? We can’t afford to lose anymore People”. This Quilt block has traveled with the Quilt on displays in Alaska, Oklahoma and Washington State.
Block 5763 features a beautiful panel made to honor Marty Lynn Prairie, a long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS. His life work was dedicated to HIV prevention, and in 1994, Marty began a syringe and needle exchange program in Asheville, North Carolina. He was a fierce advocate for people with living with HIV/AIDS, the homeless, drug users, gay men of color and American Indians. Marty was Oglala Lakota Sioux from the Pine Ridge Reservation and a descendant of “Chief Big Foot” of the Hunkpapa Nation. Loved and respected by the Native HIV community, the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center established the Marty Lynn Prairie Award to honor his legacy and someone who demonstrates action voice and leadership in the flight against HIV/AIDS. Sewn into his panel are photos from throughout his life and mementos along his journey, which took him around the world, particularly for his work in HIV/AIDS prevention. This article provides more insight into his life.
AIDS MEMORIAL QUILT VIRTUAL EXHIBITION
A exhibition which includes digital images from thousands of hand-sewn Quilt panels, each visually telling the story of loved ones lost to AIDS. - learn more
MARY BOWMAN ARTS IN ACTIVISM AWARD
ViiV Healthcare and the National AIDS Memorial have partnered to create the Mary Bowman Arts in Activism Award - learn more
BLACK LIVES AND AIDS ACTIVISM
The coupling of racism and AIDS stigma has been lethal. The National AIDS Memorial has long been committed to giving voice to the stories of Black lives - learn more
SEARCH THE QUILT
Search the AIDS Memorial Quilt, view each panel, search for a friend or loved one and share
your story through our social media channels - learn more
HISTORY OF THE QUILT
Conceived in 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones - learn more
Memories of individuals who died of AIDS, stories of survivors and caregivers and advocates, and the broader story of the AIDS epidemic - learn more