This article examines the strengths of Indigenous people living with HIV, and of the people working in support of this community, in the context of the criminalization of HIV non-disclosure. Although there are many challenging and difficult realities related to HIV criminalization, here we focus on Indigenous resilience to centre Indigenous perspectives and to challenge settler colonialism. This discussion stems from 26 interviews that were part of a community-based case study on HIV criminalization. Participants included Indigenous people living with HIV, and Indigenous people (and one non-Indigenous person) not living with HIV, who we are referring to here as allies. Strengths were seen in both Indigenous people living with HIV and in the allies working to support the community. When brought together, their responses illustrate the importance of non-judgment and inclusion, community pedagogy as a practice of self-determination, honouring healing and supporting others, and centring Indigenous approaches to HIV. While it is crucial to centre Indigenous people living with HIV, we argue that there is also value in including allies in Indigenous HIV research. Those allies, which included Elders, brought different perspectives to this research and demonstrated a relational form of allyship or what we are referring to as allyship through kinship.
About the Authors
Emily Snyder is an Assistant Professor in Indigenous Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. She is a white settler from Attawandaron, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe territories in what is commonly referred to as southern Ontario. She now lives in Treaty 6 Territory and the homeland of the Métis. Her work is in the areas of Indigenous feminist legal studies, Indigenous law, the criminalization of HIV, and legal education. She has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Alberta and was previously a postdoctoral fellow with the Indigenous Law Research Unit at the University of Victoria.
Margaret Kisikaw Piyesis
Kind Hearted Warrior Woman - Kisewatisowin Okihcitaskwew
Margaret is Cree Iskwew (woman) with the following roles and responsibilities: as a daughter to Nimama (My Mother), as a mother of two Children and a Kokum (Grandmother) to three, with direct ties to the Kisikaw Piyesis Family from George Gordon First Nation, in Saskatchewan on the land now called Canada. Descendant of both the Moose clan and the Bear Clan, living as a traditional medicine practitioner, a knowledge keeper and baby catching bundle carrier.
Waniska (Awakened) to the ways of the ancestors, practising traditional ways of knowing, healing along the way, seeking pimâtisiwin (life) for all nations through Indigenous practices, language, ceremonies, culture and traditions. Can celebrate 30 plus years working as a Co-Creator for Kisi Manito (Great Mystery) honoring the ancestors along the way.