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Surviving & Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture

Native Peoples Respond to HIV/AIDS

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Look, listen, avoid!, 1980s-1990s

Three Native men dressed in traditional to contemporary attire stand around a tombstone while a line of people walk toward a buffalo skull. The skull symbolizes the 19th century demise of the buffalo—an emblem of Great Plains Native culture—and also references the “Vanishing Indian” theory, a widely held notion among Americans that Native peoples, like the buffalo, also were dying out. Indeed, in the early 20th century, the Native population had dropped to approximately 250,000, a decrease of some 95 percent of pre-European contact levels. “A good day to live” is a play on the statement, “It’s a good day to die,” attributed to the 19th century Oglala Lakota leader Crazy Horse. Although public health campaigns for Native audiences did not often address gay men explicitly, it is likely that health workers recognized their increased risk of being infected with AIDS. In response, posters like this one focused on Native males and their traditional roles as warriors and providers as a way of reaching men in the community.

  • Publisher(s):
    Tulsa Area Chapter of the American Red Cross
  • Type:
Black and white drawing of two American Indian men flanking a gravestone with “AIDS” on it. Above them is a buffalo skull with two lines of people walking towards it.