PENSACOLA, Fla. (March 4, 2010) – Perdido Bay Tribe, a local and state-recognized tribe of Muscogee Creek Indians, will participate in National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at the Florida Capitol on March 19th at 11:00 a.m. During a special ceremony, Chief Bobby Johns Bearheart will present a proclamation to the chief of the Florida Bureau of HIV/AIDS. National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a mobilization effort designed to inform Native communities about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Native populations (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians). It was established to encourage Native Americans to become educated, get tested and get involved in HIV prevention.
In Florida, the Bureau of HIV/AIDS will host the official state event for NNHAAD on March 19TH at the Florida Capitol Building. The event will feature drums, dancers and attendance by delegations from many of Florida’s 307 tribes, bands and clans. The state’s departmental leadership are expected to attend, as well as legislative representatives. The Shawl Circle Women’s Dance will be done. The event is open to the public. During the event, Perdido Bay Tribe will showcase the Bearheart Native Paths Museum, a state-of-the-art, 42-foot traveling mobile museum housing artifacts, models and other pieces which display Native American culture. A photo of the museum can be found at http://www.perdidobaytribe.org/alcasalica_mobile_museum.htm.
The event will also include a Shawl Circle dance. The Shawl Circle is the bureau’s collaborative project with the Bureau of Breast and Cervical Cancer that brings together 10 American Indian women who have been nominated by their tribes, bands and/or clans, and provides them with the HIV and breast and cervical cancer education and information. Those 10 women (“community health advisors”) go back to their communities and teach another 10 American Indian women. As each woman completes the program, she is presented with a specially designed shawl. The Shawl Circle dance is another component of the project – a special dance where all the participants who have completed the project dance with their shawls.
History of HIV and AIDS in Native Communities
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Native communities have historically suffered higher rates of health disparities, including HIV/AIDS. For example, though American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) represent only 1.8 percent of the United States population, in 2007 they ranked as the third highest rate of new HIV infections (14.6 per 100,000 persons). It is always important to note that accurate data is often difficult to obtain for all Native populations. Reporting sources are varied due to sovereignty issues as well as misclassification, resulting in no reporting or at best, underreporting, therefore it’s likely that the actual numbers are higher than current estimations.
Perdido Bay Tribe is a local and state recognized tribe of Creek Indians and friends dedicated to the preservation of its Muscogee Creek heritage. Perdido Bay Tribe was founded in 1990 as an outgrowth of the life-long work of its principal chief, Bobby Johns Bearheart, to preserve Creek arts and culture in the Southeast. Perdido Bay Tribe members maintain an active outreach to honor this heritage through art, education and service in a variety of cultural, social and environmental programs. For more information on the Perdido Bay Tribe, visit www.perdidobaytribe.org.