A TB scientific section working group
The Global Indigenous Stop TB Initiative (GISI) Working Group of The Union has operated for over 15 years as a networking space for researchers, care practitioners, and advocates, to network and share our activities globally. To achieve our objective of increasing Indigenous Peoples’ involvement in and control over TB policy and programming, we began learning from the International Indigenous HIV & AIDS Community (IIHAC; https://iihac.org/). IIHAC is an Indigenous-owned organization incubated through Communities Alliances and Networks (CAAN; https://caan.ca/). In the last 4 years, GISI has been working with Trevor Stratton, a leader in CAAN and IIHAC, to learn about IIHAC’s history, development, and work and how they might inform GISI’s work in TB among Indigenous Peoples globally.
To this end, an informal understanding started developing between CAAN and GISI, with a Venn diagram drawn to delineate areas of respective responsibility. Rather than attempt to make a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the organizations, an Indigenous version on an MoU was proposed by Trevor Stratton, whereby the Chair of GISI, Dr. C. Andrew Basham, was invited to attend the 9th International Indigenous Pre-Conference on HIV & AIDS on July 26-28th, held in Montreal, Canada, preceding AIDS 2022 (the International AIDS Society’s main conference), July 29th-August 2nd 2022, also in Montreal.
On July 29th, 2022, a blanket ceremony was held between CAAN and GISI to develop an understanding of each other and create a relationship. This ceremony followed Indigenous protocols for gift-giving and story sharing to form an understanding of each other. In this ceremony, members of GISI and CAAN spoke about their backgrounds, their work, and their hopes for the relationship being formed. Dr. Basham was presented with a buffalo blanket and medicine bundle, after offering tobacco to CAAN Knowledge Keepers, along with two Harvard University mugs (representing something from his world). After receiving the blanket, Andrew made a short speech about finding and sharing the truth together to improve TB prevention, diagnosis, and care with Indigenous Peoples. This ceremony was concluded with a traditional song after a teaching by Dr. Albert McCleod, Elder-in-Residence at CAAN, who has been an HIV/AIDS activist since 1987.
CAAN held a webinar on March 31, 2022 about the lived experiences of Indigenous Peoples affected by TB in Canada that was moderated by Trevor Stratton and is available here and includes some discussion of the developing relationship between CAAN and GISI as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWSyeHhu4yg