By Jody Cotter
GARDEN RIVER FN – Dedication and outstanding work for critical HIV/AIDS work in Anishinabek Nation communities was honoured in January. Marie Pine, citizen of Garden River First Nation, was presented an award by Jody Cotter, AIDS Program Coordinator for the Union of Ontario Indians. Pine has enjoyed planning annual AIDS education activities each year in her community. “I remember in my early years as a CHR, I, too, was ignorant of this disease,” says Pine. “I thought it was important to learn about it. I attended many HIV/AIDS training workshops sponsored by the UOI and other organizations. I was especially happy when UOI communities received monies to help with the expenses of developing community education programs.” Pine says that over the years, Garden River has had many walks for AIDS and this year was the 16th year.
“At each activity, I thought it was important to have a Sacred Fire,” says Pine. “We wanted to be able to offer prayers for the people who had HIV/AIDS and also to pray for our community to understand this disease.” Pine also invited local drum groups to come and sing some songs for this special day. “We invited some jingle dress dancers from the Indian Friendship Centre to come and dance for those who were affected with HIV/AIDS,” she says.
Pine also included her husband, Elder Willard. “Willard has a gift to counsel people in need of help and he also has a gift to make people laugh. “It is a good thing to become familiar with people who work and provide a service specifically for HIV/AIDS,” says Pine. “I also feel proud to say we invited a few resource persons from the Ontario First Nation HIV/AIDS Education Circle.”
Other activities included HIV/AIDS karaoke night in December which coincided with Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week.
“I hired BJ the DJ and he would play requested songs. Anyone who got up and sang a song would win a novelty prize,” says Pine. “There was also HIV/AIDS trivia. Anyone who answered correctly received a novelty prize. It was very entertaining to see the young ones get up there and sing. Even the older ones would get up and sing the oldies but goodies.” One year, Pine planned a World AIDS Candlelight Vigil at the Dan Pine Sr. Healing Lodge.
“It is very encouraging to see our band councilors take the time to attend our annual walks on occasion. It shows that they are interested in our work and want to be involved with the people.”
Pine thanks the citizens of Garden River who have attended the walks over these past 16 years. The UOI AIDS Program will continue to hand out awards to our workers in our communities and feature them in the Anishinabek News so if you or someone you know is doing good work in HIV/AIDS Education and Awareness please let the AIDS Program know by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org