Native American activist Lisa Tiger will be the featured speaker at the Talking Circle set for Thursday.
Talking Çircle, sponsored by MAMA Knows, Inc., will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Chickasaw Regional (Public) Library.
Nationally known for championing the cause of AIDS education, prevention and research, Tiger is a member of the Muscogee Nation, and is of Creek, Seminole and Cherokee descent. She also comes from a family of acclaimed Native American artists, including her father, Jerome Tiger, and grew up surrounded by Native American art.
"Having someone like Lisa Tiger come to our community is another step in our obstacle of raising awareness of HIV/AIDS in our community. HIV is just another health disparity we are facing. Attention needs to be brought to it," said Kayla Walker-Heltzel, founder and executive director for MAMA Knows, Inc. "That fact is, according to the CDC, about 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the U.S., but about 240,000 don't know they are infected. That's about 1 in 5. Reality is, one-fourth of Americans living with HIV are women, and the disease disproportionately affects women of color."
Infected by a boyfriend in 1988 in her hometown of Muskogee, Tiger made the decision in 1992 to become active in the fight against AIDS, and is a certified Red Cross AIDS instructor.
Since then she has taken her story "on the road," traveling throughout Indian country and across the United States presenting to schools, colleges, clinics and conferences.
"It was something that just happened. There's something about me — things just don't embarrass me. From the moment I found out I was positive, I told everybody. My mom thought I was crazy and my uncle told me not to go around telling everybody. But, even though at first I was shocked to find out I was positive, I wasn't embarrassed or ashamed," she said.
Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, asked her to come to the reservation and share her story. She accepted the invitation because "there is such a need for education. And people weren't paying attention to the education coming in with their classes. They needed to hear from one of their own."
Tiger believes prevention efforts must be made more authentically culturally-based in order to get the message out to Native American people.
Tiger credits tenacious dedication to exercise as one of her survival secrets.
"I've done a mile every day for over six years now," she proudly says. "It doesn't matter if I walk, run or do the stationary bike as long as I do a mile of something."
She said her philosophy on life is based on the Native American sense of humor.
"After all, you gotta go through the manure to get to the magic," she said.
Tiger passionately believes a return to traditional values in Native American communities will give men and women of all tribes the strength and determination to work together against poverty, murder, fatal accidents, suicide, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, drug addiction and AIDS. She said her most cherished wish is to see a day when all tribes are in alliance to preserve the health, history and culture of every Native American.
Chickasaw Regional (Public) Library is located at 601 Railway Express. Light refreshments will be provided.
Contact MAMA Knows at (580) 226-4238 or visit Facebook, MAMA Knows, Inc.