New Volunteer Services Referral Coordinator

Assistance with referrals!

Johanne Brown joined the AICH volunteer team this week. Johanne is a graduate student at Alliance Theological Seminary in Manhattan and has experience in case management and job development. She will be assisting with intake and referrals for individuals seeking medical insurance, health and wellness, housing information and general to specific inquiries that are part of life in New York City. Johanne has been acquainted with AICH since the 1990s when she first began receiving the newsletter by mail and AICH was housed on Broadway.  Contact Johanne at 646-575-3638.

AICH New Volunteer Executive Director Curtis Harris-Davia

Greetings AICH Community
I am Curtis Harris Davia, San Carlos Apache, and I am honored to have been asked to step in as the temporary volunteer Executive Director at AICH. I arrived in New York City in 1989 and my first day I went to the Community House at 404 Lafayette St. I was greeted by Rudy Martin and Rosemary Richmond and from there the staff helped me find housing and offered me a job as a Community Health Representative. It was in 1991 that I organized the HIV Project and served as the Director until 1999. After leaving the Community House as a Staff member, I served on the Board from 2002 to 2008. Also from 2002 to 2017 I worked in Academia as a Grants Administrator. I am currently retired and have offered my assistance to the organization in achieving the following:

1. Secure funding to support the organization, including staffing. I am hoping to bring in funding to support the Executive Director position, which then can be opened to the Community. I do not have the intention of applying for it. I want to reiterate that I am contributing my own time to assist the organization and am not getting paid. If someone from the Community wishes to serve in the current position, please let the Board know. I welcome any assistance in rebuilding the organization.
2. Work with the Board on securing a permanent space for the organization.
3. Work with the Board on addressing the financial challenges facing the organization.
4. Work with the Volunteer Staff on programs and activities that AICH continues to offer.

We welcome everyone who wants to volunteer their time and energy to rebuilding the Community House. Since 1969, the Community House has been an open and inclusive place. Many of us even got our start in New York City because we found AICH. I want the Community House to continue to serve the Native American Community for the next seven generations. With that in mind we are beginning to plan for next year’s AICH 50th anniversary. We need your help and support in planning so if you have an interest please contact me at the number below.

Finally, I invite you to meet me, the Board and the Volunteer Staff at a “meet and greet” reception on October 2, at 6:00 pm. We are located at 39 Eldridge St, 4th floor. Our phone number is 646-575-3638. We are located near the B and D lines at Grand Street. We look forward to seeing you at the reception.
Curtis Harris Davia

American Indian Community House “Germ City Exhibit” at the Museum Of The City Of New York now through April 28th, 2019.

A fascinating look at New York City’s battle against infectious disease.

Man and microbes have always co-habited, and their relationship has had a profound influence on human history—especially in cities, the crossroads of the movements of people, goods, and germs. Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis explores the complex story of New York’s long battle against infectious disease—a fight involving government, urban planners, medical professionals, businesses, and activists. It reveals how our understanding of disease has changed us physically, socially, and culturally, and the surprising interplay between people and pathogens in an urban context.

This exhibition is organized by the Museum of the City of New York in collaboration with The New York Academy of Medicine and Wellcome. It is part of Wellcome’s international project Contagious Cities, which explores the interplay of people and pathogens in urban contexts. Drawing on the model of the Wellcome Collection’s “Reading Room,” Germ City features a hybrid gallery and library where visitors can view historical artifacts alongside contemporary artworks created for the exhibition, delve into the exhibition’s themes with a curated selection of books, and access a wide range of perspectives through digital interactives. (Reference: Museum Of The City Of New York Website)

The AICH Board Chair Rick Chavolla (Kumeyaay) worked with the new volunteer AICH Executive Director Curtis Harris-Davia (San Carlos Apache),  AICH Volunteer Sheldon Raymore (Cheyenne River Sioux), and AICH Volunteer Phillip Dallas Stands  (Rosebud Sioux) along with Museum Of The City Of New York’s Rebecca Hayes Jacobs (Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow) and Deputy Director & Chief Curator Sarah M. Henry to ensure that the American Indian Community House was included in this very important exhibition.  AICH was given a two shelf vitrine to choose items that could voice our narrative.  This will be an ongoing collaboration between AICH and The Museum of the City of New York.  We will be putting out a call for more AICH community members to have an opportunity to display their works in this exhibit for the second round of display items which will be in November 2018.  For inquiries about having your work displayed please contact  We will need photos of the work your submitting and a brief statement as to why you wish to be apart of the Germ City Exhibit.

Museum of the City of New York’s Rebecca Hayes Jacobs worked with the exhibit designers and AICH to have these labels created to read the following.

American Indian Community House – The American Indian Community house began providing services to New York Native Americans living with HIV and AIDS in 1990. Up until that point, there were no existing services that were culturally appropriate for the city’s Native American community. AICH developed prevention messaging that reflected the diversity of the Native community of New York City and incorporated traditional healing methods for Native people living with HIV and AIDS. The items on display here were created and selected by members to represent their history and ongoing work.

Traditional Healing – In Native American traditions, healing is a process of the whole Self, and not just the individual body part or illness. Our elders taught us that health and happiness are the natural state for human beings. For every ailment caused by an imbalance there is an herb, a root, a ceremony, a song, and the right-making words of prayer. Sage, sweetgrass, mugwort, tobacco, and cedar were used in healing and to convey prayers to the Creator. The plants were burned in a fire, after prayer, or in an abalone shell with an eagle feathers.

Richmond, C. Harris, K. Soto, K. Lebsock, T. Edwards, C. Coon, T. G. Firchner,  “A Native American Leadership Response to HIV and AIDS,” American Indian Community House, funded by the NYS DOH AIDS Institute, 1996 – The American Indian Community House wrote this document in 1996 to address the lack of culturally appropriate HIV services for Native Americans in New York State. It was intended as a comprehensive state-wide needs assessment from Native Americans throughout the state. It also defined recommendations on health policy that affect the delivery of services, education, and prevention surrounding HIV and AIDS.

“Silence = Death” choker, designed and crafted by Phillip Stands – The beaded choker and breast plate are a traditional Lakota means of protecting a warrior’s areas of vulnerability, and this choker is designed to signify to Two-Spirits in New York City that what makes us vulnerable can become our means of protection. Our identity can be slur or armor, our voice can be a war-cry or silent. To stay silent is to leave yourself exposed in a land of new threats and challenges.

PrEPahHontoz Beaded Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Pills – In 2013, AICH hired a new community educator who presented the first ever PrEP and Pep presentation at the AICH.  PrEP is a course of drugs designed for people who are not HIV-positive but are at high risk of being exposed to the virus.

Miniature Buffalo Skull Carving – The buffalo 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.   This was made in honor of the efforts done by the American Red Cross and their 1990 Campaigns throughout Indian Country.

Beaded Turtle Umbilical Cord Bag with Beaded Red AIDS Ribbon – HIV medicines work by preventing the virus from multiplying, which reduces the amount of HIV (viral load) in the body. Having a lower viral load protects a woman’s health and reduces her risk of passing HIV to her child during pregnancy and childbirth.  Among the Plains tribal nations, babies’ umbilical cords are placed in these bags and the child wears them until puberty for good luck.

PrEPahHontoz Miniature Tipi Cover – The Tipi is a symbol that represents home, family, and community. Tipi covers have “Winter Counts” created and placed upon them to tell stories.  In the Lakota-Sioux language the words “Waniyetu Wowapi” translate to “Winter Count.” Images are etched, painted, or drawn on buffalo hides (later on muslin fabric) to mark a notable occurrence amongst the Sioux people, creating a timeline and serving as a historical record of events.  These Winter Counts record the HIV/AIDS movement from the Native American community in New York City and across the nation. “Tradition as Prevention” is a core value of the Tipi Project: this way of preserving information for generations to come is being revised and reclaimed, as we continue to battle the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Native communities.
Article written by Sheldon Raymore.  For more information visit the Musuem Of The City Of New York’s website at


,  Originally published on 


Research suggests that learning Lakota and other indigenous languages can improve overall health among Native Americans. (Illustration by Zach Williams/ NYN Media)

In a small room in the basement of New York University, Aru Apaza sits with a group of a dozen others and gushes about American Indian Community House – a nonprofit that has become a home away from home for her.

She is speaking to a group made up of staff and volunteers from AICH, the Language Conservancy and New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies. They have met to kick off New York City’s first Lakota Language Weekend – two days dedicated to improving community health and overall well-being through the speaking and learning of Lakota.

“It is good medicine to hear people hearing the language,” said Apaza.



It’s all part of an ongoing work at the lower Manhattan-based nonprofit, which was founded in 1969 by Native American volunteers to support their community and create intercultural understanding at a time when indigenous communities across the U.S were reasserting their identity.

Programs include “well-briety circles” for those looking to recover from addictions, mental health services and assistance with finding affordable health care providers. The organization, led by Ben Geboe, has become one of the oldest urban Native American health programs in the United States. By hosting a Lakota Language Weekend, AICH is adding another tool to its interventions for improving well-being.

A 2016 study suggests that efforts to keep a language alive translate into health-related benefits for Native Americans. Language use generates a strong sense of connectedness to the community and cultural history. And an increased interest in the culture goes hand in hand with an increased desire to improve community health.

“I needed it for my own identity as a Lakota person,” said Alex Firethunder, an instructor during the Lakota Language Weekend. “Spiritually, emotionally, I felt like I wasn’t meeting my full potential as a Lakota person.”

Firethunder grew up in Upstate New York but left home to study on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. During his childhood he spent every summer in South Dakota and dreamed of living on the reservation to be with his people and learn Lakota. His mother is a Lakota speaker but chose not to teach it to her children. Now Firethunder is the Lakota language and cultural coordinator at the Lakota Waldorf School on that reservation.

The Endangered Language Project categorizes the Lakota language as an extremely endangered one. Since the 1700s, many speakers of Native American languages were forced or pressured by white settlers to only speak English, which has played a role in the decreasing numbers. As of 2016 there were about 2,000 native Lakota speakers left with the majority being over the age of 65. To help address this, there have been six Lakota Language Weekends in various cities since it began in 2016. AICH reached out to the Language Conservancy’s director of communications to explore hosting the event in New York City for the first time.

The health status of Native Americans is such that every possible beneficial intervention is appreciated, research shows. According to the Indian Health Service, Native Americans suffer some of the poorest health outcomes of any other racial group in the United States. Native Americans and Alaska Natives have a life expectancy of 73 years, four years less than the national average. According to the National Congress of American Indians, the suicide rate among Native Americans is 62 percent higher than in the non-Native American population. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death for Native youth between the ages of 18-24.

“I mean everybody knows someone that has done it. It has almost become normalized,” said Renelle White Buffalo, another Lakota language instructor who traveled from South Dakota to participate in the weekend.

Firethunder credits learning Lakota as a step towards creating better outcomes for himself and his family. He wanted the ability to pass on his ancestral language to his own children and he has already seen first hand the physical and mental health benefits to his community:

“Most of those people are sober, most are further in their education, they worry about their well being and they are pushing to be better,” said Firethunder.

Read full article here:

The American Indian Community House, Still A Home Away From Home

Despite losing funding, the American Indian Community House continues serving indigenous populations of New York City

Tony Enos • Indian Country Today • August 8, 2017

New York is known for being a transient city. Thousands come and go through the heart-pounding city of Manhattan every day. Getting overwhelmed by the concrete jungle can take only seconds, especially for visitors. If you happen to be a Native visiting the city, or having just moved to New York, missing your family and feeling like the most invisible person on earth as you get pushed about the streets and struggle to navigate the subway platforms, you can head to the American Indian Community House for fellowship and a sense of belonging.

Open since 1969, and having endured many challenges, the American Indian Community House is still one of the oldest urban Indian health programs in the nation and a home away from home for Natives visiting or living in New York City seeking their culture, comprehensive culturally competent services, and an open arm welcome from a member of the Native community.

The American Indian Community House provides essential support and guidance to urban Native Americans trying to access NYC providers for basic health and social service essentials—like primary care physicians, education, and employment services. With programs like weekly wellbriety circles, comprehensive Two-Spirit services, mental health services, as well as arts and culture programing and events, AICH is still committed to bringing health and access to the urban Indian community of Manahattan, even in the face of mounting hardships.

In early summer 2017, the American Indian Community House was given just three weeks notice that the Indian Health Service would not be renewing their funding of approximately $1 million annually for urban indian health programs. AICH was also denied a request to IHS that would have given the organization six months of continued funding while working on a corrective action plan. A crushing blow considering the 80 urban Native clients served a month—many of whom have no physical or financial means of returning to their reservations for any type of healthcare—depend on the IHS assistance they were able to obtain through AICH.

The American Indian Community House had funding through IHS to offer $500 towards medical, dental, and optical expenses to NYC Natives enrolled in a state or federally recognized tribe. AICH was often able to work directly with doctor’s offices and have a check cut directly to providers, making it easier for clients to receive services. Also funded through IHS was tele-behavioral health. A virtual mental health program where clients would come to the AICH office and receive counseling from a mental health provider via web conferencing. With the termination of these programs, as well as the loss of case management services provided by the American Indian Community House, social workers who assisted clients in managing health disparities such as diabetes and mental health challenges, IHS has left many NYC Natives feeling—as a community member put it at a recent community meeting—“like they don’t even care about our health.”

American Indian Community House volunteers and members at a recent meeting.

“We acknowledge that AICH had some troublesome times in the past concerning the program’s finances and mistakes by management. However, in the past two years, AICH has made substantial changes to its management team and Board of Trustees,” assures AICH Interim Executive Director Ben Geboe. “Under new management, AICH has implemented several changes to correct past financial issues so that past mistakes do not impede the future success of AICH.” The troublesome times have included survival tactics such as using payroll to pay crippling NYC rent and utilities, and underreporting of clients served, due to what Geboe calls “a lack of IHS technical assistance for it’s RPMS.” RPMS is an Electronic Medical Records system that allowed AICH to report client data to IHS. However, AICH case managers were often unable to access the system due to its faulty interface, and/or extensive waits for IHS to administer RPMS user trainings for AICH health workers.

Geboe (Yankton Sioux) has worked diligently to continue to serve the NYC urban Indian community and meet their needs. The complete arrest of programs would leave Natives experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges, and substance abuse challenges with no one to turn to from their own community for much needed health and social services. “We are the first people of this city, yet we are in danger of disappearing from lack of support,” Geboe informed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a recent letter, asking for support.

“It’s no secret that there’s a federal movement under this President and Congress to defund Native initiatives that support our people, and ignore Native sovereignty. We may just be a victim of this latest trend against Native services and communities,” said AICH Board Chair Rick Chavolla (Kumeyaay).

In November 2016, the American Indian Community House raised funds to go to Standing Rock. A group took relief supplies to Oceti Sakowin.

In November 2016, the American Indian Community House organized and raised funds for a trip to Oceti Sawokin at Standing Rock. Chavolla, along with members of the NYC Native community, and AICH staff brought relief supplies, clothing, and warm coats to be given to the water protectors bracing for the long winter, as well as served at the various camps at Oceti Sakowin.

“Over the last year by every indicator—both fiscal and programmatic—AICH has improved health services and cultural activities essential to the well-being of our Native community and the more than 150 families we serve each year, but IHS chose to focus on financial challenges we’ve had much earlier,” Chavolla added. Indeed, the programmatic additions of the AICH Drum group, community beading nights, discussion circles providing a space for the voices of the community to be heard on issues like DAPL, and the hosting of Native artists and speakers such as Ojibwe environmentalist, economist, and writer Winona LaDuke have enhanced the organization’s program calendar and it’s value in the lives of the NYC Native community. However, the concerns of IHS about fiscal errors that AICH made in the past were the vehicle used to cut funding. As of late, AICH has been extremely transparent about past funding management mistakes, and has been proactive in correcting the oversights.

As of now, Geboe and volunteers are working to continue programing and find new and sustainable ways to preserve the American Indian Community House for generations of urban Indians to come. “It’s been an uphill battle to get funding commitments, but please remember that our 501(c)(3) non-profit status is still intact and we are applying for funding for numerous programs,” said a hopeful Geboe. One part of the effort is the launching of a gofundme page to help raise funds.

“The abrasive cut of funding triggers the feelings of empty promises the government has historically made with many reservations throughout Turtle Island,” said Shawnee Rice (Mohawk), an AICH volunteer and women’s rights advocate. “We need space, and opportunities to share and learn from each other and just to catch up.”

With the dedication of Geboe, Chavolla, and community volunteers, the American Indian Community House continues to provide select health services facilitated by community volunteers—such as sobriety support—to clients as well as several social engagements and arts and culture events each month. All health-related programs funded by IHS have ceased.

During a meeting at AICH in June, community members decided to take matters into their own hands after learning of IHS’ decision. “This is all we have and we’re gonna fight for it,” an Ojibwe Elder said in tears as the community began brainstorming ideas to endure the difficulties ahead. Without an official funding source, but with an abundance of spirit, sheer will, and community, the American Indian Community House is staying the course.

For more information about the American Indian Community House, check out their Facebook page.