14th Circle of Harmony HIV/AIDS Wellness Conference

Bridging Generations: Thinking ahead while always being informed by the past

Kerry Hawk Lessard

Kerry Hawk Lessard is an applied medical anthropologist working in the area of Urban American Indian Health. She completed a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology at Florida Atlantic University, where she had the opportunity to work with a grassroots organization serving HIV+ Haitian immigrants. In in the course of this work, Kerry became aware of the importance of culture, both in the ways it shapes our understanding of health and wellness, and in the ways these deeply held beliefs impact decision making and behavior. While at University of Maryland, College Park, Kerry focused on the role of historical trauma in the lives of Urban American Indians in her home community of Baltimore, Maryland. Starting from the premise that the experience of successive cultural losses creates illness, her current work focuses on the belief that reintroducing what was lost – specifically the ceremonies, stories, and cultural structures that kept her people strong throughout centuries – is key to remediating contemporary challenges. As Executive Director of Native American Lifelines, a Title V Indian Health Service contract site, Kerry has the opportunity to create programming centered within decolonial praxis that honors and strengthens cultural identity, builds resiliency and creates opportunities for better health outcomes. Kerry is a Shawnee descendant.