A Cree AIDS activist who pioneered new ways of spreading awareness of AIDS in First Nations communities succumbed to AIDS himself on May 18.

Leonard Johnston was instrumental in setting up support groups and grieving circles for people with AIDS and their families in Vancouver. He became an AIDS activist after a close friend got AIDS, and he discovered that there were no culturally relevant programs or services for native people with AIDS.

Johnston’s treatment plan made traditional spirituality a central feature, according to a report in Windspeaker. He was also a co-founder of the AIDS medicine wheel, commonly used in AIDS workshops today. He eventually established an office and put on educational workshops. But funding cuts and reorganizations cost Johnston his job last December, the same day he learned that he had full-blown AIDS himself.

Johnston was buried in the Swan Valley Cemetary in Kinuso, Alberta.