As June has arrived, even with smoke filling the air across the country, it is still filled with a sense of celebration, reflection, and acknowledgement of historical struggles. It is a time when two important observances coincide in Canada: National Indigenous History Month and Pride Month. As a niizh manidoowag, or Two Spirit person, this month is of particular significance. Thankfully, I’ve had a lifetime of finding my way, through teachings, care and love from others, and the lived experiences that have helped me position myself and my role in the best way I can. Today, I understand the responsibility that comes with being niizh manidoowag, and what that means in how I walk the red road with all my relations.
These intersecting commemorative events provide an invaluable opportunity to explore the shared experiences, triumphs, and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples and the 2SLGBTQ+ community. By recognizing the intricate connections between these two communities and movements, we can foster a more inclusive and compassionate society for all. I began thinking about this intersectionality in my life, work, and community over the past few weeks as I was humbled to be invited to share a welcome and provide reflections at the upcoming CGLCC Business Summit 2023, hosted by Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce. Be sure to learn more about their important work and this exciting event taking place in Kingston June 14th – 16th here.
National Indigenous History Month in Canada, first recognized in 2009, aims to honour the rich cultures, traditions, languages, and histories of Indigenous Peoples while bringing awareness to Canadians of the ongoing struggles that are placed in front of us, legislatively, socially, and institutionally, anchored in the history of the development of Canada.
This is a month to listen, read, watch, experience and learn, while building a greater understanding of the past, our own as Indigenous Peoples spanning thousands of years, and our shared history since contact, and how that has brought us to today. While it’s important to build knowledge of the intentional harm of governments, systems and individuals towards Indigenous Peoples and communities, equally so is the exploration of those riches we carry and have shared freely. The innovations, political and community-based systems, foods, medicines, and collective world views that are being increasingly recognized as critical in addressing global catastrophes such as the climate crisis. Google away, find some trusted resources and learn more about the significant contributions made / being made by Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island.
For Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks alike, there is so much we can learn from those who came before us along with those who are still here, bravely creating change. Here are some folks we have spent time learning about, (or for some, more about), so far this month.
Tekahionwake, (E. Pauline Johnson)
Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk
Mistahimaskwa, (Big Bear)
Dr. Rita Joe
Drew Hayden Taylor
Pride Month, originating from the Stonewall Riots in New York City in June 1969, is a time for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and allies to come together, celebrate identity, and advocate for the rights of the community. Historically Pride was anchored in marches (versus parades) for equality and safety, these acts of resistance brought visibility of 2SLGBTQ+ peoples to the public. While for many it’s become much more a celebration, there are ongoing threats to the legal protections, wellbeing, and safety of members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, one of the reasons Pride events matters. From Global News reporting this week, ‘Statistics Canada reported a record number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2021 – the most recent year for which police-reported data is available. According to the data, there were 423 hate crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation in 2021, up from the previous peak of 265 in 2019. Police-reported hate crime data is imperfect, and likely understates the total number of crimes where a person’s sexual orientation was a factor.’ It’s easy for someone like myself, with more than a few trips around the sun under my belt, to believe it is much easier today for young people who feel that they are / may be part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and while it some spaces that might be true, it is so important to remember that is not the experience for everyone.
I often think about those first marches, (and the originating resistance at the Stonewall bar), with a depth of gratitude of the bravery of those on the front lines of a dangerous battle that I have greatly benefited from. Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy along with many other transgende and people of colour risked, responded, and created lasting change for 2SLGBTQ+ communities around the world. This Pride month, whether you identify as 2SLGBTQ+ or an ally, look up those names and learn more about the path that has brought us to where we are today.
Both movements emphasize the importance of recognizing and affirming diverse identities. The 2SLGBTQ+ community encompasses individuals with different gender identities and sexual orientations, while Indigenous peoples comprise numerous Nations, Tribes, and communities, each with their distinct cultures, languages, and histories. By acknowledging and embracing this multiplicity, we can foster a more inclusive society that appreciates and respects the uniqueness of every individual.
Both 2SLGBTQ+ communities and Indigenous Peoples have, (and continue to), endured significant struggles throughout history, including facing discrimination, violence, and marginalization, often being denied basic rights and protections. Indigenous People, across Turtle Island have also experienced endured colonization, cultural genocide, land dispossession, and systemic discrimination that have profoundly impacted our lives, families and communities.
These struggles intersect in many ways. For example, Two-Spirit Peoples, who once held revered roles in pre-contact Indigenous cultures, have often been stigmatized and marginalized by colonial influences, externally and within our own communities. Our experiences as both Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ highlight the intersectional nature of our identities and the unique challenges we face.
The intersection of National Indigenous History Month and Pride Month calls for a shared commitment to recognition, understanding, and solidarity. It is an opportunity to listen to and amplify the voices of those whose experiences have been historically silenced and to support initiatives that promote inclusivity and social justice for all.
One way to foster understanding is through ongoing education. By learning about the rich history and contributions of Indigenous peoples, as well as the contributions and struggles of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, we can challenge stereotypes, debunk misconceptions and lies that are becoming far to commonly shared publicly, while we create a more informed and empathetic society. The more we learn and build our knowledge, the greater the opportunity we have to create safer spaces for all our relations, in both communities.
Moreover, solidarity among these communities is crucial. Recognizing that struggles for equality and justice are interconnected can lead to collaborative efforts and collective advocacy. By joining forces and standing together, we can create a stronger and more effective movement for societal change.
The convergence of Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month offers a unique opportunity to celebrate the diverse identities within these communities, understanding their shared experiences of discrimination and marginalization, and fostering solidarity. It has been powerful to watch in First Nations, urban Indigenous spaces and places and organizations over the past number of years as they build their understanding, knowledge and allyship. This post was shared by the The Anishinabek Nation as a reminder to their membership: you all belong.
Let us use this month to reflect on the progress made, acknowledge the ongoing challenges faced by both communities, and work towards a future where every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or cultural background, is treated with dignity, respect, and equality and can experience equity in their own spaces. Together, by opening our minds and hearts, being love driven, continually challenging ourselves to self-reflect, and by anchoring our relationships in a good way, we can be part of building a more compassionate and inclusive world for all.
Yours, with a good balance of humility, and pride.
There are so many folks who have greater knowledge than me/us here at Three Things – so check some these out and, keep building your knowledge and understanding.
This is from Tony Enos, writing for ICT, by IndiJ Public Media, and shares more about Two Spirit People and is a wonderful resource. Read the article here.
In addition, the Métis Nation of Ontario published the Two-Spirit Métis Awareness Resource in 2022, a powerful tool for us all. You can find it here.
Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, and a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Here are her 30 must-read books for National Indigenous History Month shared via CBC. Find Michelle’s list here.