It was a historic first in Maskwacis that drew more people than expected.
Organized by LGBTQ activist and Maskwacis resident Chevi Rabbit along with the local Two Spirit group, around 20 people gathered outside the Samson Cree Nation administration office on June 13 to be involved or support the rainbow painting of the crosswalk on Secondary Highway 611. A detour was put in place on the busy stretch of road for about 2 hours for the event and to let the paint dry.
This is the first time a Pride event took place among the four First Nations that make up Maskwacis, and believed to be the first ever done by the First Nation in Alberta.
”I’ve been doing a lot of work right across the province for the gender minority community. While I’ve been out there raising awareness, I forgot about my own backyard. I forgot about Maskwacis — that they need awareness for the two spirit community,” explained Rabbit, who is transgender.
“That’s why we thought it would be great to create a very symbolic act. It was strategically chosen to be highly visible. This is the main intersection in Maskwacis. This is basically where everyone goes. Everybody is going to drive by it every single day.
“People are going to see it, youth are going to see it and they’ll all be saying, ‘Wow, we have a rainbow crosswalk in our small town.’ It’s more like not a crosswalk rainbow, but like a rainbow of hope.”
For Rabbit, the event was the culmination of a realization that happened a year ago when she came back to do some development work at Maskwacis.
“I realized I needed to do something here. Through my focus groups and meetings, I realized a lot of them are oppressed and live in a closet, live in fear,” Rabbit said.
“The two spirit community are traditionally oppressed, marginalized and highly discriminated against because they are First Nation. They are two spirited and when they don’t fit the gender norms, they often experience high degrees of violence. This is going to show them to come out of the closet if they want, on their own terms, and a good way to let them know there’s advocates out there within the community really advocating for a safe space for them. It also shows that Maskwacis is an LGBTQ friendly place and it’s going to stay that way.”
Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback, who participated by doing some painting, expressed his happiness that Samson and Maskwacis played host to such a community building event.
“Words cannot express how important this is to our community. I am really happy and proud that we are the first First Nation to hold a Pride event. It’s about time and there should be more, not just First Nations, but other communities,” he said.
”I want them to grow up in a safe world, free of discrimination, free of harm, that they can be who they want to be. I want Samson Cree Nation to be an inclusive community. I want everyone to feel that it’s okay to be themselves. Everyone should acknowledge and be a part of this wonderful process.”