Pictured here are some of the organizers for the recent Samson Pride event, (from left) Katherine Swampy, Stephanie Harp, Chevi Rabbitt and Roxanne Roan. (Photo submitted)

Pictured here are some of the organizers for the recent Samson Pride event, (from left) Katherine Swampy, Stephanie Harp, Chevi Rabbitt and Roxanne Roan. (Photo submitted)

Pride event held in Maskwacis shows community support is building, organizers say

A Pride event held in Maskwacis last month shows support is building across the community, organizers say.

Local advocate Chevi Rabbit noted the event was put on through a partnership between the Maskwacis Two Spirit Society in partnership with Samson Cree Nation.

“It’s an informal committee through the four nations,” said Rabbit, adding the event included speakers and a few workshops.

“Maskwacis Health Services was there, and each stakeholder was talking about the needs of the community and what they wanted, and how we can all empower the community,” she said.

“It’s been a long time coming, and the community really needs it.”

Rabbit pointed out there are many issues that need to be addressed, particularly with folks experiencing inter-generational trauma as well.

“But we have been consistent since about 2017,” she said, adding she is hopeful for a more inclusive community in the years ahead.

“I’ve been working in the province a lot on gender identity, since my assault at the University of Alberta. But I (have done this) for the wider LGBTQ community,” she said, adding she has served on a number of committees over the years that deal with gender identity issues as well.

“I’ve been really active behind the scenes for 12 years, advancing LGBTQ (issues). But not just for the Indigenous, but for all LGBTQ communities.”

Rabbit has relocated to Ponoka, which is her hometown. She also has strong roots in Montana First Nation.

“Montana First Nation and Ponoka have a very rich history and a very shared history,” she explained.

As to this year’s Pride event, which attracted about 40 people, Rabbit said it was a solid time of building connections within the Maskwacis community at large.

“It’s grown bigger and bigger every single year,” she said. “Every year, I say it’s getting bigger and better. I can also see the youth changing.

“We have a vibrant LGBTQ community coming there, and you can see the hope in their eyes,” she added. “My goal is to secure funding in the future for a two-spirit pow-wow and invite all of Central Alberta.

“We are slowly getting there,” she said. “But before we get to that point, we have to build up an infrastructure of social support, momentum, and empowerment to the community so that they can have hope and a future (feeling) empowered.”

Rabbit added a number of community leaders were onhand at the recent event to listen to locals who were sharing their experiences.

“I saw people wanting hope. I saw a population needing a voice.”

According to the Re:Searching for LGBTQ2s+ Health website, ‘two-spirit’ refers to, “A person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity.”

Rabbit noted that ultimately, her work includes having a uniting impact on the non-profit sector and the community at large

“Overall, what this has all been about is a journey of self-discovery. We are all learning together as a collective community. It’s not just indigenous-based. We are all learning about gender identity.

“With everything I am doing, I’m trying to teach — through my own perspective — love and dignity to a society that is often hostile. We have great virtues like idealism, but sometimes it’s hard for Canada to ‘walk its talk.’

“Advocates like me are reminding it to ‘walk its talk.’”

CommunityPride