By Chevi Rabbit BLACK PRESS NEWS MEDIA
The fourth inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday June 12, 2020. The event is hosted by Maskwacis Two Spirit Society (MTSS) and in partnership with Samson Cree Nation Celebrations committee. Maskwacis was the very first community to create a Pride crosswalk in Canada. Every year in June the crosswalk in repainted, followed by speeches.
This year keynote speaker was Reggie Rabbitt, a council member of Montana First Nation and the first openly gay elected councillor in Maskwacis.
Other speakers included Chief of Samson Cree Nation (SCN) Vern Saddleback and SCN councillors Louise Omeasoo and Shannon Buffalo.
Volunteers spent the afternoon painting a vibrant rainbow crosswalk in front of Samson Cree Nation band office, which is located along Highway 611. The event was scaled back due COVID-19 concerns. Local dignitaries and volunteers each took time to participate in painting the crosswalk.
“My experiences in Maskwacis is one of a lack of acceptance for LGBTQIA2S+ community members. I know organizers have struggled to create acceptance in Maskwacis,” said Reggie Rabbit.
“Many don’t find it easy to have that self acceptance. Unfortunately, we lost men and women to suicide because of that lack of acceptance.”
He says that within his family being gay was frowned upon. The lack of acceptance and shame he felt caused him to contemplate sucide.
“In the past I dealt with being gay in unhealthy ways. It wasn’t until my 30s that I accepted myself. It was either I commit suicide or I accept myself,” said Rabbit.
“As someone who is part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, it hasn’t stopped me from becoming successful in politics. My message for LGBTQIA2S+ members is to continue to love yourself and support each other.”
Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation councillor and co-chair of Maskwacis Two Spirit Society, says Maskwacis Pride and MTSS is about letting the LGBTQIA2S+ members know that this is where you come from and you dont have to leave to feel like you belong. You belong here.
“The founding members of the MTSS wanted to create awareness, educate and advocate for Maskwacis Two Spirit members. Often we were advocating for other communities. It was always external communities like Edmonton, Wetaskwin and Ponoka and not in our hometown of Maskwacis. We decided that we wanted to do something for our LGBTQ community members in Maskwacis,” said Swampy.
She says when you look at the history of LGBTQIA2S+ pride, it comes from a place of protest and riots. You have advocates across Canada who have trail blazed the way for the next generation of LGBTQIA2S+ community members.
“We have to acknowledge our two spirit community members. We need to create acceptance and we need to honour them when they come out as openly lgbtq,” said Omeasoo.
Omeasoo says that she has LGBTQIA2S+ members in her family, including aunts, nieces, and nephews.
“I honour them and love them. And that’s why I’m here to show my support.”