CANADA The first Ahtahkakup Cree Pride Week celebrates roles once...

The first Ahtahkakup Cree Pride Week celebrates roles once sacred in First Nations communities.


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Alex Povalinsky, a member of the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation pride committee, says the first week of community pride has already received an “amazing” response. (Matt Smith/Saskatoon StarPhoenix/LJI)

Prairie Pride is a series by local journalism initiative reporter Julia Peterson focusing on queer life in rural Saskatchewan.

The elders, students and staff of the school drummed and sang a song of honor like two flags. were raised over the Ahtakakop Cree Nation on Monday morning: flag of the first nation and, for the first time, a pride flag with two spirits.

For Ahtahkakoop Pride committee member Sheldon Gaetz, who lives in First Nation territory with her husband, watching the flags go up in tandem was an exhilarating experience.

“We started with a pipe-smoking ceremony and then raised the flag at the school, which was great,” Gaetz said. “It was really nice to have this spirituality along with the indigenous culture and the LGBTQ2S+ movement.

“I know there were members of the community who were so proud to see the flag raised.”

The hoisting of the flag marked the start of Ahtahkakoop’s first ever Pride Week, followed by a colorful Spirit Day. Later in the week, the Pride committee aired educational messages on radio and social media, hosted a Drag Queen Bingo night, and made stacks of posters.

Gaetz says the enthusiasm for all of these events has been inspiring.

“You see Pride everywhere and that’s why it’s nice to have it here in the community,” he said.

Pride committee member Alex Povalinsky says the reaction has already been “amazing”.

“People we’ve talked to and people who’ve celebrated say it gives them the opportunity to breathe for the first time and say, ‘Wait, maybe it’s okay for me to just be who I am,’” Povalinsky said.

“There are a lot of people who everyone knows are under the umbrella of LGBTQ2S+, but it’s not really talked about or acknowledged. They just are, they exist, and we continue to maintain the status quo. .

“It’s an opportunity for them to see that people really see them and acknowledge them, so it’s just healing.”

At Wednesday afternoon’s poster-making session, the conference room at the medical center was full of smiles, laughter, and determination — and lots of glitter — as people made signs to carry in Friday afternoon’s pride parade.

At the table, Danielle Meiklejohn added pom poms to her holiday poster that read “love being a fruit loop in a world full of Cheerios.”

Tesiina Little put the finishing touches to her message, which reminds her that “no compromises are needed to give people their rights.”

Little says this year’s Pride Week was a major milestone for First Nation.

“It’s really great when everyone is celebrating together,” she said. “This is a big step for the community to support everyone – and I mean everyone.”

Ruth Ehnakew said she was making the poster to let people who grew up in the First Nation know that they are welcome here and cherished just the way they are.

“No one should leave our community to be themselves,” she said.

Many of those present were parents making posters to show their love and support for their LGBTQ2C+ children.

“We are trying to fix everything,” Tonya Bird said.

Marilyn Tate wanted her children to know, “I’m so proud of them.”

“They shouldn’t be ashamed of who they are,” she said. “Be yourself.”

For Vanita Bird, this week’s celebration has a special meaning – she remembers raising her two-spirited child on Ahtahakup and seeing the challenges she faced in exploring her identity.

“Historically, for a long time, it was believed that two-minded people in our indigenous communities are very sacred,” Bird said. “They will wear sacred items and fulfill sacred roles in society. with colonizationmuch of it has been lost.

“So I think it’s the beginning of those roles and that respect coming back, and I think that’s the beauty and strength of what we’re seeing here at Ahtahkakoop.”

Now, Byrd’s baby lives in Vancouver, but Byrd calls her with news of Pride Week since planning began in January.

“I heard the joy in her voice when I found out that this is happening here, in the reserve in which she is registered,” Bird said.

From seeing the flags as she walks past them, to hearing the elders in the group’s office pump up Drag Queen Bingo all week, Bird has been celebrating how the community celebrates Pride.

“It’s amazing to be part of the Ahtahkakoop story and see it happen for the first time,” she said. “Oh my God, I’m so excited to see this.”

Ahtahkakoop is one of the many communities in Saskatchewan celebrating Pride for the first time this year, and Gaetz hopes there will be many more next year and beyond.

“Don’t be afraid to do it,” he said. “Go ahead. Think about your youth. Think of the people who are struggling to find themselves.

“And just do it with love.”

The Local Journalism Initiative supports the creation of original civic journalism that addresses the diverse needs of low-income communities across Canada by expanding the availability and consumption of local and regional civic governance news. More about The local journalism initiative is here. If you have any questions about the Local Journalism Initiative, please email

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