Michael Linklater says he cannot remember when he last cut his hair.

"I wear a braid to honour my ancestors and my culture," says Linklater, who is Nehiyaw (Cree) from Thunderchild First Nation, Sask. 

Michael Linklater

"I wear a braid to honour my ancestors and my culture," says Michael Linklater, the founder of the Boys with Braids campaign. (Scott Stephens)

He recalls being teased and bullied by classmates during his early years of schooling. After seeing his own sons being bullied in school for wearing braids, he decided to start a campaign called Boys With Braids.

"There is so many boys out there who have grown their hair, and have cut it, because they have been teased," said Linklater.

He wanted to bring awareness and create an understanding of the cultural significance of why indigenous boys and men wear a braid.

Indigenous people aren't a homogenous group, and each nation has different teachings on why boys and men wear braids.

CBC Aboriginal asked readers why they choose to wear braids.

For some, braids are a symbol of strength, wisdom, and are something that reflects their identity.

Kristy B

Kristy B: "This is my son Taj. We're Mi'kmaq. His pride in his indigenous identity is glorious. We are having our first talking circle with his bullies and school administration this week. He's offered tobacco to his elder to join us in speaking about indigenous Identity and what it means to be a Treaty person for his non-indigenous peers at his school." (Kristy B, Facebook)

Many of our readers stated the braid has a cultural significance, and many felt a connection to the creator, their ancestors and the earth.

Arnie Leon

"I get my hair braided before I powwow dance or are in ceremony. Prayers are said while my hair is being braided,and this positive energy is transferred in everything which I do, and gives me the strength, to carry the medicine and strength, which was passed down to me, by our elders and ancestors," says Arnie Leon. (Arnie Leon, Facebook)

Daniel Garcia says, "I love the process of braiding my son's hair. It's a beautiful way to bond with him. While braiding it I offer prayers, giving thanks for his kind heart, kind mind and kind spirit."

Daniel Garcia

"Our braids remind us of our forever connection to Creator, our ancestors, creation and Mother Earth. In memory of our Mishomis, who was forced into Indian Residential School, we wear our braids with pride and love for our culture," says Daniel Garcia. (Summer Garcia, Facebook)

Alanna Trudeau tells her seven-year-old son "that his hair carries his memories too, and all the things he learned about being a goalie, his hair helps him keep those memories."

Alana Trudeau

Alanna Trudeau: "My 7-year-old son plays in net for our house league novice team. He has always had long hair. He has to deal with being teased about it. ... I always tell him that his hair carries his memories too and all the things he learned about being a goalie, his hair helps him keep those memories." (Alana Trudeau, Facebook)

For many who wear a braid for cultural reasons, the only time they cut their hair is when they are grieving the loss of loved ones.

"When my brother died, I offered my hair to the Creator for safe passage for his spirit. He was a mighty warrior in our clan. My hair is not a cheap, disposable haircut you can buy for 15 bucks at a store on a corner. It's my connection to the Creator and shows the patience and care I have with myself as well," says Kyle Daniels.

Alisha Emily

Alisha Emily: "My son honours his late cousin (brother) who passed away. He had long hair that he braided and one day held my son and told him to keep growing his hair and to never cut it. My son is 5 and I always tell him that his hair is his strength." (Alisha Emily, Facebook)

It's been just over a year since Linklater started his national campaign. Since then, there have been similar events in Regina and Edmonton, and there is one coming up on March 10 in Winnipeg.

Join the conversation on Facebook at CBC Aboriginal. #BoysWithBraids

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