The 2017 Pride Winnipeg Festival officially launched Friday with flag raisings at the University of Winnipeg and city hall as well as its first two-spirit powwow at The Forks.
"We wanted to do it because it hasn't been done before, and we wanted to educate all nations that we do belong in the circle," said Ryan Richard, who is on the powwow's organizing committee. "One of our committee members just decided, 'You know, it's about time we have one.'"
A crowdfunding campaign and nearly $10,000 later, the festival's first two-spirit powwow became reality.
The definition of two-spirit sometimes varies, but it's essentially an umbrella term used by some Indigenous people to describe gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender members of their community.
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Richard said the reception from the Indigenous and LGBT community has been incredibly positive and something he hadn't initially expected.
"They're being really accepting about it and that's another good thing. I think it's because there's so much of us out there that are bringing themselves out there more," he said. "We just want a safe space to express ourselves through dance."
Friday's powwow runs from 1:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with grand entries at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. In between, there will be a two-spirit dance competition, hoop dancing and other exhibitions.
Richard said anyone can register to dance and everyone is welcome to attend.
"Just be yourself and bring yourself and come! It'll shine a new light on you," he said. "We want everyone to come out and be themselves and enjoy the culture."
The festival made big changes this year in an effort to be more inclusive, after sharp criticism from the LGBT community over how the festival was handled in past years. New marketing campaigns, public consultations and a host of other measures were created to foster inclusivity at the festival.
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More than 30 events are planned from Friday to June 4 for the festival, including dance parties, film nights, art shows, singles nights, pancake breakfasts, drag queens reading books to kids and, of course, the Pride Winnipeg parade on June 4.
Friday's pride events include an exhibit on LGBT activism at the University of Manitoba, screening of the best LGBT ads at the Park Theatre and a performance from Treasure Peterson at Joe Black Coffee Bar.