Central Alberta reserve shows pride with rainbow crosswalk

A central Alberta reserve is making its first steps toward pride across a rainbow crosswalk.

'What we want to do is proclaim Maskwacis is a safe community for the LGBTQ2'

LGBTQ2S advocate Chevi Rabbit and Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback celebrate Samson's new Pride crosswalk Wednesday night. (Supplied by Chevi Rabbit)

A central Alberta reserve is making its first steps toward pride across a rainbow crosswalk.

About 30 people helped paint the colourful crossing on the main street of Samson Cree Nation at Maskwacis Wednesday night. 

"I want Samson to be an inclusive safe community for all regardless of your religious beliefs or sexual orientation,"  Chief Vernon Saddleback said at the ceremony. 

"I want this place to be welcoming and safe for everyone."

Advocate Chevi Rabbit — a transgender and two-spirit member of the nearby Montana First Nation — was the driving force behind the project.
Coun. Katherine Swampy wants LGBTQ2S people to feel welcome on the reserve. (Supplied by Chevi Rabbit)

"It's showing to the youth of that community that the straight, heterosexual leader is validating their lived experience," Rabbit said. 

"I think it's a sign of good things to come."

LGBTQ2S First Nations people can experience "double discrimination," where they're targeted for their race and their sexual orientation or gender identity, Rabbit said.

That makes supporting initiatives such as the rainbow crosswalk and other Pride events especially important, Coun. Katherine Swampy said.

"We wanted to encourage them and help them, support them, to show them you're welcome here. You're allowed to be who you are here," she said. 

The crosswalk painting was the first-ever Pride event on a reserve for Edmonton Two-Spirit Society president Boyd Whiskeyjack. 

"The vision I see is the work we're doing now is for the two-spirit youth for seven generations to come like our ancestors did before," said Whiskeyjack who comes from the Saddle Lake First Nation northeast of Edmonton.

Next year, Rabbit hopes a new Maskwacis Two-Spirit Society will organize a Pride parade and a two-spirit powwow. 

Bobbi-Jo L'Hirondelle, of the Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society, hopes Samson's efforts will inspire other reserves in Alberta. 

"I hope it sets in motion that more reserves and more communities, the smaller ones especially, will follow in the footsteps of this reserve and paint crosswalks and show their pride and show their inclusiveness," L'Hirondelle said.