Two-spirit musicians show with RSO a beacon to Indigenous, queer youth
Buffalo Girls played Saturday night as part of RSO's Forward Currents festival
When the Buffalo Girls took the stage in Regina Saturday night, the show wasn't just about their music.
Alongside their songs were anecdotes about life and about their experience as a musically talented, two-spirit couple to provide comfort to two-spirit youth walking the same path.
The Buffalo Girls are a trio of musicians: Cris Derksen, a Cree Juno-nominated cellist and composer, her wife Rebecca Benson on vocals and Jesse Baird on the drums.
The three took the stage at the mâmawêyatitân centre Saturday night as part of the LGBTQ2S+ aspect of the Regina Symphony Orchestra's (RSO) Forward Currents Festival.
"Now more than ever it's incredibly important for queer and trans youth, and especially Indigenous queer and trans youth, to see themselves represented in art in the future," Benson told Shauna Powers, host of CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend.
"We have also always been in these spaces, whether anybody knew we were there or not."
The show has been several years in the making, according to Derksen, and made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the RSO approached her about doing a queer show. Derksen laughed that she couldn't think of anything that could bring that energy more than bringing along her wife, Benson, into the mix.
The pair planned to share stories of community, their life as aunties, how they became parents to "fur babies" — including fostering a guinea pig with a cancerous growth in its mouth — and the unique situation of working and living together as queer folks (especially while homebound during the pandemic).
They also wanted to explore connecting with people at a time when connections have been severed by distance.
"Families can be complicated. Having a community and having little ones around us definitely gives a sense of family and belonging," Derksen said.
"We really feel like we belong to the Indigenous arts community in a really special way."
LISTEN | Cris Derksen, Rebecca Benson talk about their life and share anecdotes ahead of their show with RSO:
The Saturday night show included a free pre-show talks from Derksen and Gordon Gerrard, the music director of the RSO, about the classical Indigenous landscape.
"In all of the work that I do I want to always show that Indigenous folks can be amazing cellists [and] amazing composers. We have stories to tell and we have our own ways of telling them," Derksen said.
"The classical genre is just a train that we can ride on to tell our stories."
LISTEN | Cree cellist and composer Cris Derksen talks before her show with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra:
With files from CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend