Historic pride parade on Saskatchewan First Nation

For the first time in Saskatchewan history a First Nation is holding a pride festival.

Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation hosts first Two-Spirit Pride Festival

Miss Gay Ottawa travels on her float during the two-spirit festival. Indigenous LGBTQ and two-spirit individuals face their own struggles within the community. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

For the first time in Saskatchewan history a First Nation is holding a pride festival.

The Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation hosted a Two-Spirit Festival today including raising the pride flag and a parade. Two-spirit is a term used to describe gender-variant Indigenous individuals in their communities.

"It wasn't a tough sell at all," said band councillor Kevin Seesequasis. "We had a chief and council meeting last week and it was a unanimous vote to do this."

CBC filmed the pride festival live on Facebook.

Justin Trudeau pens letter to First Nation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent out a letter to the First Nation recognizing the historic pride festival.

In his letter, Trudeau said the festival is a step in the right direction towards equality and congratulates the First Nation for its spirit of inclusivity and acceptance.

Justin Trudeau's letter to the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (Submitted to the CBC)

The festival included floats, music, and people of all ages in colourful costumes. Miss Gay Ottawa was in the parade, as she is from Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation.

Seesequasis is the councillor responsible for community development on the First Nation and the driving force behind today's events.

"What a great demonstration of inclusivity in our community, so much pride, lots of spirit for sure, it's an awesome day," Seesequasis said as he marched in the parade.

He said this is something he's thought about for about 10 years and now was the right time for this in his community.

"Pride month was coming and I thought this was a great opportunity for us to do something ground-breaking."

Elementary students line the parade route on Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

In the parade, Giselle Gotti Chanel was dressed in a colouful, sparkling dress.

She's originally from the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation but moved to Ottawa 25 years ago.

She talked about how hard it was for her to come out, and how proud she feels with the pride festival in her home. 

"I always dreamed about it and I'm glad the leadership, this chief and council passed the [motion] to have this day for all the families who have gay, bi or lesbian family members, to celebrate this day," Chanel said. "This will expand and help the youth to come out a lot easier."

While in Ottawa, Chanel said she won the Miss Gay Lifetime title, and she's proud to bring the title home to Saskatchewan.

"This means so much to me because this is my home," she said.
Giselle Gotti Chanel, originally from the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation, said she's proud of her home community taking this step and holding a Two-Spirit Pride Festival. (Don Somers/CBC)

Seesequasis walked alongside Chief Rick Gamble and other councillors from the First Nation. There was also representation from Willow Cree Health, TransSask and OUT Saskatoon.

Following the parade, the community gathered at the band office where the flag was risen.

Despite today's festivities, Seesequasis understands they still have work to do.

"The fact that this is a first [pride festival] happening in Saskatchewan demonstrates there still is a need for this type of advocacy in Indigenous communities."

The Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation is about 92 kilometres north of Saskatoon.


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.