Sudbury

'Living their truth': Serpent River First Nation marks its 1st Pride celebration

Serpent River First Nation, an Ontario community of 400 halfway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, celebrated Pride for the first time in what organizers say was an acknowledgment of two-spirit residents, including their ogimaa, or chief.

Ontario community of 400 wanted to acknowledge its two-spirit residents with parade, party

Ogimaa Brent Bissaillion says he was thrilled so many from the community came out to celebrate and support two-spirit residents in Serpent River First Nation's first Pride celebration. (Zacharie Routhier/CBC)

A small northern Ontario First Nation celebrated Pride for the first time this week.

Serpent River First Nation is an Anishinaabe community halfway between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, with a population of just 400.

"It's just to acknowledge we have a two-spirited ogimaa-chief, and we also have a good amount of two-spirited people here in the community," said cultural co-ordinator Lee Simpson-Johnson.

He said the community wellness team came up with the idea to celebrate Pride for the first time by planning a parade and flag-raising ceremony, and a party.

Along with the celebration, Serpent River First Nation held a Pride parade. (Zacharie Routhier/CBC)

Resident Janette McLeod was thrilled to see the community celebrating and supporting those who identify as two-spirit.

"When I came out 10, 15 years ago, if I had someone bring me in open heartedly, and to tell me to be proud of myself, this is what I want to do today," she said.

"I just wanted to come out and show my community that love is love and we're proud of all of us."

We're in a moment now where I think there is a resurgence of two-sprit people, of gay, lesbian, transgender, all those people in general are coming forward, coming out and living their truth.- Brent Bissaillion, ogimaa/chief, Serpent River First Nation

"We're in a moment now where I think there is a resurgence of two-sprit people, of gay, lesbian, transgender, all those people in general are coming forward, coming out and living their truth," said Ogimaa Brent Bissaillion.

"That's what I'm really excited about is the community has kind of rallied around that message," he added.

Bissaillion admits he left northern Ontario in his youth due to the close-mindedness he experienced at the time.

"I'm hoping that with this parade and even with my term, that it shows our two-spirit youth, even our youth in general, that you don't have to leave," he said. 

"I want this place to be a space and a place where anybody can be who they are, regardless of what you believe, or who you love."

As part of the Serpent River First Nation Pride celebration, there was a flag-raising ceremony. (Zacharie Routhier/CBC)

Bissaillion said he teared up seeing the Pride celebration in Serpent River First Nation, from the rainbow colours, the atmosphere and the support from neighbouring communities.

"You can feel the support and the love, and it's amazing."

With files from Zacharie Routhier

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