Unreserved

Treaty T-shirts and a memorable kiss at the United Nations

While taking in the sights of New York City, James Harper and Kyle Ross toured the United Nations. In keeping with the spirit of their visit to the city that never sleeps, they chose to represent themselves and their people by sharing a kiss at the iconic building.
James Harper (left) and Kyle Ross share a kiss at the United Nations in New York. (Supplied)
Listen8:27

They were two photos that flew past in a Facebook feed. 

The images were of James Harper, from Sturgeon Lake First Nation, Alta., and Kyle Ross, from Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Man. 

The two men were wearing T-shirts with their respective treaty numbers written across the front. In one image, they were standing in the United Nations General Assembly room, smiling for the camera. 

Harper, who is from Treaty 8 said the intention with the shirts was to create dialogue if anyone asked about them.

James Harper (left) and Kyle Ross represented their home communities while on a tour of the United Nations. (Supplied)
"Treaties ... are internationally recognized documents between nations. It was almost like a political statement to try and push that recognition beyond the borders of Canada," explained Harper. 

The next image is of Harper and Ross sharing a kiss in the United Nations General Assembly room during a tour. 

After their kiss, Ross — who calls Treaty 5 home — was impressed by the lack of offense taken by this action. Being no stranger to derogatory slurs and hardship due to his orientation, the fact that this public display of affection was treated no different than any other was a welcome sign of progress.

"After that photo was taken, I did some reflection … about the principal theme of love." Harper said. "And how that plays a role at the United Nations. I do believe that love is a central theme to peace and to building those relationships. Perhaps not romantic love, but love for family, friends, and your fellow people in your community."

Back at home, Ross has noted different reactions from members in his own community.

"A lot of that, I believe is mainly education. They are trying to be understanding, but they don't have the necessary materials or the necessary resources to properly access the knowledge of the [LGBTQ2S] community."

Harper and Ross both said that they do not see themselves as two-spirited. They prefer to identify as gay.

"For me, personally, I can't seem to find a consistent source for two-spirited knowledge." Harper said. "I do believe that I could actively seek it out more. Perhaps we don't necessarily have to go seek it out, but we have to go and create it."