Boys with braids honoured at Winnipeg event

Dozens of indigenous boys with long hair were honoured at a unique gathering in Winnipeg. In March, the city hosted its first Boys With Braids event, meant to foster a sense of pride in indigenous boys who choose to grow their hair long.
A young boy listens to an elder speak, one of dozens who attended Winnipeg's first Boys With Braids gathering. (Tim Fontaine)
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Dozens of indigenous boys with long hair were honoured at a unique gathering in Winnipeg.

In March, the city hosted its first Boys With Braids event, meant to foster a sense of pride in indigenous boys who choose to grow their hair long. 

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"It feels good because you can finally see someone who knows the exact same feeling as you do," said 10-year-old Sage, whose hair is worn in two neat braids. "It's part of our tradition. And I want to follow tradition also." 

The event is part of a movement created by Michael Linklater, a Cree man from Saskatchewan whose children were teased for wearing long hair.  He hosted the first Boys With Braids gathering in Saskatoon.

Cecil Sveinson is part of a group who organized the Winnipeg event. Twenty years ago, his own son cut his hair because of teasing.

"He was about eight years old when he got tired of all the teasing," said Sveinson. "The issues my son faced twenty years ago, those are the same issues that I'm hearing about now with my nephews."

"It's part of our tradition. And I want to follow tradition also," said Sage, 10, about his braided hair. (Tim Fontaine)
The gathering included elders who shared traditional teachings about the sacredness of hair, drumming and singing and a feast.

Kevin Settee came to show his support. 

Now in his 20s, he has braids down to his waist and he remembers what it was like when he was a boy with braids.

"To see all of the young kids in the first five or six rows, it was inspiring. There's no words to describe it, I've never seen so many kids that look like me in one place," he said.

Since the gathering in Winnipeg, a similar Boys With Braids event was held in Regina, Saskatchewan with more being planned across the country.