July 25, 2015: Today in LGBTQ+ history…
Canada’s first on-reserve Indigenous Pride event took place on July 25, 2015, at the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in Ontario. The celebration drew roughly 150 people to Veteran’s Park and included remarks from local leaders including Chief Ava Hill, who honoured the community’s two-spirited people.
The Six Nations Pride event started with Myka Burning talking to her nine-year-old daughter Meryk about what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community and this summer’s Pride celebrations. Meryk then asked a question that startled her mother: are there gay Indigenous people?
That prompted Burning to help organize the inaugural Six Nations Pride event.
“At first I thought it would just be me and Meryk at the corner with a sign,” Burning said with a laugh. “For me, this is about the community aspect to show them that we support them.”
Fellow organizer Lyndon George (Long Feather) said he knows of many LGBTQ Indigenous people who have left their reserves due to intolerance. Homophobia, which he said is a by-product of colonization and residential schools, can be rampant on reserves and Indigenous communities.
Canada’s National Aboriginal Health Organization says that historically, many First Nations cultures supported and honoured two-spirited people. They served important roles within their communities, including counselling or healing, and were held in high regard and prestige. It wasn’t until First Nations people made contact with European settlers, George said, that Canada’s Aboriginal people adopted the idea that gender is strictly binary.