A rainbow crosswalk in Alberta might be the first one on a First Nations reserve in Canada.
More than 15 volunteers painted the colourful crosswalk on Wednesday in front of Samson Cree Nation administration building to celebrate Pride Month.
At the unveiling in Maskwacis, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback said he wants the community to be a safe haven for everyone – regardless of religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
“I have a niece who is gay. She just came out. It’s her first pride parade this year,” said Saddleback. “She has finally come out, I’m really happy for her.”
Chevi Rabbit, Two Spirit Committee president, said the crosswalk is a milestone and vital for the Maskwacis community. The Maskwacis Two Spirit Committee, represents the four nations in Maskwacis.
She said the rainbow represents the LGBTQ2S community in all four nations which form Maskwacis even though the rainbow crosswalk is in Samson Cree Nation.
Rabbit, a human rights activist, who was recognized by Premier Rachel Notley in December, said there are many LGBTQ2S community members who live a closeted life in the community.
“I would say we have a very high LGBTQ2S population – they’re really timid and shy,” said Rabbit, a former Red Deer College student.
Rabbit said she knows of at least 50 to 60 people who are LGBTQ2S or “Two Spirited” in Maskwacis, and believes there are more.
“The symbolism of having this crosswalk front and centre is signalling to the community that Two Spirit culture has arrived and we’re back and we’re here and we’re going to make ourselves heard,” said the 32-year-old.
Rabbit, who moved back to Maskwacis in December from Edmonton, was referring to celebrating the LGBTQ2S community – something that was common in the the Aboriginal culture in the past.
Katherine Swampy, a Samson Cree Nation band councillor explained “Two Spirited” people were accepted and celebrated in the culture and were looked up with high regard.
“They were said to have Two Spirit – to be able to see through a male lens and a female lens and they had a spirit guiding them through life or watching over them,” said Swampy.
“And when the settlers came they were the first one to be abolished.”
Rabbit said with the rainbow crosswalk, the hope is LGBTQ2S or “Two Spirited” people in Maskwacis feel included and welcome in the community.
“It’s a way of showing people ‘yes you’re welcome here and this is a safe zone. Its not something you have to worry about. Its an inclusive community,’” said the local politician.
Swampy said she believes the rainbow crosswalk in support of the LGBTQ2S community in Maskwacis is the first because she has not heard of any others throughout Canada.