June: The convergence of Indigenous History and Pride

June: The convergence of Indigenous History and Pride r1 ...

June @ SOVI

Image shows a colourful painting, full of life. Set against a yellow background, several human figures are on top a red hill. Inside the hill are countless animal species coloured blue, green, orange and purple. They are intersects, snakes, birds, and other representations of life. Inside the hill is a circle representing the sealife, with blue and red fish. In the background, behind the human figures are hundreds of colourful flowers and multicoloured birds in the sky. In the very centre of the piece is a huge bird spreading its wings. All the other beings in the image look toward it.

'Androgyny' artwork by Anishinaabe painter Norval Morrisseau, Ottawa, Canada, 2017. Flickr/Luc Blain. CC BY-NC 2.0. Some rights reserved. See Alt text for image description. This painting is significant in Canada as a symbol of reconciliation, while representing the artist's notions of gender identity.


In June, Canada recognizes both Indigenous History Month, and Pride. The mingling of these celebrations provides the opportunity for conversation on intersectionality, and the unique experiences of Indigenous folks and members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a national organization that supports the well-being and rights of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people. Recently, it relaunched its Restoring the Circle program, which seeks to create safer spaces for Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ people.

Ellen Langille is part of the Restoring the Circle team. She has an extensive background in working with Indigenous folks across the country, from child and family services, to education systems, to programming and funding. Tiffany Walsh is responsible for NWAC’s culturally relevant gender based analysis (CRGBA) work. CRGBA is a form of policy and research focused on accessible, specific, and inclusion-distinction based frameworks. She helped develop Restoring the Circle, using her lived and professional experience with gender-based violence protection.

Tell me about Restoring the Circle, and how the program was developed through NWAC’s ongoing culturally relevant gender based analysis work?

EL: Restoring the Circle is an online, accessible, and entirely free training program for service providers, specifically those working with Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ people with lived experience of gender-based violence. It seeks to make service provision trauma-informed, intersectional, safe, and rooted in Indigenous healing and resilience practice. It was developed over two years; starting with national roundtable meetings with both service providers and Indigenous service users. The training is self-led, and highly interactive. You’re able to access video, audio, points of reflection, and quizzes– it’s also visually engaging. The virtual structure is thanks to COVID, but that allowed us to overcome travel barriers and reach far more people.

TW: The program is informed by a “wholeness framework” – which ties into CRGBA. It’s rooted in five principles: trauma-informed, distinctions-based, intersectionality, grounded within Indigenous knowledge, and gender-diversity. I don’t want to define the Indigenous experience by trauma, as not every Indigenous person is traumatized. But, when you think largely about the impact of colonization, being trauma-informed in policy and program development is key. We have to consider how we’re impacting the communities we work with.

The experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous people are distinct, due to history, culture, intersectional discrimination and colonization. Could you give me some examples of how Restoring the Circle seeks to address these specific and varying experiences?

TW: The whole program is based on what we learned from national gatherings with service providers and 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous people. We heard about their experiences in shelters and gender-based violence services, identified themes, and grounded it in their words. The training scenarios are the reality 2SLGBTQ+ people navigate when trying to get help.

We were lucky to learn from Elder Albert MacLeod and Knowledge Keeper Paulie Poitras, who grounded our work with guidance and sacred teachings. Both are Two-Spirit, and their engagement and support were crucial, especially because Two-Spirit folks are immensely marginalized within broader discourse. Their influence, the national gatherings, and our work experience and research helped create a comprehensive, user-friendly training.

EL: The story of the Winkte is a profound element of the training. It truly uplifts and deepens understanding of the term “Two-Spirit.” When you watch the story, it’s beautiful. Surprisingly, a lot of Indigenous languages had a word for Two-Spirit since the beginning. It’s been expressed throughout history.

Have you been able to see the impact of this program in Canada, and get feedback?

EL: We’ve had eight workshops to introduce people to the training, with about 141 participants– from Vancouver, to the North, to Newfoundland. Everyone has been excited, because nothing like this existed before. Service providers wanted training and information, but there wasn’t a place to get it. Even Indigenous women’s shelters have a hard time finding research in literature. We need to ensure it stays relevant and at the forefront. We’d like to continue to relaunch it, and build an updated list of service providers to connect with.

TW: We see how important virtual training is. In-person sessions are great for conversation, but shelter work is 24/7– it’s difficult to set aside time. In most shelters and gender-based violence centres, it’s really hard to find money to support it. It’s key that it’s free and self-led, for accessibility.

EL: Also, everyone can benefit from the training, service providers or not. Someone in your life may be touched by this, so the more knowledge you have the better. We say, “spread wide, spread far.”

NWAC has a huge mandate in working to enhance the wellbeing of Indigenous women, girls, and gender diverse folks in Canada– but it also works in international advocacy. Could a program like Restoring the Circle go beyond Canada?

TW: NWAC has participated in international advocacy, like at the International Summit of the Americas on Violence Against Indigenous Women, where we specifically advocate for action on MMIWG. I think that would be a great direction, but we are limited in our scope due to funding and capacity. I do think these issues are relevant worldwide. Different experiences of Indigeneity and gender diversity exist elsewhere– I think it would be great to spread the word and show folks what we have going on.

June is both Indigenous History Month and Pride. Has NWAC been mixing and melding those two celebrations, and how has this month been for you folks?

TW: It’s funny, because it seems like we always overlap with another celebration. It’s important that we have space. In my experience as a queer person in Treaty 6 territory, I’ve seen how often Indigenous people and their contributions are overlooked. It’s sad. There are some issues with Pride festivals, and combativeness with settler and capitalist co-optation of Pride. We need to recognize whose land we’re on– no Pride on stolen land, right?

But, I also think there’s space for everything to intersect. The beauty of identity and culture is that we all live with different intersections of experience, and there's space for everyone to work collaboratively. That’s how I see this month of June: everyone working together for the better. We need more space for protest, and conversations about making spaces safer for Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ folks. Those are difficult conversations that need to be had, because we exist and have the right to be proud of who we are.

EL: I’ll add that I facilitate a men’s group, and the participants are diverse in culture and background. On Indigenous People’s Day, we asked them if they knew what day it was. The conversation began, and I expected some negativity– but there was none. They wanted to learn, and said the celebration is great. I was touched by the sentiments. For many years, this conversation wouldn’t happen in a group of men. I thought, “Wow. That’s a feel-good moment.”


The SOVI Anti-Racist Community of Practice would love to invite new members to join us! We are currently brainstorming to adapt our name to better reflect the wide range of anti-oppression discussion topics at these monthly meetings. This is a conversational space, where folks gather to talk about what we’re learning (and unlearning) in our lives and work. If you’re seeking community, growth, and a growing collaborative list of resources, please reach out.

In June, we celebrated Pride and Indigenous History Month by chatting about this wonderful talk on Two-Spirit identity by the Cree scholar and community organizer, Harlan Pruden. Check it out!


Image shows hundreds of people gathered in a march and vigil for victims of the Oslo shooting during Pride month. People hold rainbow and trans flags in the air. Recognizing Pride and 2SLGBTQ+ rights is paramount, in a world where anti-2SLGBTQ+ rhetoric and violence pervades globally. This year, Pride celebrations and queer-friendly spaces have been heavily targeted. In Victoria, an all-ages drag show had to be cancelled due to threats of gun violence. Similarly, across the US, Pride events like drag shows, parades, and kid-friendly readings received violent threats and were physically disrupted by transphobic and homophobic demonstrators. Experts conclude right-wing politicians and militant groups fuel this behaviour, along with escalating legislation against trans and queer youth. The recent overturning of Roe v. Wade “is devastating for the safety of LGBTQ+ people, who are already at increased risk for sexual and physical intimate partner violence.” Transgender and gender diverse folks are especially impacted: a 2019 survey found a third of trans and gender nonconforming participants who had been pregnant sought an abortion, yet face higher barriers to healthcare. In Norway, a gunman attacked a prominent gay and lesbian bar, killing two people and injuring at least twenty. This attack is currently deemed as terrorism with an ‘unknown motive,’ but it led to Oslo Pride Festival’s cancelation, and deeply shook the local LGBTQ+ community. The global nonprofit conflict-monitoring group, ACLED, reports anti-2SLGBTQ+ activity increased more than four times between 2020 and 2021. Though, in the face of hatred, 2SLGBTQ+ folks maintain strength and community. In Oslo, days after the attack, a spontaneous rally of thousands gathered in vigil and respect for victims. In America, advocacy groups worked to reinstate and protect cancelled events, and to support reproductive justice. Here in Victoria, Pride events continue, including the Memorial Drag Ball Game this Friday – an event that both honours those who died during the AIDS epidemic, and allows for queer folks to celebrate joy.


  • Memorial Drag Ball Game 2022 I July 1 I Victoria Pride Society

    • The Memorial Drag Ball Game is Canada’s only Pride event in remembrance for those who passed during the AIDS pandemic. It is a multi-generational, picnic in the park with local entertainment– Eves’ Destruction Roller Derby – BBQ’s, drinks and food, kids face painting, drag story time, queer drag fun.
    • All event details, here.
  • Rethinking Heritage in the Context of Reconciliation I July 11 I City of Victoria
    • Victoria has an award-winning heritage conservation program that has retained many of the early settler buildings in the city. Yet, as these buildings were built, Lekwungen heritage was systematically dismantled and erased. Join members of the Songhees Nation, Esquimalt Nation and City staff to explore how to retain and celebrate the city’s colonial-built heritage while recognizing, honouring and making visible once again Lekwungen culture and land practices.

    • Registration for the discussion, here.
  • Reproductive Justice: Knowing ALL of your options I July 27th I SNIWWOC
    • Join SNIWWOC, in partnership with licensed medical professionals including registered nurses, doulas, midwives, and physicians, for a conversation about reproductive rights in Canada and beyond. Topics will include pregnancy journeys, abortions, finding and assessing clinics, and beyond.

    • Register here.
  • 7 Signs of the Lekwungen ToursI Summer 2022 I Explore Songhees
    • Join for a 7 Signs of the Lekwungen Walking or canoe tour with cultural guides, where we will visit some of our most significant historical sites. Through storytelling and site seeing you will enrich your understanding of our culture and traditions. Regular scheduled tours available from Ship Point Thursday - Sunday.

    • Details and booking, here.
  • Decolonization Tour I Summer 2022 I UBC
    • The Decolonization Tour highlights site-specific artworks by Indigenous artists and raises questions around issues of place, space and identity. Considering how these works address urgent social and political concerns, we’ll discuss ideas of settler colonialism, decolonization, reconciliation and the history of UBC’s Vancouver campus, which is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people.

    • For specific tour dates, click here.


“Find freedom in the context you inherit”

- Lee Maracle, Stó:lō feminist writer

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