June is a busy time for celebrations! The weather is warmer and LGBTQ+ Pride Month takes center stage. As an organization that acknowledges it operates on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin Territory, MAX thinks it’s also important to help do our part in honouring June as National Indigenous History Month.
For guys into guys who live, work, and play in the Ottawa region, many of us have become accustomed to hearing land acknowledgments. June is a good time to explore meaningful ways to expand our understanding of the rich history, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of First Nations, Inuit, Métis people and other Indigenous peoples.
WHAT IS MAX DOING TO HONOUR THE MONTH?
As a GBT2Q+ (gay, bi, trans, two-spirit, queer) men’s health organization, a very small but powerful way MAX wanted to engage is to help share some truths about the term two-spirit. Some important details to keep in mind:
- Two-Spirit was first used at an LGBTQ+ Native American gathering in 1990 by Elder Myra Laramee in Winnipeg, Manitoba and was quickly utilized amongst peers.
- The term two-spirit should only be applied to Indigenous and Native peoples of North America.
- The definition differs from tribes and not all tribes use the term. It is highly individualized and should only be used by those who identify as such.
- Albert Mcleod, co-director of Two-Spirited People of Manitoba Inc., explains more by adding that two-spirit is “a term used to describe aboriginal people who assume cross- or multiple-gender roles, attributes, dress and attitudes for personal, spiritual, cultural, ceremonial or social reasons.”
- The term is not interchangeable with gay, bi, trans, or queer. Not all folks who identify as two-spirit are LGBTQ+ and vice versa.
- Colonization, residential schools, and forced Christianity from European settlers have had a negative impact on the way two-spirit people have been treated and perceived by Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike.
- Local organizations such as Kind Space and The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, provincial organizations such as the previously mentioned Two-Spirited People of Manitoba, and federal groups such as Egale Canada have been working hard at creating programming and increasing education and awareness to help heal generational trauma. The goal is to help two-spirit identified folks return to and maintain the honourable place they’ve historically held within Indigenous communities.
MAX has also been fortunate to have allied organizations and other knowledgeable entities share some of their suggestions for other meaningful ways community members can participate. Here are a few that we’re excited about:
The Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, located in Ottawa, “provides a wide range of medical clinics, social services and support, and youth programs for Ottawa’s 40,000+ Indigenous people.” Every Monday from 5:30-8:00 pm, they host culture night where all members of the community are invited to take part in activities to learn about Indigenous culture. Check out their website for more information.
The Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival takes place every year on or near June 21st. This date not only marks the beginning of summer solstice but also National Indigenous Peoples Day. In 2009, the day was expanded to a month. The festival will take place on June 20-23 2019 at Vincent Massey Park. It’s a free event and is a great way to celebrate the cultural diversity of the Métis, Inuit & First Nations communities in the National Capital area.
Our friends at Octopus Books were kind enough to pass on some great reads to add to your collection. The list features mostly Indigenous authors on topics that range from Indigenous history, gender-related issues, autobiographies, and ways Indigenous communities are combating the negative impact of colonization.
- Clearing the Plain by James Daschuk
- Keetsahnak/Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sisters edited by Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell and Christi Belcourt
- Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga
- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
- Those Who Run in the Sky by Aviaq Johnston
- Cold Skies by Thomas King
Check out their Indigenous Studies section of their website for even more titles.
The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) “is an organization by and for Indigenous youth that works across issues of sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice throughout the United States and Canada.” Most of their work focuses on the health of Indigenous folks. However, their website and social media platforms have a variety of resources to help non-Indigenous educate themselves about the unique issues and help find solutions in solidarity with Indigenous folks.
A Hopeful Future
At MAX, we envision a community of self-affirming guys into guys that care for themselves and each other. This includes our two-spirit and GBTQ+ Indigenous guys. Non-Indigenous community members can help by taking it upon themselves to learn more about the rich history of Indigenous peoples to become better allies, service providers, and friends.