Pride Parade a highlight of Sheshegwaning’s first annual Pride Week

Aurora (left) and Shyloh sporting their best rainbow finery for the Pride celebration in Sheshegwaning last Saturday. Photo by Isobel Harry

by Isobel Harry

SHESHEGWANING—It was a hot and sunny 31°C on Saturday, June 25 in Sheshegwaning First Nation as the first annual Pride Parade headed out through the residential streets, preceded by the flashing lights of the Sheshegwaning First Response medical vehicle, there to help out in case of anyone not feeling well.

Come on out, blared the rainbow-hued flyers, and celebrate our 2SLGBTQIA+Kin! as the bright summer sun lifted already boisterous spirits even higher.

The band of happy Pride supporters (and at least one dog) flashed all the colours of the spectrum as they danced along the parade route to the Community Complex, in painted faces, flags waved or worn as capes, bandanas around wrists, necks and waists, strings of shiny beads, bunches of balloons, flower necklaces, top hats, t-shirts, feather boas and a pair of angel wings. Mardi-gras-style neon beads were thrust out to onlookers, turning them into instant participants in the festivities.

The day was the culmination of a series of Pride-themed events that had been taking place all that week – Pride Week – for the first time ever in the community.

Beaming proudly was main organizer Kiara Genereux, who, along with her sister Caeley Genereux and a volunteer committee that included Lance Panamick, Terry Pitfield, Joyce Endawanas and Ken Landry had worked to finally realize their vision; originally planned for June 2021, Pride Week had to be scrapped due to COVID restrictions.

At the post-parade barbecue are, from left, Shane Yellowhorse, Pride Week organizer Kiara Genereux and chef Curtis Endawanas.

Events leading up to parade day this year included workshops on Open and Healthy Relationships, Safe Sex, Two Spirit Teachings, Gender Pronouns and a screening of the Mi’kmaq film ‘Wildhood.’

Outside the Complex, a couple of organizations had been invited to set up their wares under rainbow flags, while a barbecue station was being fired up by chef Curtis Endawanas and sous-chef Shane Yellowhorse to grill smokies and hamburgers.

From Sudbury, workers of the Réseau Access Network, a bilingual non-profit social agency, were there to disseminate information about their health services in holistic education and prevention, especially in the areas of HIV, Hep C and related issues. Carolyn Joly, Sarah Runions and registered nurses Heather Jennings and Keenan Boily promote harm reduction strategies, explaining that safer spaces for LGBTQ+ persons encourage inclusivity for all members of the community.

From Aundeck Omni Kaning (AOK) First Nation came Mnaamodzawin Health Services, serving Sheshegwaning, Zhiibaahaasing, Whitefish River, Sheguiandah and AOK First Nations with programs in child care, home care, mental health and traditional healing. Handing out cards and free t-shirts were Rebecca Milne, Allied Health Manager, and Mental Health Clinicians Jacquie Allen and Ken Lander. The calling cards offer phone numbers to use in any kind of crisis – “Never Worry Alone” is emblazoned in red on the front.

Tonight, June 29, Mnaamodzawin is presenting a free all-ages Pride event at the Community Hall in Mindemoya featuring Illusionist Aaron Patterson; the magic show starts at 7 pm.

Mnaadmodzawin Health Services staff wearing the Pride-themed t-shirts they gave away to Pride celebrants in Sheshegwaning. From left, Rebecca Milne, Allied Health Manager and Mental Health Clinicians Jacquie Allen and Ken Lander.

Back at the barbecue, Kiara Genereux is happy with the turnout. As an assistant in the band’s economic development program, she also organizes the popular Sunday market here and is keen on cultural revitalization and food security. “Next year,” she enthuses, “we’ll have more involvement by the kids in Pride. It’s important for them to have knowledge to develop their identity as they grow up.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about LGBTQ2SIA, and so our role is to educate,” says Kiara. “There are many people in this community who identify with one or more of these gender descriptions and it’s time to support them. We want everyone to feel safe and comfortable, no matter how they self-identify.

“Two-spirit people have always been here; those teachings are a very important part of our DNA. All the work we have been putting into this finally came together – we definitely felt the love today!”