Wiikwemkoong raises its first Pride flag

by Maureen Strickland

WIIKWEMKOONG—To the beating of the drum, all eyes were fixed on the rainbow flag as it slowly rose up the flagpole to soar over Wiikwemkoong.

Pride flags are raised across Canada on June 1 to celebrate and show support for LGBTQ and two-spirited people and communities during Pride month.

This was the first ever raising of a Pride flag in Wiikwemkoong and the result of many months of dedication by the Wiikwemkoong Pride working group.

As the event got underway, Kindergarteners drew rainbows on the sidewalk while elders settled onto the neat row of chairs all with tiny rainbow flags attached and flapping in the wind. 

Winona Ominika, 27, planted the seed for this event back in July 2021 when she approached the band council and asked them for Pride flags. This initial request led to the Pride working group.

Seeing the flag dancing in the wind was an emotional and deeply meaningful moment for Ms. Ominika.

“It is a big step forward,” said Ms. Ominika. “All the support we need for our future generations will continue each year and grow.”

Ms. Ominika shared her own journey to self-acceptance as “a strong Indigenous two-spirit kwe” and encouraged those who identify as LGBTQ and two-spirited to “give yourself time and patience and be your most beautiful and authentic self.”

Roxanne Recollet, a member of the working group, told the enthusiastic crowd that the flag represents, “kindness, peace, love, inclusion, hope and diversity.”

Ms. Recollet added that “as a parent this is something needed, and as a community worker it is important to show our support.”

And it is not just one flag that will be flying during Pride month in Wiikwemkoong. The working group presented flags to the Tribal Police, the schools, the health centre and Ontario Works.

Danielle Roy-McDonald, founder and lead singer of the Odemin Kwe Singers, was thrilled to be a part of the celebration. She beat the drum as the flag rose.

Ms. Roy-McDonald has been involved in many Pride events in Toronto over the years but with hand on heart she said, “this is the event that hits, home in my community, we are accepted.”

Ms. Roy-McDonald added, “To come through town and to see all the flags that make LGBTQ and two-spirited people visible, means it is a safe and inclusive space.”