Last Friday Couchiching First Nation was the site of Treaty 3’s second annual 2SLGBTQ+ Powwow. The event was coordinated by the Treaty 3 Two-Spirit Youth Council.
In 2021 Grand Council Treaty 3 added a two-spirit council to its governance structure under the leadership of Grand Chief Francis Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh was at the powwow Friday and told those in attendance the story of how the council came to be.
“We were at a gathering, a chiefs and elders meeting in Winnipeg about two years ago,” Kavanaugh said. “During the course of the deliberations I excused myself and left the meeting room. When I left the room I noticed a young lady and she was sobbing. I walked over and asked her if there was something I could do. She confided in me that she was two-spirited. She said growing up she felt bullied and alienated and felt left out.”
Kavanaugh says the young person’s story made him feel badly. At that time Grand Council Treaty 3 was governed by four different sections, an elders council, a youth council, a men’s council and a women’s council but there was no official representation for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
After some research Kavanaugh determined that no indigenous government across Canada had a 2SLGBTQ+ council within their structure.
“I called all these places because I wanted some kind of a guideline for me to follow to establish one for Treaty 3,” Kavanaugh said. “So failing that, I brought it to the next chiefs meeting we had and they agreed that we should do it.”
The first 2SLGBTQ+ Pow Wow was held last year at Shoal Lake.
Melody McKiver is a member of the Treaty 3 2SLGBTQ+ council and uses they/them pronouns. They said it’s important to them to see a gathering for the community in Treaty 3 Territory.
“Having two-spirit Pow Wows is quite new for Treaty Three,” they said. “What’s important for me is that first they started in major urban centres, with the first one being in the San Francisco area and then came north. For this to be hosted by Treaty 3 it’s a way of really integrating two-spirit Pow Wows into the fabric of Anishinaabek Nation. It’s not that two-spirit Pow Wows are any lesser, but it’s really important to have this welcoming environment for our two-spirit and LGBTQ community members in all areas.”
McKiver says the hope is that as time goes on two-spirit members of the community can become more integrated with first nations as a whole rather than being isolated to their own separate events.
“It’s also a way of integrating into the larger Treaty 3 powwow circle,” McKiver said. “Because, often, other two-spirit powwows are kind of happening in isolation and not necessarily in partnership with those First Nations. So really, my hope and vision is that it’s just a reminder that two-spirit people can participate in all facets of Anishinaabek life and that we don’t need to be limited to two-spirit powwows but two-spirit people are just inherently a part of powows.