Melody Wood talks about Pride and the Saskatoon Pride Festival at Saskatoon's River Landing.

Coming In: Two Spirit Revitalization in Saskatoon

A long history of vibrant diversity covers Treaty Six Territory as Two Spirit community members sow seeds of traditions.

Jack Saddleback & Bonnie Heilman

Placed in the heart of Treaty Six Territory, Saskatoon has been in a unique position of creating expansive spaces for revitalization efforts of Two Spirit culture. For many Two Spirit community members, like Mel, Saskatoon Pride has transformed into a space of grounding, of family connections, and ceremonies of rekindling traditions. June brings forth a double fresh breath of air for the Two Spirit community, as it not only marks Pride Month but National Indigenous History Month too!

Those new to the term, Two Spirit is defined as a pan-Indigenous term that acknowledges the historical acceptance of gender and sexual diversity prior to colonization. This term speaks specifically to the experiences of Indigenous peoples and the disruption of the historical acceptance in some communities due to colonialism.

During the pandemic, Saskatoon Pride has hosted the Two Spirit Ball twice online and is excited to host it live when public health restrictions allow! Mel, from Little Pine First Nation, proudly displays her Indigeneity in every space she walks in, all while revitalizing sacred teachings of Two Spirit peoples for her children and extended family. Embodying the sacred roles of being an Oskâpêwis (Cree = helper at ceremonies), you can find Mel dotted throughout the province with their volunteerism. Since her first days in Pride movements as a bystander, Mel has taken to the front stage of the Two Spirit community, paying it forward to younger generations and exemplifying intergenerational teachings.

Meaningful Two Spirit engagement has taken a number of years to be highlighted, not only here in Saskatoon but across Canada as well and even worldwide! Thinking back to her first Pride, Mel stood on the sidewalk, blending into the city lights. Through the tireless work of laying seeds of hope by our Two Spirit Elders like Marjorie Beaucage, Albert McLeod, Ma-nee Chacaby, Myra Laramee, Gayle Pruden, and more, Two Spirit leaders are sprouting up across Canada! Now, as revitalization efforts of Two Spirit roles bloom in the air, Mel fondly recalls creating the community’s first Two Spirit Tipi, the Coming In ceremony at the Two Spirit Powwow, and taking the spotlight on the mainstage in 2016 as an emcee alongside fellow Two Spirit champion, Warren Isbister-Bear.

Saskatoon has many ways to experience Indigenous histories, music, and art. A long-time family favorite is Wanuskewin Heritage Park, just a quick jaunt north of the city, where they’ve recently reintroduced a herd of bison! If you’re sticking inside city-limits, a walking tour of Indigenous monuments in Saskatoon is a great way to learn more about our vibrant history. Gordon Reeve’s sculpture, “The Coming Spring,” brings the healing celebrations at Victoria Park, where we gather every year on June 21 for National Indigenous People’s Day.

With celebrations of Pride and National Indigenous Peoples History Month, June offers all of Canada and the world to see and heal from the impacts of colonialism for all Two Spirit, IndigiQueer, and 2SLGBTQ peoples. For, as Reeve says, “In learning to speak the truth to each other, and in seeking reconciliation, we can see the promise here on that patch of grass in Canada’s coming spring…