Sask. 2-spirit artists bring their vision of queer Indigenous life to forefront


Prairie Pride is a collection by Local Journalism Initiative reporter Julia Peterson that celebrates queer life in rural Saskatchewan.

From sneakers to clothes to public artwork installations, a rising technology of two-spirit artists and designers is taking Saskatchewan by storm.

As they struggle stigma and honour conventional two-spirit roles, these younger creators are bringing their vision of queer Indigenous life and neighborhood to the forefront.

Kamisha Alexson is one of them. She says this technology is main a robust wave of change, therapeutic and progress via two-spirit artwork.

“When I used to be youthful, I’d not have ever thought to see art work by an Indigenous individual — a lot much less a queer Indigenous individual — in a public place,” mentioned Alexson, who comes from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation.

“These have been all belongings you may need seen in darkish corners or scribbled in a textbook.

“Now, we will showcase who we’re and that we have all the time been right here and that we all the time will likely be right here.”

‘It feels secure. It feels heat.’

Wherever Alexson shows her artwork, she desires two-spirit youth to really feel embraced by a rainbow of love.

Her signature set up, Dreamscapes, includes dozens of dreamcatchers created from foraged medicines and recycled supplies, and dyed in brilliant colors.

When she hangs them up, they create monumental, eye-catching circles that folks can enter into and expertise Alexson’s vision.

“The rainbow represents us as two-spirit individuals, and all of the medicines I entwined all through the set up hold us protected,” Alexson mentioned.

“So when you entered that circle — that sacred house — you have been surrounded by nothing however dreamcatchers all the best way from purple, pink, blue, inexperienced, yellow, orange, purple and again to pink.”

Through her artwork, which she has displayed in Saskatoon and at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Alexson desires to uplift the concept that being two-spirit is one thing to rejoice.

She says the individuals who have come to go to Dreamscapes have heard that message loud and clear.

“When I’ve had guests come and be a component of the circle, I’d speak to them,” she mentioned. “And for some of them, who have been two-spirited individuals, this was a secure place for them.

“When you enter that circle, it looks like an entire new place. It feels secure. It feels heat.”

Others, who Alexson did not meet, left presents of tobacco and different medicines woven into the dreamcatchers.

“Even although it is totally different for everyone, individuals have felt secure in my areas — and that is why I created them,” she mentioned.

Designed with Pride

Cody Montour, a multidisciplinary artist in Meadow Lake, has been constructing his model at Okema Clothing for the final three years.

When he had the chance to collaborate with Meadow Lake Pride and launch a Pride assortment of T-shirts and hoodies, he knew precisely who he wanted to speak to — his nephew, two-spirit digital artist and animator Harper Dion-McGilvery.

“It was so particular, having the ability to work with him as a result of he is actually discovering himself and embracing his abilities,” Montour mentioned of Dion-McGilvery. “I used to be so impressed as a result of it takes a lot power, particularly for our youth, whilst they’re discovering their true self to have the ability to escape of their shell, break down the wall, and say ‘that is who I’m, and I’m going to be this individual I used to be meant to be.'”

For Okema Pride, Dion-McGilvery designed a spherical rainbow emblem with feathers and sweetgrass, representing the function two-spirit individuals have historically held as healers inside their communities.

“I felt it was necessary to present my voice inside this design, and I needed to incorporate what Pride means to me, personally,” Dion-McGilvery mentioned.

Dion-McGilvery mentioned they’ve seen heaps of individuals out on this planet — significantly in their residence neighborhood of Meadow Lake — sporting the Okema Pride emblem because the assortment launched.

“Seeing it in shops and out on the road, it felt like individuals have been supporting my work and a native-owned enterprise,” mentioned Dion-McGilvery. “It was being embraced, which I believe is actually cool.”

Montour mentioned the designs have been so standard throughout Pride Month that he’s now engaged on screen-printing a brand new model of the gathering so he can bring them again to the store.

He says the collaboration with Dion-McGilvery and with Meadow Lake Pride is precisely what he desires his model to be about — catching individuals’s eye, beginning conversations and supporting Indigenous artists and communities.

“We are investing in our love for one another,” he mentioned. “That’s the largest factor, in all of this. It’s all about love and letting individuals in our neighborhood know that they don’t seem to be alone.

“When we bring our power, mixed with our allies as effectively, it is so overwhelming that folks don’t have any selection however to hear. They don’t have any selection however to see us in motion.”

Competing throughout Canada

Earlier this yr, conventional and digital artist Ailah Carpenter had their work featured by eBay Canada and MARTK’D as half of a sneaker artwork competitors. Carpenter, who was born in Regina and calls Prince Albert residence, had by no means performed sneaker artwork earlier than — however they weren’t about to let that cease them.

“I’m the kind of one who likes to strive as many artwork varieties as potential,” mentioned Carpenter, who’s at present finding out high quality arts on the University of Saskatchewan. “I do not like stopping myself from doing stuff.”

Each artist had 48 hours to attend a workshop and create Pride-themed artwork on a pair of sneakers.

Carpenter’s design, with a rainbow star blanket sample on the toes and a drugs wheel and feather icon on the facet, represents their two-spirit id in addition to the creative heritage of their Plains Cree and Woodland Cree communities.

They hope their design may encourage extra individuals to examine and relearn Prairie Indigenous artwork traditions, in addition to struggle stigma towards two-spirit individuals.

“Two-spirituality lets me embrace the whole lot without delay in a pleasant clear time period that has related historical past to my individuals,” they mentioned. “I would like to assist increase that ahead. I’m attempting to assist push the concept that two-spirituality is OK. It’s regular. It’s one thing that we needs to be embracing once more.”

Carpenter mentioned the response to their sneakers and their message of two-spirit pleasure has been overwhelmingly constructive.

“People are saying, ‘I’m simply so glad you talked about it.'”

Carpenter desires to see extra younger artists from Saskatchewan having these conversations — generally, they are saying, working on this house feels “empty.” At the eBay and MARTK’D competitors, in addition to at different Canada-wide alternatives and gatherings, they have been the one individual from Saskatchewan within the room.

As extra two-spirit designers discover their voice and carve out a spot within the Saskatchewan arts scene, Carpenter says there are rather a lot of alternatives to shine brilliant and be heard.

“You can do large issues — past your own home, past your neighbourhood, past your neighborhood,” they mentioned.

The Local Journalism Initiative helps the creation of authentic civic journalism that’s related to the various wants of underserved communities throughout Canada, broadening availability and consumption of native and regional information on issues of civic governance. Read extra about The Local Journalism Initiative right here.  If you have got any questions concerning the Local Journalism Initiative program, please contact


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