Inuvik hosts regional pride celebration with guests from around the world

From ambassadors from around the world to a Two-Spirit musician, youth from across the Western Arctic-Beaufort Delta gathered in Inuvik for pride events focusing on feeling comfortable in one’s own gender and sexuality.

“Bringing youth together so that they can meet other people like them, that’s life-saving stuff,” said Juno Award-winning, Two-Spirit Anishinaabe/Métis musician G.R. Gritt who was in town working in youth workshops at Inuvik’s East Three elementary and secondary schools last week.

“You just saved a bunch of lives today because… all those kids who are going home knowing that it’s possible to have safer spaces for them,” Gritt said, a member of the band Quantum Tangle, now living in the Robinson-Huron Treaty are in Sudbury, Ont.

“There needs to be so much celebration and acknowledgment and validation. And making sure that people feel loved because there’s been the absence of love absence and also the presence of hate.”

Inuvik Pride
Brooke Dalton, left, Kae Kargegie, Jewel Lennie, Jordanna Ruben, Marshal Jellema celebrate Inuvik Pride. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

Located in both Gwich’in and Inuvialuit land claim territories, Inuvik is the Beaufort Delta region hub of about 3,200 people located 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories.

Seventeen youth from regional schools were brought to Inuvik by the Beaufort Delta Education Council for in-school and public activities including songwriting with Gritt, expression through theatre, a film screening of ‘Small Town Pride’, and pride parade.

There was also a moment of silence for Frank Gruben and his family at the Inuvik Community Greenhouse. Gruben, a member of the LGBTQ2S community from Aklavik, has been missing for over a month from Fort Smith, N.W.T.

“Not only do they meet other youth, but they got to see adults who live full, beautiful lives, who have healthy relationships, who have jobs, who have more networks of friends, who can be themselves and who are accepted,” said Gritt.

“When you see that that’s possible, then you can foresee a whole future ahead of you where maybe before you couldn’t even see a future. You imagine the future and you’re not in it. I’ve been there.”

For Inuvialuit and Gwich’in youth graduate Anika Cockney-Goose, seeing the pride parade establish and grow is important in community development and health and wellness.

“I was really happy,” said Cockney-Goose after the pride march to the school with the following speeches. “When I was growing up, they didn’t really have a pride parade here until after I graduated.

“It’s starting to grow and grow and it’s really cool to see that.”

Inuvik Pride
Fifth Pride Parade in Inuvik and 2nd regional parade bringing youth from across the Beaufort Delta. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

Like many remote Indigenous communities, colonial Christian beliefs imposed by residential schools and beyond persist and people struggle to navigate contradictions while learning and honouring the full history of gender and sexuality before contact.

“I grew up in the church community when I was younger. We were told we were accepted and everything but love anybody who we want is not right, just man and woman kind of thing. So I just want to say that it’s okay to love whoever you want to,” said Cockney-Goose.

“I feel like nowadays, everyone’s starting to step away from the church and realize love his love and just being who we are, like Two-Spirit and all that.”

Wrapped in a handmade pride flag made by Inuvik seamstress Dustin Smith for the parade, the youth agree they need to have more LGBTQ2S events spread out throughout the year.

“It does show to people that like nobody is alone, especially in a small community like this. I didn’t expect so many people today to be honest,” said Mystique English.

“I think it would make people feel less alone because I definitely didn’t know there were so many other people.”

Denmark Ambassador Hanne Fugl Eskjær talking to students in Inuvik. Photo: Karli Zschogner/APTN.

Denmark Ambassador for Canada Hanne Fugl Eskjær was one of the speakers following the parade, one of 23 international ambassadors on a tour of the Canadian Arctic under Global Affairs Canada.

“It was an amazing celebration… together with so many beautiful people talking to the importance of love of diversity and respecting whoever you love, you should feel safe and you should feel at home. It’s a great honor to be here,” said Eskjaer.

On their third stop out of visiting 12 communities over 10 days, including a visit Inuvik region’s Reindeer Station, she sees the shared Arctic community’s concerns and impacts of climate change.

“Our group has been hearing from every single community that feels the impacts of climate change much more in the north than than many other countries,” she said. “I think it’s really important that we really work together….it’s both our scientists who is really telling us what’s happening, but it’s also the elders and the traditional Indigenous knowledge that is put together and basing on that we can really, I hope, create the best possible policy and policy decision.

“So cooperation, knowledge sharing, and mutual respect, I think is a key component in what we can do internationally, together with Canada and also in the north.”

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