Saskatoon StarPhoenix

3 charged in Simon Grant’s death


OTTAWA Ojibwa-Cree elder Manee Chacaby says coming out nearly 30 years ago was like unzipping her skin so she could reveal her true self.

“I’ve been happy since that day,” she said in an interview from Thunder Bay, Ont.

Prior to 1988, Chacaby said she was bullied for identifyin­g as twospirit — a term she uses to describe carrying both a female and male in her body at the same time.

“It really hurt me to be beaten by my own people because I was First Nations and two-spirit and then it really hurt me to have white people beat me up because I was brown and I was two-spirit,” she said.

Experts say there is a clear link to suicide among indigenous youth.

Sen. Murray Sinclair, who spent six years documentin­g Canada’s church-operated, government­funded residentia­l school system, agrees there is a undoubted connection.

Evangelica­l foundation­s often speak out strongly against traditiona­l values and beliefs, particular­ly around two-spirited people, Sinclair said.

“That is a direct result of the Christian foundation­s of the residentia­l schools,” he said.

One of five commission­ers for

the inquiry — human rights lawyer Brian Eyolfson — identifies as two-spirit.

“I hope that it might make some people feel more comfortabl­e to tell their stories to the inquiry if they know there is a two-spirited commission­er,” he said.

A two-spirit pride festival was held last June by Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation in Saskatchew­an.

Kevin Seesequasi­s, a 34-yearold, openly gay councillor, approached his band colleagues who were enthusiast­ic about holding the event — an experience that was touching for him personally.

“It was really a fantastic demonstrat­ion of support but more than that, it really was understand­ing ... that people in our community do face barriers who identify as LGBTQ or two-spirit,” he said.

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