Tele-Native Youth: CNAY Celebrates Pride

Center for Native American Youth 

Tele-Native Youth: CNAY Celebrates Pride 

Every year as our calendars begin to move into the final days of May, people all over the country prepare for something magnificent, bright, and beautiful: Pride Month. A month-long celebration of identity, equality, and visibility of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and two-spirit community in honor of the 1969 Stonewall riots. Historically, many Native and Indigenous communities honored and held LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit relatives in high regard. A wave of reclamation has been making its way across Indian Country and communities are restoring these traditional beliefs and teachings. We are not just acknowledging the spectrum of identity free of colonial influence but celebrating those identities.

In honor of Pride Month, the Center for Native American Youth hosted a Tele Native Youth webinar: CNAY Celebrates Pride. The discussion of pride, community, identity, and empowerment was held by a panel of by LGBTQ2S+ youth from Generation Indigenous and Campus Pride representatives including Lauren Poterek (Ojibwe; Walpole Island First Nations), Luke Whitney, Simone Boyd, and Alexander Cheetham. They were joined by moderator and Executive Director of CNAY, Nikki Pitre.  

In honor of Pride Month, the Center for Native American Youth hosted a Tele Native Youth webinar: CNAY Celebrates Pride. The discussion of pride, community, identity, and empowerment was held by a panel of by LGBTQ2S+ youth from Generation Indigenous and Campus Pride representatives including Lauren Poterek (Ojibwe; Walpole Island First Nations), Luke Whitney, Simone Boyd, and Alexander Cheetham. They were joined by moderator and Executive Director of CNAY, Nikki Pitre.

The webinar discussion raised many points of importance within the LGBTQ+2S community ranging from culture and identity to advocacy and equity. Alexander reflected on the origins of Pride Month and that it was rooted in riots. “Pride is seen as something fun and fluffy, but it’s not. There is so much history of resistance in queer spaces and pride movements.” He encouraged everyone to acknowledge the many different backgrounds and lived experiences of people, but to also continue fighting to have an intersectional pride movement. Simone, of Campus Pride, added that we must “give credit, where credit is due,” because “a lot of what is mainstream pride today in the community was derived from people of color.”

These young leaders acknowledge the challenges of intersecting identities in the discussion, and how one might feel the pressure to choose just one part of themselves. Lauren shared that their identity as a two-spirit person and being Ojibwe are not interchangeable but connected and makes them who they are. “It ties in a lot with my own identity. I wouldn’t consider myself Ojibwe and not LGBTQ and wouldn’t consider myself LGBTQ and not Ojibwe. They walk hand in hand, they are one and the same.”

The discussion continued to explore the intersectionality within this movement and the value of learning from other’s experiences. “There’s levels to the LGBTQ+ community, it’s not linear, you’re not going to know everything as soon as you come in and it encourages people to know that you don’t have to know everything,” shares Simone. “I’ve been able to learn from others who live lives completely different than my own,” Luke shared, “we all come from different backgrounds and identities, but I think we’ve been so united in our experiences that have allowed us to tackle a lot of these issues and make the right steppingstones and move forward for LGBTQ advocacy.”

In closing the discussion, moderator Nikki Pitre encouraged everyone to take time this Pride Month to, “celebrate joy, beauty and radiance.” She went on to share, “to our LGBTQ2S+ youth leaders, you are whole and there are so many good days ahead.”

You can watch this and all the Tele-Native Youth webinars here and the CNAY Facebook page, here.