Lacey and Lanny Lazare have been looking for something to do with the 12-foot metal unicorn they were gifted for their wedding. Then something came up that they’ve been waiting for.
“We’ve been talking about a Pride parade in Kahnawake for ages,” said Lacey who co-owns local thrift shop, Thrifting the Night Away, with Lanny. “I’m from Akwesasne, and we have a floating parade (in the river), and I thought, man, they do such a nice job every year. There needs to be something here.”
Lacey and Lanny decided to donate their unicorn structure to Kahnawake Survival School (KSS), where students will be decorating the sculpture, which is now mounted on a moving trailer, ready for Kahnawake’s first ever Pride parade, which is set for June 24.
The duo had been discussing a potential Pride parade in Kahnawake when Lily Deer, youth project coordinator at Kahnawake Collective Impact (KCI), came into the thrift store. As soon as she caught wind of the idea, she “hit the ground running,” Lacey said.
Since formal planning for the Parade started in January, Deer has barely had time to catch her breath. “For me, it’s about carrying out something that’s been asked for for a long time in our community. It’s overdue.”
KCI is collaborating with Thrifting the Night Away, Kahnawake Tourism, James Day’s Haunted Woods, Kahnawake Shakotiia’takehnhas Community Services (KSCS), and the Kahnawake Fire Brigade (KFB) for the event, which will begin with a 7:30 p.m. parade through town, followed by a drug and alcohol-free community afterparty at 9:00 p.m. on Tekakwitha Island Beach.
“What’s driving this is the fact that this is something our youth asked for,” said Deer. “Whether they openly identify as being part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community or not, it’s something they’re happy space is being carved out for.”
For two of KCI’s youth workers, that couldn’t be more true. Jessica Beauvais and Calcifer Goodleaf, who both identify as part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, have also been involved in the planning process for the first-ever Kahnawake Pride. Goodleaf, who designed the logo for the parade, said that this is an important milestone for Kahanwake.
“The community has come a long way; it’s one step at a time,” said Goodleaf, who noted that the local LGBTQ+ drop-in group has been particularly important to them. “To me, personally, Pride is all about being able to be out and about and not afraid to share my personal truths with other people. It’s about not being scared to be accepted.”
Though Beauvais has had fun at Montreal Pride in the past, the lack of a Pride parade in Kahnawake has always felt like an obvious absence.
“There’s something special about our little community getting together to celebrate the people that are actually within our community,” Beauvais said. “I think that’s just so important for the foundation of a healthy community.”
For some, the announcement that Kahnawake will be having its first Pride parade has been less joyful. Facebook comments criticising the parade and the 2SLGBTQ+ community have shown exactly why Pride is needed, Deer said.
“It’s a very real concern. Homophobia and transphobia definitely still exist in Kahnawake in 2023,” she explained. “It’s really hurtful to know that there are people in this community being really, really hurtful to their other community members who identify as 2SLGBTQ+.”
Deer said that KCI plans to combat hate with education, and will be ensuring educational resources are shared at the parade and in future.
“We can only go so far, because colonialism has really impacted people’s understanding of gender and sexuality,” noted Beauvais.
Lacey agreed, and highlighted the worrying spread of misinformation regarding hormone therapy that she saw online.
“It’s really unfortunate that people get their facts from Facebook,” she added.
So far, organization for the parade has been a collaborative effort. Jo Roy, an addictions response worker at KSCS who has been helping with planning, emphasized that the parade is also meaningful for queer elders and adults and those who may not yet have come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity.
“Queer elders are who started Pride in the first place, the older generation is why we’re able to celebrate the way we can today, because they fought the oppression. The original pride was a riot, and recognizing that history is essential. Queer elders exist,” Roy said.
In the spirit of celebration and acceptance, Deer explained that a Kanien’kéha word has been chosen to fully represent the meaning of Pride: Sha’tetionkwatenoronhkhwatsherá:te.
“It essentially means ‘all forms of love are at the same level,’” Deer explained. The word was created by two local speakers, Akwiratékha Martin, who is openly queer, and Kawenniiohstha Jacobs. “They talked about it for a solid two days to make sure the meaning really encapsulates it all.”
With just over a month left until the big day, Deer encourages any individuals or organizations with an interest in helping to reach out to KCI for more details.
“This is a giant event, so we’ll need a lot of help to carry it out,” she said. She noted that Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer had recently donated an honorarium that she had been given for a speaking engagement and that financial support of this kind will be crucial to the day’s success.