Celebrating Diversity and Standing Against LGBTQ+ Discrimination

Dear Bridges Social Development Community,

As a Blackfoot person who identifies with the term Ááwowáakii, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia is a time for both reflection and celebration. In our Blackfoot language, Ááwowáakii describes a two-spirit identity that encompasses a fluid and holistic understanding of gender and sexuality. The word derives from the verb waawowaoo, which describes a back-and-forth movement, meaning something different for each queer person. This understanding was deeply rooted in our traditional ways of life, where diverse expressions were honored and celebrated.

For example, historical figures like Running Eagle, a renowned warrior who also took a wife, exemplify the diverse roles and expressions that were accepted within our communities.

However, the impact of colonialism and forced assimilation disrupted our traditional practices and imposed harmful beliefs that silenced and marginalized Indigenous LGBTQ+ people. This created a period of invisibility and loss, but also a resilient spirit that refused to be extinguished.

Today, we celebrate the reemergence of Indigenous queer identities and expressions. We are reclaiming our cultural knowledge and dismantling the harmful effects of colonialism. We are rewriting our narratives and creating spaces where all of us can thrive.

On this IDAHOBIT, I want to speak directly to the LGBTQ+ members of our organization: you are valued, you are heard, and you are celebrated. Your identities and experiences enrich our community, and we are committed to creating a space where you can be your full selves.

To those who may not fully understand or agree with all aspects of LGBTQ+ identity, I want to emphasize that Bridges is committed to fostering a culture of respect, inclusion, and understanding. We believe in the inherent dignity and worth of every individual, and we reject any form of discrimination or prejudice.

Let us honor the resilience of our communities and commit to creating a future where everyone feels safe, respected, and celebrated.

In solidarity,

Spirit River Striped Wolf