'It's a first for our community': Land Back Camp hosts Two Spirit Social at Laurel Creek Conservation Area

Land Back Camp held its first Two-Spirit Social in Waterloo this weekend, at the Laurel Creek Conservation Area.

The event brought together people who identify as two-spirit, queer, transgender, non-binary, black, Indigenous as well as other racialized groups.

Amy Smoke, the co-founder of Land Back Camp, has been to two-spirit powwows before but said they’ve always been held outside Waterloo Region.

“It’s difficult for us to be unapologetically queer and Indigenous on the land, so yeah it's a first for our community,” said Smoke.

The event featured local and out-of-town performers, and attendees were required to complete a rapid COVID-19 test before they could enter.

“I think a gathering like this allows people to come together, recharge on each other's energy and then go back into our respective silos and continue to do the work that we do,” said Alysha Brilla, a professional musician who performed at the gathering.

Land Back Camp hopes they can hold similar events in the future.

For Olivia Maine, a vendor and organizer with Land Back Camp, events like the Two-Spirit Social have been hard to find.

“It definitely took a really long time, because it’s just not thought about in a lot of spaces,” said Maine. “A lot of the time I feel that Indigeneity and queerness, when they are in the same space, one is seen as more than the other instead of understanding that Indigeneity and queerness go together in a lot of cases.”

Sylvia McAdam from Saskatoon also attended the event. She’s the co-founder of an Indigenous-led social movement group known as “Idle No More” which aims to honour and fulfill Indigenous sovereignty.

“When we speak of sovereignty we must have a dialogue on body sovereignty as well,” she said. “As a straight person I have a responsibility to create a circle around them and protect them and defend them.”

McAdam said the Christian Doctrine of Discovery helped justify colonization. She feels it continues to harm the lives of two-spirit people and thinks it should be abolished.