For the first time, a Mi’kmaw-Indigenous float will lead the 30th annual Halifax Pride Parade on July 22.
John R. Sylliboy, co-founder of the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance that submitted the float, was informed of the decision on Monday.
“The Grand Marshalls recognized the importance of an Indigenous float so they said they supported (the idea) that the Indigenous float goes first and that they would follow us in the parade,” Sylliboy said.
“It was nice of them,” he added.
The parade is part of the Halifax Pride Festival which begins today and runs until July 30. Approximately 120,000 participate in the annual festival.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Mon. he will also march in the parade on Sat.
Ellen Davis, who sits on the Halifax Pride’s board of directors, said having the Mi’kmaw-Indigenous float lead this year’s parade is in keeping with the board’s decision to focus on community groups.
“We’re really trying to make sure that in everything we do, we’re maintaining a community focus, really highlighting and providing a platform for all the community organized groups in Halifax and around the area,” Davis explained.
“So our parade structure shifted this year that every registered community group or 2SPLGBTQ not-for-profit be given priority placement at the front of the parade before the sponsors and the partners,” she said.
Celebration of Two-Spirit, pride culture, and reconciliation
According to Sylliboy, the theme of the Mi’kmaw-Indigenous float is a celebration of pride culture, Two-Spirits, and reconciliation.
“The whole spirit of reconciliation needs to take place in Halifax Pride and we think that the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance and the Indigenous community can play a role in that,” Sylliboy explained.
Sylliboy said the float will include a teepee with a huge Pride flag being used as the canvas. Children and drummers will also be on the float.
“One of the elders from Millbrook (First Nation) went out and cut the poles already. He’s so excited,” he said.
One of the challenges Sylliboy said the group is having right now is finding enough drummers and traditional dancers to follow the float because of the various powwows taking place this weekend in the Atlantic region.
“The major dancers and the principle drummers are all out of town so I can’t even call on them,” Sylliboy explained.
Sylliboy explained the Mi’kmaw Honour Song will be sung as the parade reaches the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street.
A community barbecue is planned for participants following the parade.
As part of the Halifax Pride Festival, the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance has also organized a two-day gathering for Two-Spirit youth July 20-21 at Mount Saint Vincent University.
During the gathering, the alliance will be discussing the initial findings of its draft research report called, “Coming Out Stories: Two Spirit Narratives in Atlantic Canada.”
Sylliboy conducted the research for the draft report with Tuma Young, who is also a co-founder of the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance.