Being gay made him contemplate suicide: Councillor in Maskwacis opens up

From left: Montana First Nation councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation councillor Shannon Buffalo and Samson Cree Nation chief Vern Saddleback were present during the painting of the Maskwacis Pride crosswalk. (Contributed photo)

From left: Montana First Nation councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation councillor Shannon Buffalo and Samson Cree Nation chief Vern Saddleback were present during the painting of the Maskwacis Pride crosswalk. (Contributed photo)

Maskwacis got a bit mote colourful over the weekend.

Volunteers spent Saturday afternoon painting a rainbow crosswalk in front of the Samson Cree Nation Band office, which is located along Highway 611. The event was scaled back due COVID-19 concerns. Local dignitaries and volunteers each took time to participate in painting the crosswalk.

“My experiences in Maskwacis is one of a lack of acceptance for LGBTQIA2S+ community members. I know organizers have struggled to create acceptance in Maskwacis,” said Reggie Rabbit, Montana First Nation councillor.

Rabbit is the first openly gay elected councillor in Maskwacis.

“Many don’t find it easy to have that self acceptance. Unfortunately, we lost men and women to suicide because of that lack of acceptance.”

He said that within his family being gay was so frowned upon that lack of acceptance and shame he felt caused him to contemplate suicide.

“In the past I dealt with being gay in unhealthy ways. It wasn’t until my 30’s that I accepted myself. It was either I commit suicide or I accept myself,” said Rabbit.

“As someone who is part of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. It hasn’t stopped me from becoming successful in politics. My message for LGBTQIA2S+ members is to continue to love yourself and support each other.”

Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor and Co-Chair of Maskwacis Two Spirit Society, says Maskwacis Pride and MTSS is about letting the LGBTQIA2S+ members know that this is where you come from and you dont have to leave to feel like you belong.

“The founding members of the MTSS wanted to create awareness, educate and advocate for Maskwacis Two Spirit members. Often we were advocating for other communities. It was always external communities like Edmonton, Wetaskwin and Ponoka and not in our hometown of Maskwacis. We decided that we wanted to do something for our LGBTQ community members in Maskwacis,” said Swampy.

“We have to acknowledge our two spirit community members. We need to create acceptance and we need to honour them when they come out as openly LGBTQ,” said Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation councillor.

Omeasoo says that she has LGBTQ members in her family: aunts, nieces, and nephews.

“I honour them and love them. And that’s why I’m here to show my support.”

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