Chevi Rabbit poses in front of a tipi and flags at Bear Park in Maskwacis during the Ermineskin pow wow July 8. Rabbit, who is transgender, wants to bring back awareness of two-spirit First Nations. Photos by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka’s Chevi Rabbit hopes to break stigmas

The transgender human rights activist is getting back into her First Nations culture and pow wows

There’s a small movement of people looking to break the stigma of two-spirit individuals.

Chevi Rabbit, a well known transgender and two-spirit person, wants to bring back celebrating two-spirit people within Indigenous cultures.

Rabbit joined the Ermineskin pow wow this past weekend as a jingle dancer — traditionally seen as a female dance — to make the point that she is speaking out for a group of people that are more oppressed than celebrated.

“This is a really healthy way for us to come and dance for our culture,” said Rabbit.

“Since so much of our culture is lost, we’re fighting for our own spot here.”

From a spiritual and traditional standpoint, two-spirit people were considered to have an important ceremonial role in First Nations communities but during colonialism eras, there was a major effort to erase those traditions.

What is happening with people like Rabbit, is an effort to remove those stigmas. She took part in the pow wow dressed in women’s jingle regalia in preparation for the Samson Cree Nation pow wow coming up in August.

“I’ve never wanted to dance as a chicken dancer,” explained Rabbit of the dance that is traditionally a male dance.

As a young child her mother wanted her to become a chicken dancer but Rabbit says she was always more interested in jingle dancing.

Supporting Rabbit in her endeavour is friend and Samson Cree Coun. Katherine Swampy. They have been friends since high school. Swampy doesn’t think too much on being an ally as it has been a part of her life for many years.

“Being two-spirit has always been accepted in the First Nations culture and historically they were looked at with high regard,” said Swampy.

She added that two-spirit people are individuals who can see with “two lenses” and are able to analyze an issue from a male and female perspective. When it comes to dancing, Swampy recently saw a young woman performing a chicken dance. “It was really uplifting to see that the two-spirit community are coming to the pow wow.”

She would like to see more acceptance of the two-spirit community.

“We’re trying to bring back our culture and repatriate ourselves,” Swampy explained, adding that she’s pleased to see Chevi returning back to the culture she grew up in.

 

Katherine Swampy, who is also a councillor on the Samson Cree Nation, is an ally to Chevi Rabbit, a transgender and two-spirit person. Two-spirit individuals traditionally had a ceremonial role in their culture but were persecuted during colonial times. Swampy feels it’s important to support two-spirit individuals.

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