Regalia: Pride in Two Spirits
I’m proud of who I am. I’m not afraid to hide it anymore. fraid to My name’s Duane Stewart. I am from the Haisla and Nutanook nation. I was born and raised in Kitimat village. My Haisla name is Jaheed and I am from the Raven clan.
The way I was taught, being too spirited means that I have both the male and female spirit in me so I hold power from both spirit. I first realized I was gay when I
was nine. I was really scared and confused. For me it was really hard for
me to feel comfortable telling other people. Just hearing the comments other
people are making about gay people but when I was in high school took part in a
project called ‘Starting Your Own Stories’. Through that project, myself and eleven other youth in my community, we had the opportunity of taking the little movie we
made through that project, we were able to travel mostly through BC, a couple of us got to go over to Toronto and through those travels I was able to meet so many
people, a lot of them being two spirited themselves. Just talking to them and
hearing their stories, it really gave me that courage to start coming out
to other people and to really start feeling comfortable with being who I am.
After I had graduated I finally decided that I was ready to tell my parents. When I
was finally ready to tell them, it was actually my mom who approached me and she told me that she actually knew right from when I was a little boy she always knew and that she was always waiting for me to come out to her and
she said that she would always love me. It’s always hard to tell that one. She said she would always love me no matter what and she’d support me. She’d be there for me, and that that was just like a huge weight off my shoulders. I’m to that point now where I’m not ashamed to show my pride. I work with Mike. He’s a Nisga’a artist. My relation to Mike to Mike is through adoption. I’ve adopted him as my uncle. His studio is based out of the Aboriginal
Friendship Centre in Vancouver and him and his wife have taken me on as their apprentice and through the dance group as well he’s training me to be a leader so that
someday, if I decide to start my own group I’ll have his teachings on how to be
a leader in the dance groups. I find culture to be very important to me because it’s
something that we almost lost through residential school and culture is who I
am. I grew up not learning my language because a lot of my elders didn’t how
to speak it because of residential school. And so growing up, it showed me that my culture is important– that it should be important to me. It should be part of my life. The Pride flag on my regalia showing the two spirits on my regalia I feel it’s kinda helping those who are aren’t out to anyone, showing them that there is Aboriginal people who are queer as well– the only difference is
our skin. They shouldn’t be scared to be themselves. Being myself has totally
opened up so many doors for me. I felt that as a youth, I could be one of those role models to the next generation and show them that our culture doesn’t have to go with us,
it will continue through us.