Denise Cole is a Two Spirit mixed blood Inuk raised in Labrador and living in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Gifted the name “Spotted Elk”, she performs sacred ceremonies, walking a spiritual path as an eagle whistle carrier and land protector. Denise has worked in non-profits since 2001, presently coordinating a youth sexual health project at the Labrador Friendship Centre. She is an active volunteer, committed to being of service to community and the next generations. She humbly seeks guidance from ancestors and Elders in all she does. In 2009, Denise co-founded the Safe Alliance, the first 2SLGBTQ+ group to host Pride events in Labrador. She remains on the leadership team, organizing events and providing supports in the region.
Denise sits on various boards and advisories including Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, Labrador Land Protectors, AIDS Committee NL, and Wa Ni Ska Tan International. She is a strong communicator and fierce advocate who stands front lines, speaks when called upon, and works in many collective circles. Denise is blessed to live in the same community as her Mom and to share her life with her partner Jacinda and loyal dog Abby. She is honoured to have contributed to the W2SA since 2010.
Alivia Moore (she//they), of the Penobscot Nation, is a two-spirit community organizer committed to restoring traditional methods of healing through balanced relationship with the earth. They work to restore Wabanaki cultural lifeways as a path to heal our tribal kinship systems. She organizes the Wabanaki Two Spirit Alliance in what is now Maine. As a co-founder & builder of Eastern Woodlands Rematriation, they support the revitalization of indigenous food & healing systems. Alivia is immersed in tribal & state child welfare system reform and fosters native children. She serves as the co-chair for Maine-Wabanaki REACH, supporting the decolonization processes in both Wabanaki and non-tribal communities in Maine.
Allan Polchies Jr. is from St Mary’s First Nation Wolastoqyik, where he was born and raised. He was elected as Chief of St Mary’s First Nation, making him the first two-spirit Chief in Atlantic Canada. Allan has always been very involved in his community working as a Community Planner, Culture Coordinator and as a Band Councillor for over ten years, in addition to sitting on the Economic Development Board. Allan has always been very involved in his community in the role of Customers Service Relations Officer and Entertainer at the St. Mary’s Entertainment Centre during the bingo events.
Allan is known by his family and peers as “Chicky”, a nickname that was given to him by his great-grandmother, Meme. He is known for his flare of fashion, zest for life, sense of humor, and his weekly weather reports on social media. Allan and his partner, Tyler are Proud Dads to their son Hunter. They have been together for over ten years.
Allan is a champion and ambassador of his culture, community, and Wolastoq traditions.
Kenny Prosper is Mi’kmaw and grew up on the Eskasoni First Nation. Born in the mid-1950s, he graduated from CBU in 1989 with his diploma in Business Technology. His main hobbies or interests are the Mi’kmaw language and Mi’kmaw genealogy. He lived in Eskasoni until 1994 and moved to Halifax in Oct 1994 where he was employed as the Native Hospital Liaison Interpreter until his retirement in Nov 2019. He has also been a member of the Wabanaki Two Spirit Alliance since before just shortly before the Oct 2011 Two Spirit Gathering at Liscombe Lodge. He also attended the two spirit gathering at Madawaska, N.B. a number of years later and another gathering in Maine a few years ago. Presently he has a part time job doing Mi’kmaw translations.
John R. is L’nu (Mi’kmaq) from the Millbrook First Nation in Nova Scotia. John works in social and cultural development, health and education policy, and research and community development for Atlantic Indigenous communities, especially for Two-Spirits and Indigenous LGBTQ+.
Initiatives and Projects: John collaborates on regional and national projects in research, community development and youth leadership development in the Atlantic region and Canada. He is a researcher on the Aboriginal Children’s Hurt and Healing Initiative at the IWK Health Centre in Nova Scotia. He promotes Indigenous perspectives in health and research. He is also a Co-Principal Investigator with the Wabanaki-Labrador Health Research Network through the Network Environments for Indigenous Health Research (NEIHR).
Capacity Development and Consultancy: John is a consultant in First Nations educational governance, Two-Eyed Seeing approach in education and research, post-secondary education needs, and areas that impact the health and well-being and educational outcomes of the Mi’kmaq, Indigenous Peoples, and Two-Spirits. He has led initiatives for curriculum development and cultural safety training in post-secondary at Mount Saint Vincent, Dalhousie University and McGill University.
Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ Advocacy: John is a co-founder of the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance (W2SA), which helps to build support and awareness on Two-Spirits in Mi’kma’ki and Canada.
In 1998, John attended his first “gathering” in San Jose, Costa Rica and realized the power of LGBTQ advocacy. However, it wasn’t until 2009 when his childhood community lost ten people to suicide, including 4 Two-Spirits that brought him into his new role as an advocate for Two-Spirits. He was working for a regional tribal organization in health promotions and policy. His experience in community engagement, social development and networking provided skills to lobby for funding to host a local gathering of Atlantic Two-Spirits in 2011.
He collaborated with his good friend and mentor, Tuma Young, to act. They founded the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance and held The Liscombe Lodge Gathering to consolidate the Alliance. So, the Alliance was born, and so was John’s interest in Two-Spirit research and knowledge sharing.
Education and Two-Spirit Research: John participated in the Canada World Youth program in Costa Rica in 1990-91. The experience directly influenced him into community development and grass-roots engagement. He decided to go back to Costa Rica to do his Bach. in International Relations in 1994-1998.
In 2000, John moved to Washington, D.C., to work only to return to Costa Rica to work in education. He accepted a job in a publication company as the International Director of Service in 2002-2007. He developed leadership and capacity training for language instructors in Central America and Colombia until 2007.
John returned to Canada and back to Mi’kma’ki after 20 years of living outside the region. Eventually, he returned to school to do a master’s in education at Mount Saint Vincent University. His thesis was to conceptualize the concept of Two-Spirit using Mi’kmaw knowledge. He is currently in his doctoral studies at McGill University. He will research about gender, sexuality and sex, and the terms 2SLGBTQIA+ to build positive cultural identity through language revitalization to reflect the diversity of gender identities and sexualities of Mi’kmaq youth in a contemporary context.
Tuma T. W. Young was born into the Atu’tuej(squirrel) clan (Young) for the Apli’kmuj (Rabbit) clan (Phillips) He is one of 14 children born to the late William Frederick Young and Veronica “Flo” Phillips. Tuma grew up in a traditional manner on the Malagawatch First Nation where his family tried to teach him how to hunt, fish, trap and make crafts. Tuma was not very good at any of this so his family told him that he had to go to school otherwise he would starve in the woods.
Early on in life, Tuma realized that he was different from all the other boys but nobody knew how he was different. Being different also meant being alone. There seemed to be no one else like Tuma around. Tuma realized that he was gay and that the only role model for him in Eskasoni was the character Jody on the TV sitcom Soap. The only other mention of gay or lesbians was in the True Detective magazines that the men read. In those magazines, gays were seen as sick mentally deranged perverts and lesbians were man hating killers.
Sometimes, the adults would whisper about so and so but, as far as Tuma knew, no one was like him and that all the gays & lesbians were all in San Francisco. Tuma promised himself that someday, he will make the pilgrimage to the holy homo land of San Francisco where gay men danced with flowers in their hair and everyone wore patchouli. Meanwhile back on the Rez, Tuma had to attend the Eskasoni Federal Indian Day School where he did not get an education but sadly, learned to grow up far too quickly.
Tuma soon discovered that the train can take you away to Halifax and you can pay the Indian Fare (almost 70% off). So as soon as Tuma was able to get his first Union of NS Indians membership card at the age of 12 (the card said he was 19), he hopped on the train and landed at the NS hotel where he discovered that some of his cousins were hanging out at the Lighthouse tavern. He hung around there with his much older and not so wiser cousins, learning about the big city.
Tuma soon found that there were other young gays in Halifax and they were hanging out at the triangle. There were fags, dykes, queers and homos just like himself. So whenever Tuma could scrounge up the $7 return Indian fare, he would end up in Halifax. This went on for many years until he was 16 and then he moved to Halifax, couch surfing with his people-the artsy fartsy queer students at NSCAD and at Dal (the group was called GLAD-Gays & Lesbians at Dalhousie). Times were great, dancing at the Pink Flamingo & Cabbage town, hanging out at Scotia Square and going to Wormwoods Dog & Monkey theatre on Barrington Street.
Life even became more exciting when Tuma found other L’nuk who were Gay & Lesbians at the Micmac Native Friendship Centre. He had truly found his people. Life was good, full of teenage angst and drama with lots of drinking and drugging but dark clouds were gathering. A storm was coming and it hit very hard. AIDS hit Tuma’s people hard. People were getting sick and dying. Those young men from the triangle and from the Friendship centre, all of them died from AIDS.
Tuma realized that he needed to learn about this new disease and learn it he did. He found Elders who told him about what it meant to be 2 Spirited. Tuma took these teachings and shared them with other L’nuk across Mi’kma’ki, Canada and in the USA. He met and became friends with other Indigenous queer HIV/AIDs activists and marched with ACT UP and went to QUEER NATION meetings. Everyone was wearing red ribbons, handing out condoms, clean needles, protesting, attending funerals and sewing quilts. It was both an amazing time to be queer and at the same time, a terrible time to be queer.
Tuma Young >After a few years, Tuma realized that he had taken his community as far as he could with his teachings about HIV/AIDS. It was time for him to go back to school. Years were now spent studying at Dalhousie, Cape Breton University, University of British Columbia and the University of Arizona Tuma now hold graduate & professional degrees in law and is the first Mi’kmaq speaking lawyer in Nova Scotia.
Tuma teaches at Cape Breton University and has a private legal practice. Tuma is also on the Executive of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society (NSBS) and will become the first First Nation person to hold the position of President of any law society in Canada. He will be the first openly 2-Spirited person to become the President of the NSBS. Lastly, Tuma has been on the Red Road for over 30 years and is a friend of Bill W.
All of these accomplishment plus many others pale in comparison to what Tuma considers his greatest accomplishment. That is helping to make our L’nuk communities welcoming and to celebrate 2-Spirited people in our communities.
One time, Tuma was at We’koqmaq First Nation, meeting with his cousin on a legal file, when his cousin’s daughter came in and demanded the keys to the truck. Her father, being the dutiful dad, handed over the keys and quietly mentioned that being a parent can be hard, especially with teenagers. Tuma’s cousin then mentioned that his daughter was a transwomen.
Tuma has a biggest smile ever and congratulated his cousin for being one for the luckiest parents in We’koqmaq for having a 2-Spirited child and that it was absolutely wonderful to see 2-Spirited folks being part of the reserve and not have to run to the big city to be who they are. His cousin said, “Wela’liek Tuma! You played a big part just being yourself.” That is Tuma’s greatest accomplishment: Just being himself.
Tuma currently lives in Sydney River with his partner of many years, Nicolaas where they putt around the house, feeding the birds, working on their photography portfolio and visiting with their children and grandchildren. By the way, Tuma did get to go to the Holy Homo Land of San Francisco and plans on going back once more.