2-Spirit Stories Re:Membering Documentary

“The Re-Membering documentary is intricately woven in a vignette style format to offer a sacred glimpse into the transcendent contributions of 2-Spirited Indigenous organizers during the challenging era of the HIV/AIDS crisis on Turtle Island. This film has become a ceremonial celebration of achievements, milestones, and the profound interconnectedness of community during times of resistance. The documentary unfolds to honour the strength and activism of Indigenous and 2 Spirit leaders. Each segment is a sacred offering, unveiling the dedication and communal strength that emerged from the depths of adversity.

With the generous support of Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE), “Re-Membering” transforms into more than a mere historical record. Beyond its archival significance, the film is a spiritual invocation—an ethereal call to action, urging viewers to embrace awareness and inclusion. Through the sharing of sacred stories, experiences, and perspectives, the film transcends the boundaries of traditional documentary storytelling. It is a spiritual journey, immersing audiences in the sacred essence of the 2-Spirit community’s integral role in shaping the narrative of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Re-membering serves as a ceremonial space, inviting viewers to connect with the spiritual resonance of these stories. It stands as atestament to resilience, activism, and the heart of a community, ensuring that the voices and essence of 2-Spirit Indigenous organizers are not only heard but venerated as an eternal part of history.

“The era of Indian Residential and Day Schools was a time when Indigenous peoples were forced to assimilate to Western Euro-Christian ways of life. The prohibition against speaking their mother languages, learning their traditions and healing methods, and participating in ceremonies were acts that cut away the Indigenous person’s identity, spirit and psyche. This cutting away can be characterized as harmful acts that “dismember” parts of the Indigenous persons’ spirit. To heal from this historic trauma, we need to replace what was cut away by “Re-membering”. This healing work is done when we restore the mother languages, traditions, healing knowledge, stories, ceremonies, and life-philosophy teachings.

    In terms of decolonization and reconciliation, we need to deconstruct the colonial systems that prevent Indigenous progress. When we deconstruct, we also have to reconstruct so there is no vacuum. We reconstruct our families, communities, nations, and institutions based on Indigenous technologies, sciences, medicines, ceremonies, and philosophies.” – Albert McLeod

Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, Fabulous, Animate Being**

Albert McLeod is a Status Indian with ancestry from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation and the Metis communities of Cross Lake and Norway House in northern Manitoba. He has over thirty years of experience as a human rights activist and was one of the founders of the 2-Spirited People of Manitoba.

Albert began his 2-Spirit advocacy in Winnipeg in 1986 and became an HIV/AIDS activist in 1987. He was the director of the Manitoba Aboriginal AIDS Task Force from 1991 to 2001. In 2018, Albert received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Winnipeg. He was also a member of the sub-working group that produced the MMIWG – 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan Report in 2020-2021.

In 2020, Albert joined Team Thunderhead, the team that recently won the international competition to design the 2SLGBTQI+ National Monument in Ottawa.

Albert lives in Winnipeg, where he works as a consultant specializing in Indigenous peoples, 2Spirit history and identity, cultural reclamation, and cross-cultural training.

Opaskwayak Cree Nation, She/Her

Connie Merasty is a two-spirit woman from Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba. Connie is currently pursuing a teaching certificate to teach the Cree language. In the past few years, Connie has worked on several documentaries based on the history of two spirit people on Turtle Island. Connie has volunteered on many boards including CAAN Communities, Alliances & Networks, Two Spirit People of Manitoba and 2 Spirits in Motion Society. Connie is a trained actor and drag performer and has performed in live theatre productions and is sometimes a writer. Connie is currently on the board of 2 Spirits in Motion Society, a national advocacy group for 2 Spirit people. 

Sandra Laframboise, is an Algonquin/Cree-Métis person.  Sandra is a recognized Two Spirit Spiritual leader who has been actively practicing in the Vancouver area for 30 years. Her ceremonial rites were received through the Potlatch ceremonies. Sandra’s broad experiences have brought her to lead ceremonies throughout North America and Continental Europe, most recently, leading ceremonies in Devon, England.  She has presented posters on HIV and transgendered people in Switzerland and in South Africa, lectured at the Queen’s University of Belfast and also in Plymouth Devon, Alaska*** where she co-presented research on Hepatitis C. In her life, Sandra has been an advocate since 1971 for the LGBT Community’s rights specifically for Transgender Rights and inclusion at all levels of Social Health and Justice. She has numerous published articles on transgendered issues affecting changes through public policy committees in Canada. Sandra is also a researcher, a collaborator and a conference presenter on numerous projects as an Elder, a Knowledge Keeper, and a Transgender person in dealing with HIV and Hepatitis C.

Born on May 1, 1964, in Ashern, Manitoba, Gayle Pruden fondly recalls her childhood in Little, Saskatchewan, living with her beloved grandparents. Fluent in Ojibwe, she considers her language a powerful gift from the creator.

Immersed in a traditional upbringing, Gayle’s memories include time on the land with her grandfather, who sang songs while picking medicines. She cherishes her grandmother’s smudging rituals, the scent eternally etched in her memory.

As a two-spirited woman, Gayle passionately speaks at youth conferences, sharing stories to help navigate life’s challenges. A seasoned jingle dress dancer for two decades, she shares the stories behind her dance and inspires youth with her beadwork.

Gayle serves as the vice chairperson on the Board of Directors for CAAN and is actively involved with Manitoba Moons, Voices of Women, and Nine Circle Drumming.

Revering her grandparents, Gayle attributes her strength and pride in her identity as a two-spirited Anishinaabe  woman to their nurturing. Adopting a daughter and helping raise three grandchildren, she remains dedicated to preserving her cultural heritage while uplifting the next generation.

Danita, also known as Lightning Rock Woman and Calls Far Woman, originates from Zagime Anishinabek, once Sakimay First Nation in TREATY 4, blending Saulteaux and Cree heritage. A proud mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Danita faced a diagnosis of HIV in March 2005.

In 2006, AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan recognized her potential, appointing her as the Needle Exchange Coordinator until 2012. After overcoming addiction issues in Saskatoon and completing her final rehab in 2014, she returned to Regina, reuniting with her son and resuming her role at APSS. Since 2014, Danita has led the Anyone @ Risk Support Group, addressing HIV/Hep.C and addiction issues.

Danita’s contributions extend to being a Peer Mentor with the Sask. Health Authority, a participant in Kotawe Research, and a Wellness Warrior at the Wellness Wheel Medical Clinic & Indigenous Community Research Network. Her impactful speaking engagements include national conferences and documentaries like CATIE/CAAN’s “Strong Medicine” and local projects.

Throughout her journey, Danita held significant roles, contributing to organizations like the Canadian AIDS Society, International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (ICW-NA), and CAAN GIPA Homefire Research Team. Her dedication earned her the Sheldon Bowman Memorial Award and CAAN Legacy Lifetime Award in 2019.

Most recently, Danita has embraced the role of Wellness Warrior in the WW Opioid Stewardship Program, supporting patients in hospitals.

Winnie Sunshine, also known as Peetanacoot Nenakawekapo, stands proudly as a Two-Spirit Trans woman from Skownan MB, affiliated with the Wolf clan of the Anishinaabe Ojibwa Nation. Her journey began in 1987, fearlessly embracing LGBTQ+ activism since the inaugural Winnipeg Gay Pride. Unyielding to societal expectations, Winnie never concealed her identity, even during an era when some chose to do so.

A survivor of over 28 years with HIV, Winnie finds strength in the memory of her late husband, Gordon. Inspired by his encouragement, she actively participates in community-based HIV education. Winnie’s commitment extends beyond, spanning three decades of immersion in Indigenous culture. Pow Wow dancing for 18 years, crowned International Two Spirit Princess in 2002, and recognized as an Elder, she embodies the essence of her heritage.

In the community, Winnie is not only a Pipe carrier and hand drum keeper, but a dedicated advocate involved in local and national organizations. From Nine Circles to Like That Drop-in and the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Center, she generously adopts and nurtures 5 daughters and a son. Awards, like the Grandmother’s 17th Annual Keeping the Fires Burning, attest to her impactful contributions.

As an Elder, Winnie extends an open invitation to diverse ceremonies, including Sharing circles, Healing circles, Pipe ceremonies, feasts, smudging, Indigenous singing, drumming, and Sweat lodge ceremonies. Her commitment to fostering a sense of community and respect echoes wholeheartedly in each endeavor.

Richard Jenkins hails from the Cree-Metis community of Moose Mountain, Alberta. As a gay Two Spirit cis-gendered man, he embraced his identity openly at the age of 19, sharing it with friends, family, and the community. Richard’s professional journey involves extensive work as a community developer and health promotions advocate in various critical areas within Indigenous communities across Canada.

With a diverse skill set, Richard has contributed to initiatives in addictions, long-term care, HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation and gender identity, family and community healing, child welfare, health policy and programs, and urban Indigenous development. His dedication spans employment with organizations such as Nechi Institute, Friendship Centres at all levels, Alberta Health Services, and the Federal Government.

Richard’s commitment extends to volunteering at local, provincial, national, and international levels. Notably, he made history as the first Canadian Board member of the World Indigenous Nation’s Higher Education Consortium (WIN-HEC/2002-04). In recognition of his contributions, Richard received the Community Development Award at the Alberta Aboriginal Role Model Awards in the mid-2000s.

A pioneer in advancing Two Spirit advocacy, Richard served as the first Director General for the 2 Spirits in Motion Society. He played a foundational role in establishing the organization during the 1st Canadian Forum on Two Spirit Peoples, HIV/AIDS, and Health in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2003.

Kind-Hearted Warrior Woman, also known as Kisewatisowin Okihcitaskwew, embodies various roles as a Cree Iskwew (woman). She serves as a devoted daughter to Nimama (My Mother), a caring mother to two children, and a loving Kokum (Grandmother) to three, maintaining a profound connection to the Kisikaw Piyesis Family from George Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Grounded in ancestral heritage, she proudly descends from both the Moose Clan and the Bear Clan. Her life revolves around traditional practices, where she assumes the vital roles of a traditional medicine practitioner, a knowledge keeper, and a baby-catching bundle carrier.

Waniska, meaning Awakened, she faithfully follows the ways of the ancestors. Practicing traditional knowledge and healing methods, she strives for pimâtisiwin, the essence of life, for all nations. With a remarkable journey spanning over 30 years, she proudly co-creates with Kisi Manito (Great Mystery), honoring the ancestors through Indigenous practices, language, ceremonies, culture, and traditions. Her commitment echoes a deep-rooted dedication to the well-being of all.

Trevor Stratton, a citizen of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, is a prominent figure in the fight against HIV and AIDS, particularly within Indigenous communities. Diagnosed with HIV in 1990, Stratton has been a resilient advocate and leader in this field. He has been involved with the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network, now known as CAAN Communities, Alliances & Networks for over 20 years. His work has extended to various roles including serving as the Board President of 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, and Board Director and National Advocate for the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). He has also been a professional consultant since 2005 and has maintained active involvement in the Two-Spirit and HIV/AIDS community.

Stratton’s work includes coordinating the International Indigenous Working Group on HIV and AIDS (IIWGHA) for 11 years and participating in global research projects addressing sexual and reproductive health and rights for Indigenous women and girls. His efforts have contributed significantly to community mobilization and the broader understanding of HIV and AIDS in Indigenous communities. Trevor Stratton’s story is one of turning a personal challenge into a lifelong mission to support others and advocate for change in public health and awareness regarding HIV and AIDS. His journey and contributions illustrate the importance of community support, resilience, and advocacy in addressing public health issues.

Leona Quewezance is a Saulteaux woman from Keeseekoose First Nation. She is a proud mother and a grandmother of three beautiful grandchildren. Her commitment to her ancestors includes picking up the traditional knowledge of medicines as a traditional knowledge practitioner. She made a lifelong commitment to protecting and having a relationship with the many medicinal plants that are available across Turtle Island. Leona has been working in the field of HIV and hepatitis C for the past 24 years at All Nations Hope Network (ANHN) in Regina, Saskatchewan, where she is currently the Program Director. She has been providing education and training on the frontline and has been very passionate about the work she provides for the community; conducting frontline workshops around the province has kept her grounded and compassionate. Her accomplishments as the Program Director included developing resources such as the Saskatchewan Harm Reduction Guide, the HIV and Hepatitis C Kit, and Sharing the Knowledge (Train the Trainers) manual. She has coordinated many events throughout the years including the Annual AIDS Walk and many provincial and national conferences. She has coordinated a research project for the past four years called Kotawe (start a fire) project for ANHN, which is about integrating wisdom from a variety of completed research projects for use on various aspects of HIV risk and prevention among Indigenous women. The research is about women’s lives and how communities and systems can better work together, with women and one another, to deliver better, sustainable and affordable, integrated care.

Donald “Don” Turner, a proud member of the Blackfeet Nation with Black Canadian heritage, brings a rich tapestry of life experiences to his every endeavour. Embracing his indigenous spirituality, Don identifies as a 2-Spirited person, integrating the complexities of his identity with grace and insight. Having lived with HIV for over thirty years, Don embodies resilience and empowerment. Known for his sharp wit and endless reservoir of knowledge, he effortlessly combines humour with profound wisdom, making every interaction both enlightening and uplifting. Don continues to inspire and educate, sharing his journey with all who cross his path. 

Ken Ward, co-founder of the Feather of Hope Society in Alberta, is a seasoned educator and support advocate with over two decades of experience across Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan. His impactful work extends to in-reach support and education in prisons within these provinces. Ken is not only a dedicated professional but also a talented writer and poet, using his creativity to inspire change and address societal issues. With a history of service, he has also served as a former band councillor at Enoch Cree Nation, showcasing his commitment to community leadership and positive transformation.