By TRIBAL NEWS STAFF
On July 14, tribal members raised a special Puyallup Pride flag near the administration building as part of a day that included prayer, songs, and speeches and performances from people as far away as Lummi, Quinault and Spokane.
This was made possible when Puyallup Tribal member Brandi Douglas noticed that there was a lack of conversation happening around LGBTQIA2 issues in the community. She decided to make the space and start the conversation by sharing posts on Puyallup Tribe’s Facebook pages in May of 2019. “I was ready and available, as a member of the LGBT+ community, to be a pillar of support for youth and adults alike who might need that” said Douglas. “There was certainly no question, it was desperately needed. Prior to that, nobody was talking about it.”
With encouragement from Puyallup Tribal Chairman David Bean, Douglas connected with Puyallup Tribal Councilmember Annette Bryan to see what they could do to develop an official Pride Month with the Tribe. A planning committee assembled to begin organizing and on June 20, 2019, Puyallup Tribe declared that from now on, July is Pride Month.
The Tribe wants to recognize the sacredness of LGBTQIA2 peoples who have historically held a respected space in Indigenous cultures. This formal declaration of Pride Month is a step towards building equality.
“Not only do we face marginalization for being Indigenous people, we become further marginalized for loving who we love. There is no room for that if we are to survive collectively as a people,” said Douglas.
While LGBTQIA2 were typically respected in pre-colonial Native communities, recent history has presented new challenges for LGBTQIA2 peoples. LGBTQIA2 Native peoples face unique disparities in mental and physical health, employment, housing, access to healthcare and more. By declaring July as the annual Pride Month, the Puyallup Tribe celebrates and appreciates the great diversity added by our LGBTQIA2 tribal members, families and greater community.
Puyallup Tribal member Kris Gribben-Earl, who helped plan the Tribe’s Pride Month, remarked that he felt alone growing up Native and questioning his gender identity. But he understands that we can and must change that narrative by coming together. “I want youth to know that we are here for you, our arms are open and we love everyone.” Gribben-Earl hopes that youth will share their journeys, get involved and move forward with the community.
“Our people have long been known for being generous and welcoming, and Council’s resolution is a clear affirmation that we are welcoming to all people – in the past, today, and in the future,” said Chairman Bean.
Puyallup Tribe’s inaugural Pride Month also marked a partnership with Tacoma Pride. In a gesture of inclusion, Councilmember Annette Bryan was one of four people to help raise the pride flag above the Tacoma Dome.
“I am proud to be part of a tribal council that recognizes and loves all of its citizens,” Councilmember Bryan said. “We are making it very clear that we are accepting all walks of life, and encourage others to be accepting as well. Being inclusive is who we are as Puyallup people.”
The group that has been organizing the Tribe’s Pride events and activities will continue their work into the future with the hopes that love and celebrations continue to grow. Kris Gribben-Earl says, “Be true to yourself and never let anyone ever step in the way of what makes you happy.”