History of this land
The history of Indigenous peoples, which dates back thousands of years before colonization by Europeans, is an integral part to acknowledge in the history of queerness and pride in this space. The city that is now Edmonton and the land that is Alberta was, and still is, known as Amiskwaciy-wâskahikan, which means Beaver Hills House, a gathering place for Cree, Dené, Blackfoot, Métis, Saulteaux, and Nakota Sioux people since the beginning of time. On Turtle Island, which is also called North America, two-spirit people were widely regarded in the first nations and inuit community. They were seen as mediators, counsellors and made important decisions for their tribes as they held both a female spirit and a male spirit within them. The definition of Two-Spirit is vast, depending on the particular tribe, teaching, and each person’s experience, and it is important to acknowledge that homophobia and transphobia are colonial constructs that were brought over by Europeans. It is also important to recognize that Edmonton Pride occurs on Treaty 6 Territory and that we are honoured to exist on this land.
In the 1950s and 1960s, very few establishments welcomed openly gay people, and the Stonewall Inn in New York City was one of few places that welcomed some of the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community. Early in the morning of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn. Community members, many of whom were trans and people of colour, rose up and rebelled against this police oppression. In the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots, gay rights groups popped up across Canada, US, and other countries.
Pride in Canada
On February 5, 1981, police raided four gay bathhouses in Toronto, arresting 300 men and outing many more, and in May of the same year, another raid occurred in Edmonton at the Pisces Health Spa, a popular queer bathhouse. 56 men were arrested by Edmonton Police and RCMP for ‘acts of indecency’ and their names were published. Regarded as “Edmonton’s Stonewall”, this event of institutionalized homophobia and transphobia was the start to a larger movement that swept across Edmonton.
A brief history of Edmonton Pride
Edmonton’s Pride Festival began as a baseball game, barbeque, and a march down Whyte Avenue. At the first March, Edmonton was a different world; people took to the streets, marched and fiercely advocated for their right to be together, to be employed, to be housed and to exist, which had not been given to them before. Many marched with bags over their head, fearful that being present in that space would get them evicted, fired and disowned by their family. The Edmonton Pride Festival is now one of the 5 largest Pride Festivals in Canada.
More info on the history of the LGBTQ2S+ community in Edmonton can be found at the Queer History Project.