This year’s Miss Eeyou Eenou Iskwaau – Mistissini’s Geraldine Trapper – is using the crown won at last April’s pageant to spread an empowering message of acceptance for the Cree Nation’s non-binary, gender-fluid and LGBTQA2S+ community.
A two-spirited woman who uses they/them pronouns, Trapper is a student in Indigenous and justice studies at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
“I was proud of myself for overcoming all these hardships and coming to where I am,” Trapper shared with the Nation. “After enduring abuse throughout my life, there were moments I wanted to give up. I felt so much love and support from the other princesses – they encouraged me to finish this. It’s important that I love and accept myself.”
Trapper is open about struggles as a survivor of childhood sexual and physical abuse, but equally shares the happiness found this summer while travelling throughout the region and attending many events. They believe that sharing one’s vulnerabilities can be a valuable part of leadership.
“It lets other people you know we’re all human,” Trapper said. “There are times we may struggle and there are healthier ways of dealing with whatever issues you may have besides going out to party with drugs and alcohol.”
As an introvert, Trapper sometimes finds the public role a little overwhelming but is making new friends from all walks of life after the isolation of the pandemic. Trapper may never get used to being called “princess” but is appreciative about being a different type of role model.
“I’m giving them someone to look up to, someone who is actually working on healing from intergenerational trauma, breaking patterns and having a good lifestyle, who is a lot different from everyone else,” said Trapper. “I’m two-spirited – that made a lot of people who are part of the LGBTQ2S+ community be more proud and open of who they are. More allies are showing up and people are being more supportive of the community. That’s one of the most rewarding things.”
The Cree pageant is different from the familiar televised competitions. Rather than seeing each other as adversaries, the contestants encouraged each other as friends, giving Stella Masty Bearskin, president of the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association, which organized the event, hope that the next generation can overcome the lateral violence of jealousy.
“It’s important that girls have a healthier relationship with themselves first,” asserted Masty Bearskin. “I think this is what this pageant has taught them – you have that courage to face your fears and just put yourself out there. I only hope more women can model the same kind of advocacy and attitude these girls had.”
Although in-person capacity was limited to about 50 at the April 17 event, over 1,200 people tuned in to the livestream online. Trapper’s official crowning ceremony was finally held July 20.
While being two-spirited wasn’t a deciding factor in Trapper’s victory, it’s a bonus for addressing CWEIA’s priorities as it seeks to become more inclusive. “There are no closets in our teepees,” Masty Bearskin remarked. Trapper has a seat on the CWEIA board over her two-year term, gaining professional and personal development opportunities.
“We’re hoping that she will be the voice for so many two-spirited people who are still suffering in silence,” said Masty Bearskin. “We haven’t even begun to start that dialogue in Eeyou Istchee. One of our priorities is to have more mental health awareness projects, so youth and women can work with the issues surrounding them, whether it’s domestic family violence or sexuality.”