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Boys with Braids brushing away bullying in Saskatchewan

REGINA – The morning brush of your hair may seem like a routine thing, but for 7-year-old Sunkatogeja BigEagle-Kequahtooway it’s so much more. His father braids his hair every morning.

“Because it makes me strong,” BigEagle-Kequahtooway said.

Boys With Braids is an organization looking to brush away bullying for First Nations boys who sport the long hair. Dion Tootoosis was a speaker at the event and is also the Cultural Advisor for the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre.

He said growing and caring for hair, teaches young boys a sense of responsibility, as well as heritage.

“[Hair] is something that you hold precious and sacred to yourself,” Tootoosis explained.

Traditionally a married man would wear two braids and a young man, or a warrior would wear one.

Eight-year-old Isaiah Tootoosis plays a warrior alongside Leonardo Dicaprio in the Oscar winning Film, “The Revenant”.

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The Saskatchewan actor showed off his braided hair to the fellow boys at the event. His mom, Rachel, told Global News he has grown to love his braid and rarely gets bullied.

“He tells us that they call him a girl, like mom I got called a girl. We ask him how does that make you feel? [he says] It doesn’t bother me because my dad has long hair too”

Russell Paskimen grew up with a shaved head, but not by choice. His father and grandfather forced him to do so, because they grew up in the residential school system. Paskimen described his shaved head as embarrassing, he felt he wasn’t able to express himself.

“When you get your head shaved it’s a form of, taking away your power and you feel embarrassed,” he said.

Paskimen is now an Aboriginal advocate teacher. He is constantly asking his students to stop pulling on his braid and to embrace each other’s diversity.

“If you see a person that wears their hair long, you know and if you have questions go up and shake hands, make that time to talk with them,” agreed Dion.

Dion’s grandson Isaiah is working to grow his acting career and his hair. Even though he is sometimes confused for a girl, he simply replies “no, I am a boy.”

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