The owner of a new cosmetics business in New Brunswick hopes his business can create more space for two-spirit people to be themselves.
Michael Sage Augustine, 19, launched Runningbear Cosmetics earlier this month. Augustine is Mi’kmaw from Elsipogtog First Nation, about 91 km north of Moncton.
“I’m just glad I did it. It’s scary owning a company,” he said.
“I never thought I would see the day that I would finally own a business.”
It’s a goal Augustine has had since he was eight years old. His business offers cosmetics like mascara and foundation and includes skin care products like lotions and handcrafted soaps.
Augustine sources products from a manufacturer but he guarantees his products are cruelty-free and vegan. In the future, he hopes to incorporate Mi’kmaw names for the products and to have a page of historical information of the Mi’kmaq and two-spirit people.
He identifies as two-spirit to honour the two gender roles he feels. He said he first thought he was transgender but realized that didn’t fit exactly who he was. Learning about the history of two-spirit people allowed him to feel like himself.
Augustine said he has a loving and supportive family but there is still a lack of education around being two-spirit.
He hopes by being out and proud he can help others be themselves.
“I want to help other two-spirited people like me,” said Augustine.
Gage Perley, the New Brunswick community engagement co-ordinator for the Wabanaki Two Spirit Alliance, said he is glad to see two-spirit representation in the business community.
“It’s very empowering to see someone create their own business and the fact that they’re celebrating their two- spiritness and proud of that. It’s a big step, especially for New Brunswick,” said Perley.
Perley also identifies as two-spirit and is Wolastoqey and Mi’kmaw from Tobique First Nation. He said education around two-spirit history is needed in the province because of homophobia. He said because of colonization, Indigenous communities have adopted homophobic views.
“Often times it can feel dangerous to even go for a walk in a community because you become a target for people’s hate,” said Perley.
He said businesses like Augustine’s can help unwind hypermasculinity in Indigenous communities and that education can go a long way in dealing with homophobia. Perley and Augustine both said a growing two-spirit community in the province is creating a safety net and a sense of community.
Augustine is enrolled at Oulton College in Moncton, taking business administration courses. He’s trying to improve his business acumen and is testing different products to see how they sell.
As his business grows, he hopes to hire other Indigenous people and afford them opportunities.
“I’m not sure how I’m going to do it, but I know that I want to do it and that I’m going to do it some way,” he said.