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Two-Spirits Pride flag

One famous Two-Spirit is We-wha. She was sent to meet President Cleveland in Washington 1886 to represent the Zuni tribes interests and protect their land.

Before the brutal European colonization of America, many of the Native tribes accepted gender-fluidity as a natural state. "Homosexuality" and transgender identity were neither negated nor thought of as a moral or legal crimes until Christians asserted their sex-negative, hate-filled belief system on Native culture. On the contrary, Two-Spirit people were honored and often occupied important positions in the tribe. From Traditional Native Healing:

The Gift of the Two-Spirited

"...for the Native people, they have been using the term Two-spirit person for a loooong time. They are referring to a person who is considered to be neither a man or a woman. In other more natural terms, someone with both a masculine and a feminine spirit inside of them, living in the same body.

Evidence shows that prior to colonization, the Native people believed in cross gender roles. Two-spirited people then performed both gender roles at ceremonies. And guess what? The beauty of it all is that feminine males or masculine females were often regarded with a lot of respect. Imagine that Two-spirited people were seen as having a gift. Rather than emphasizing their homosexuality, Native people focused on the gifts those individuals had. Their spiritual gifts. Indeed, they would be seen as being double blessed, as they had both the spirit of a man and the spirit of a woman. Others then often looked up to them, as leaders, spiritual leaders. Women married women, men married men and they were looked upon as a third or even a fourth gender. In almost all Native cultures, they were honored and revered. Thus Two-Spirited people were often seen as the medicine man, the healers, the teachers and the visionaries.

Some tribes might still even have a name in their traditional language for Two-Spirited individuals. For example, the Lakota people (Sioux) refer to them as “winkte”, the Mohave as “alyha” and the Cheyenne as “he man eh”. Those words used do not have a sexual connotation and do not refer to one’s sexual orientation. In fact, such concepts or words did not exist in traditional languages. Gender would be a more appropriate term to use as it has no connection to a person’s sex or social identity.

Two-Spirit and Childhood

Some tribes had ceremonies performed during one’s childhood to see if a child was truly two-spirited (after, for example, a boy was observed being disinterested by traditional boy activities). The ceremony was also to see how the child would be brought up. For example, one ceremony involved placing the child (boy or girl) in the middle of a circle made of brush. In the center would be a bow (a man’s object) and a basket (a woman’s object). Once the child was inside the circle, the brush would be set on fire and the child was observed to see which object he would pick to bring with him. If they picked the object associated with the opposite sex, then the child would be considered to be two-spirited.

One ceremony involved placing a child in the center of a circle of people singing involving the whole community and distant relatives. On the day of the ceremony, the child was brought to the middle of the center and the singer began to sing the ritual songs (the singer was hidden). If the child danced in a manner characteristic with the other sex, he would be considered to be two-spirited (after four songs). Children considered to be two-spirited would often worked with healers often two-spirited themselves, and they were taught women and men’s work (their ability to do both was valued). Most of all, they were accepted and respected by the whole tribe. As I said earlier, they were often called upon to later be healers themselves, dream interpreters or singers and dancers."

From http://traditionalnativehealing.com/two-spirited-people

May there be beauty above me, may there be beauty below me, may there be beauty in me, may there be beauty all around me.

Two Spirits
Rainbow Children with Leonard George
DGA Productions
Our Families: Two Spirit Native American Stories

By Basic Rights
Almost all of the Two-Spirit people I know are deeply committed to carrying on our lifeways, reviving traditions that have gone dormant if necessary.  I think that this is a logical path for Two-Spirit people to follow. For example, I've had to search for what my gender-sexuality has meant in the past so that I can understand what it means in the present and future.  Through this journey I've become deeply invested in also relearning our language, songs, dances, and arts. This process of cultural revitalization, for all of us, is like a stomp dance. It is through this work that we rebalance the world. ~ Qwo-Li Driskill

Healing Scars and Divisions Over Same-Sex Marriage Caused By European Influences, circa 2015
There are 23 smaller tribes that specifically permit same-sex marriages, the majority of which had laws dating back to the 1950s stating that marriage guidelines would follow state laws in their respective states. When the states in which they reside moved to allow same-sex marriages, those tribes’ marriage laws simply followed suit. Of the nation’s 10 largest Native American tribes, the Blackfoot Tribe — with 23,583 members, according to the 2010 U.S. Census — specifically allows same-sex marriage. Those 22 tribes are sprinkled around the U.S.

An additional 77 tribes currently have no laws stating whether they will recognize same-sex marriages.

"A report by the Associated Press found that the Navajo and the Cherokee have reaffirmed or strengthened their decades-old tribal laws banning gay marriage in recent years. Those two tribes have a collective 600,000 members. The Navajo are clustered in the Southwest, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico come together. The Cherokee mostly live in Oklahoma. Another 10 smaller tribes that together have another 350,000 members also now have laws specifically prohibiting gay marriage.

Because they reside on sovereign land, these tribes will still be able to ban same-sex marriage even if the U.S. Supreme Court decides that to do so is unconstitutional when it rules on a landmark same-sex marriage case later this year."

While this is sorrowful news about the Navajo and Cherokee Nations, we must remember how thoroughly and brutally European/Christian colonization has rent Native culture, and give The People time to heal and return to themselves. Sharing our better selves, loving each other, and understanding the wisdom of our pre-Christian spiritual path honoring Two-Spirit people and same-sex marriage will prevail, as it has begun to do among the Tribes already. Our People are too strong to remain blinded and divided.

Beauty be with you always. Aho.

San Francisco BAAITS, a strong Two-Spirits organization promoting pride, acceptance and civil rights.


Native American LGBTQQI Two Spirits website


Bay Area American Indian Two Spirits BAAITS


For other Two Spirits Society’s specific to your region, do an online search for Two Spirits.

Several will come up!

Welcome to the Circle.


Photographs: Wikipedia Commons and Archival
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