As Native people, we have all experienced, in our own individual and shared way, what it means to be treated as less than human. Our lands were taken, our people slaughtered, we had diseases and toxic influences injected into us, and our children taken from our homes and placed in institutions of assimilation – to conquer us, and to make us more like those who sought to control our communities. We have had to survive dehumanizing federal policies that treated us as children – as if we were unable to live responsibly, as if we did not have the right to be treated as equals.
Our Tribal societies have been damaged by the onslaught of policies, forced to change, and the grief we have suffered. In spite of all of that, today we stand stronger than we have for several generations, able to exercise communal and individual decision-making on our own behalf – more than our grandparents and their parents had ever dared to hope. Today we are reclaiming and reincorporating those parts of ourselves that it was the goal of these policies to alienate. Our sense of natural law, and the blessings of our creator’s gifts, is restored in the present generation, and all of us – having been wronged – have a strong sense of what social justice is, and what it should look like.
Two spirit is a term in the English Language that attempts to incorporate and honor the hundreds of ancient, respectful, Native Language terms that were used for thousands of years within our Tribal societies. Two-Spirit is used to denote people who have special roles within our communities, our cultures, and our ceremonial life. Our people were strong and beautiful in our traditional understanding of life, and that we have all have different gifts. Two Spirit indicates an ability to see the world from both male and female perspectives and to bridge the world of male and female. The concept of balance is important in our traditional views, and balances can be between individuals or groups or within a particular individual. Two Spirit captures that concept of balance within an individual. throughout the modern era Two Spirit people and the traditions they held have been invisiblized and stigmatized both at the interpersonal and the institutional levels; by bringing these inequities to light Tribes now have another opportunity to respond to take action to protect all citizens of our nations as well as protect and preserve Two Spirit and LGBT narratives as an essential piece to preservation of our cultures. Many Two Spirit folks are known members of our Tribal communities who have been exemplary carriers of culture, stong political and ceremonial leaders, amazing artisans, even model citizens.
Today, some of our traditionalists understand the native language term, know the traditional role(s) and yet struggle with the application of the traditional term to our Gay/Lesbian Tribal Youth. It is damaging to our families and or communities to not share that part of our culture principles behind the traditional terms and the roles Two Spirits played and still play in or communities. For our Two Spirit Youth, it provides a bedrock of hope – giving them a healthy sense of purpose and role to fill, to deeply experience being a part of their community instead of feeling apart, alone and worthless. We need to decide if we want our communities to be healthy and whole, and if we want to be fair and just in our treatment of all our citizens. Finally, as with many of our best and most impactful legal and governmental transformations, we consider the impact of our policies and laws on our generations rising; we must ensure the security of basic rights as crucial lifelines in the protection of our Two Spirit youth and to celebrate their resilience and ensure that they continue to be valued members of our tribal nations.
This Toolkit provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how we, as Tribal Leaders and Tribal Communities, are either perpetuating policies that are damaging to the fabric of our Nations or enshrine, in policy and Tribal Law, our continued commitments to justice and to demonstrate, to the larger public, Equity as an enduring community value. The work compiled here – with love and understanding, is just what it says it is, – a toolkit. It does not dictate, it does not ask anything of you but to read it and decide what you believe in, and what core principles you stand for. It gives our communities another set of tools for restoring ourselves.
Please be strong in your work for all your people. Help them live long, healthy and productive lives, and do all you can to see that all tribal citizens reach their full potential. To be seen as fully human as is their birth right.
Siletz Tribal Member
Cultural Resources Director, and
Tribal Council Member
I hope my tribe one day sees this as a path to our goals for our people as well as children!!!! Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians live on!!!!
- Third Tribal Nation Embraces ‘Two-Spirit People’ And Passes Marriage Equality Statute (addictinginfo.org)
- Washoe Tribe Chair ignores tribal member’s effort to recall her from office (indybay.org)
- Book Review: The Thistle and the Drone (dawn.com)
- The Thistle and the Drone: The United States, Islam, and the War on Terror (brookings.edu)
- Jared Diamondin row over claim tribal peoples live in ‘state of constant war’ (guardian.co.uk)
- BREAKING: Little Traverse Bay Bands Of Odawa Becomes Third Tribal Nation To Pass Marriage Equality (thinkprogress.org)
- American University’s Akbar Ahmed Explains Why Drones Aren’t Winning the War on Terror: The Thistle and the Drone (prweb.com)
- Bill gives tribes new authority over non-Indians (kansascity.com)
- Violence Against Women Act gives tribes new authority over non-Indians (missoulian.com)
- Native American tribe in Michigan pass Marriage Equality! (queerlandia.com)