In honor of Native American Heritage Month, The #LGBTQ Student Center hosted a presentation on Tuesday about Two-Spirit people, an umbrella term used by Native Americans to describe certain individuals in their community. Assistant director of the center, Katie Mattise, said the center wanted to create a space for Queer Native People, supporting them and raising awareness about them.
In the Native American culture, a two-spirit person is someone who embodies both a masculine and a feminine spirit, who also serve a ceremonial role in their culture. They are viewed as special because the Creator has made them for a reason, explain Mattise.
The practice of celebrating these individuals was almost lost when Europe invaded the Americas. In fact, it was one of the first few aspects of the culture to be erased. Up until the ’90s, anthropologists had used the incorrect term “berdache” to describe individuals in this community, said Mattise.
The term “berdache” actually means an enslaved person used for sex, which is not at all the same thing. Beverly Little Thunder was one of the creators who coined the term Two-Spirit in the ‘90s, which is now widely used.
Mattise said there is a pageant show dedicated to these individuals called “Miss, Ms., Mr. International Two-Spirit,” to which the winners are treated like royalty. However, they also have an important role, which is working toward repairing the damage done by colonization.
Another event to celebrate Two-Spirit people was a Powwow held in the Bay Area in 2016. This was one of the first big events that celebrated Two-Spirit people, with many different tribes in attendance. The event was hosted by BAAITS, the Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits.
In a video done by Matika Wilbur, some individuals in the video have said that due to colonization causing the loss of the history. Miko Thomas, or “Landa Lakes,” said they didn’t feel accepted or welcomed. However, with the now-annual Powwow celebrating them, queer Native Americans are reclaiming their history and culture.
After the presentation, Matisse held a Kahoot! game and discussion. Senior organizational communication major Marcus Chapman said he knew of stereotypes but not facts about the Native American community, as a result of lack of exposure. University Catalog librarian Sevim McCutcheon heard about the event from the newsletter the center puts out. She said “I do what I can to get educated-educate myself personally about the topics that are important to the LGBTQ community.”
Senior sociology major Cheyenne Sims, who’s from the Lumbee tribe, out of North Caroline, said, “I think Two-Spirit is whatever Two-Spirit means to the person. Like it (the presentation) said, it’s a very blanket term. There’s not one definition of it. … It’s a personal experience for that person who identifies as that.”