It is amazing to know that more communities are recognizing Two Spirit peoples by creating gender-neutral dance styles at their powwows.

A group of five Indigenous people gather around a "She Is Wise" banner at the conference.
She is Wise Conference hosted by the Ontario Native Women’s Association of Canada in Toronto.
Credit: Honarine Scott
Published On: June 21, 2019

According to the Indigenous Calls to the Church, our Two Spirit relatives are welcome and a valued part of our circle. This act of acknowledgment fills me with pride because it is a step towards rebuilding our whole community from the generations of ignorance and mistreatment of Two Spirit peoples. If you are just catching up, Two Spirit is a term that some Indigenous people use to self-identify their sexual orientation, gender, and or role, depending on the individual or their particular nation. It is a temporary term that is Anishnaabe based but nonetheless agreed on by a gathering of Two Spirit peoples to self-identify this way until their communities restore the original Two Spirit names and teachings.

This is the understanding that I learned at the Nibwaakaa Inaadiziwin-She is Wise 2nd Annual Conference where I attended with other wonderful guests from the Indigenous communities of faith. The need to learn more about Two Spirit peoples drew me to the Two Spirit presenters at the conference due to a personal commitment I made to promote more understanding and awareness of the Two Spirit people in Indigenous communities.

Two Spirit is an interesting term that I first heard when I moved to Toronto many years ago. The Elders said that Two Spirit beings are special because they hold masculine and feminine energy and could understand and see two ways to a situation. This made them known as skilled negotiators. At that time, Indigenous peoples had many genders, not just male or female, and everyone was free to express gender and sexual diversity without shame or fear. Raised in a predominately-Catholic Indigenous community, I never knew any of this and wondered why. The Elder explained that Two Spirit peoples had to hide because their way of being was met with racism and homophobia, which often led to murder. The ripple effect of these traumas horrified Indigenous families and communities. Over generations, the fear and hate for Two Spirit peoples were indoctrinated among many Indigenous peoples to the point that their existence was erased. In residential schools, Indigenous children were also taught that anything other then hetero roles was a sin and suppressed any form of gender or sexual diversity among them.

Today, I am proud to know many Two Spirit scholars, mothers, policy analysts, traditional teachers, artists and so on. Last year, Mission & Service supported Saskatoon’s 1st Two Spirit powwow. I was so proud of this event because so many people attended to celebrate Two Spirit peoples in the community and it provided a space for them to dress and dance in styles that they felt most comfortable. It is amazing to know that more communities are recognizing Two Spirit peoples by creating gender-neutral dance styles at their powwows.

 — Honarine Scott is Cree from Fort Albany First Nation and ex-Healing Programs Coordinator within Indigenous Ministries and Justice.



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