Friday, 17 June 2011

Two Spirit People


The T in the acronym GLBTQ stands not only for the Transgender community but also for the Two Spirit community. It is a name chosen by today's North American aboriginal cultures. They believe that most people have One Spirit in them -- male or female. But some people have a Two Spirit nature -- both male and female -- which expresses itself in various ways. The single term Two Spirit includes all gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender experience.

There is a long tradition of Two Spirit people in many aboriginal cultures. Often, Two Spirit people were both respected and feared by their tribes. Their ability to incorporate both genders made them powerful and mysterious. Some women took a hunter/warrior role and married women. Some men dressed as women and became skilled in cooking, weaving, singing and pottery. Others became nurses, healers or shamans.


Their situation changed for the worse when Christianity gained power in aboriginal communities. Two Spirit people were soon called "berdaches" (male prostitutes) and actively discouraged by the missionaries. Two Spirit people became burdened with the Christian legacy of hate and shame.


But like all GLBTQ people, the Two Spirit community is today healing itself and taking back its power. Two Spirit people have discarded hateful labels and renamed themselves. They have repudiated hateful teachings and rediscovered their own cultural truths.

36 comments:

knitwit said...

6:30 AM and I've already learned something new! And once again, religion has a lot to answer for.

Lois said...

Those photographs are haunting. Thank you for sharing this! Lois.

DEZMOND said...

this was extremely interesting, Debs!

Dark Mother said...

Wow, I never knew that about Spirit People. Thanks for takin' me to school, very interesting.

Snap said...

Here's to Twp Spirit people!!!!!

Viperman24 said...

That was a good read

Anne Huskey-Lockard said...

I have always thought the term *two spirits* was so accurate and open and encompassing.
Having done some history on the first nations was when I originally came across the term.
It is beautiful.
And yes, *well meaning* missionaries have a lot to answer for, not only in the Two Spirit community but in a greater community as a whole.
I always hope my footsteps are light enough to begin that change.

XXOO~~
Anne

Jeanne said...

I am SO GLAD you wrote on this subject. All too often the subject of Two Spirit people is ignored or glanced over by those who write or speak about GLBTQ people in aboriginal cultures. :0)

Suzie said...

Having studied the Native cultures a lot, both in their Spiritual Paths, and their societal structures, I already knew this, and was in turn, both heartened by how they revered their people for who they were, and dismayed when outside influences could turn the tides so drastically.

It is with a huge sigh of relief to me, that they are recognizing the wrongs that were put upon them by outsiders, and are claiming their rightful place among their people.

And thank you for sharing this not to well known bit of history, and the wonderful photographs!

mermaid gallery said...

It sure would have been nice if all of those missionaries had just stayed home where they belonged.

mxtodis123 said...

Very interesting post. Thanks for teaching me something new.
Mary

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

We can learn something new, every day!

ensouling said...

In the United States, whole tribal peoples were wiped out because they were trying to protect Two-Spirit Medicine people.

Have you ever read the book Another Mother Tongue? It's gay history and I highly recommend it. At least one piece in there about this (I think by or with the late, great Paula Gunn Allen who also wrote Sacred Hoops, also recommended.)

Mercurio said...

Thanks for sharing that nice piece of information, first time I hear about two-spirit people.

Wendy said...

That is one of the most beautiful insights and looks at sexuality, gender roles and spirituality of who people are down in the spirits, regardless of their sexual orientation, Debra. I've read books about and by N. Americans who talk about "The Two Spirit People" Shamans and have always wished that our homophobic culture would really learn a good lesson about how love expresses itself in all forms and gain a new appreciation.

Thank you Debra :)

karena said...

I've always thought that what some people found to hate in another, was nothing more than something they hated about themselves. Somehow it became wrong to genuinely just love one another regardless of gender. To love another man or another woman is in itself so wonderful... it amazes me that people could find offense in it. Not to mention the hurt it cause those that choose differently. And then who is it to say it is different...when in fact it should be natural...because it is in fact all love, and isn't that what we are all here to strive for.
Beautiful post...very informative.

-E- said...

i'm sorry to say that i went to the same school as freddie martinez, the subject of the documentary "Two Spirits".

The Traveler said...

I've always found the missionary approach of 'but we're just helping these obvious savages to become more civilized' breaks apart right about the time they get asked how they know that these people are savages. The answer of 'because they're not like us' just doesn't work for me. Centuries of christian borg like assaults on the world have done so much damage to so many. It is fantastic that some of these cultures are taking their heritage back.

The Frog Queen said...

That was a great post. One of the many reasons I visit here....learning. And you are a great teacher. Thanks for sharing.

Cheers!

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

the pictures are wonderful and the story of 2 spirits is fantastic..I never knew that...and sorry I didn't..will have to read up more on it..thanks so much for this..you rock.

Francie said...

This is a truly wonderful post, Debra. I was not aware of two spirit people, thanks so much!

LauraX said...

Debra this is so beautiful...I love this term you have introduced to me...Two Spirit People...wow!

Makropoulos said...

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing this.

LaelShine said...

Debra, thank you. What a lovely,lovely post. I had no idea and yet it seems silly in hindishgt to not have had an inkling. I feel like my heart has opened up some more, Two Spirit People...that makes me want to cry from the tenderness of what those words mean.

laurie said...

another civilization torn apart in the name of relgion,, so sad.I never knew this,,its a beautiful meaning ,, I wish this was more openly spoke of,, its a beautiful description,,more people need to hear this,,

laurie said...

oh, I forgot,, I came here to thank you for your visit,, I got carried away in this post,,

laughingwolf said...

excellent... but for one thing, deb... SHAMAN is NOT a native american term, they were called MEDICINE MEN or MEDICINE WOMEN:

http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/not_shamans.html

Shaman is a term from across the pond, mostly european and/or siberian....

Kathy said...

There is a special on PBS about this that I didn't dvr for some reason, but will when it's on again. I showed this post to my son who really connected with it (especially as we both have a smidgen of Chiricahua ancestry.) My heart aches for all the indigenous people who have had their cultures destroyed in the name of religion, but there is a special place in my heart for the Native Americans.

Robin Larkspur said...

I am very glad to have finally found your blog and started following. This is an extremely moving post on many levels. For those whose paths are different from the so-called mainstream, the "shame" or "evil" or "hatred" placed upon them is hideous, and it is heartening to learn of those who are overcoming and hopefully flourishing.

My Grama's Soul said...

Interesting post....Debra.

Jo

AlbertaMama said...

I've always thought that Two Spirited is one of the most accurate ways of describing LGBT sexuality. How beautiful!

Elena said...

Absolutely awesomely great!! How have I never heard of this? Why WHY do people think it's ok to shove their beliefs down someone else's throat. Narrow minded (bleeps). :)
By the way, THANKS for all your cool comments to my blog. You totally rock.

RaShelle said...

How cool. I find that fascinating about Two Spirit people. Thanks for sharing.

Jim said...

Glad to hear that Two Spirit people are 'taking' back their identity.

Watched 'The Naked Civil Servant' last night. Blew me away! The courage Quentin Crisp had was phenomenal. Thanks for 'suggesting' it Debra!

Frostbite and Sunburn said...

Wow - Two Spirit people - what a bloody brilliant name - thank you for another great thread Deb. Fascinating.

Rose - The Center of My Self said...

So often when I come here, you just blow my mind wide open in another new direction with new info for me. Thank you, dear one! Two Spirit people: really, it's just as simple as that, isn't it? Native people didn't have their minds all cluttered up with centuries of really stupid stuff; they lived according to the rhythms of nature; as simple as that. My dad is Apache, so I'm fascinated with anything Native American. There was a movie back in the 70s (A Man Called Horse? Little Big Man?) that included a Two Spirit medicine man; a wonderful character, especially for being 30 years ago.
Thank you, thank you for your teaching. I bow.