Living Two-Spirit

The Two-spirit Identity 

The term Two-Spirit is a direct translation of the Ojibwe term, Niizh manidoowag.“Two-Spirited” or “Two-Spirit” is usually used to indicate a person whose body simultaneously houses a masculine spirit & a feminine spirit.


The term can also be used more abstractly, to indicate the presence of two contrasting human spirits (such as Warrior and Clan Mother). It’s important to know, the term Two-Spirit varies from tribe to tribe, but has some similarities


Will Roscoe writes that male & female Two-Spirits have been documented in over 130 tribes, in every region of North America. Two-Spirits have had distinct gender and social roles in their tribes.


Roles we continue to hold:

  • Healers

  • Medicine persons

  • Conveyors of oral traditions and songs

  • Name-givers

  • Special roles for traditional ceremonies

  • Caregivers and often a parent(s) to orphaned children



Sheldon Raymore

When colonization took hold of our communities, every aspect of our cultural belief systems was at risk. The removal of language, song, dance, and forced religion caused an earthquake in our own epistemologies. In many of our communities, our traditional ceremonies were made illegal, but through ardent resistance, the powwow emerged.


When we took a moment to look closer, we felt the palpable exhalation of true self-revelation- a safe space for powwow expression that isn’t always accepted. Men danced jingle dresses, women danced grass, people were encouraged to dance as their spirit felt.

Cheyenne River Sioux

Roger KUhn

I strongly believe in sexual sovereignty and decolonizing sexuality. Oftentimes we think of decolonization as only decolonizing land. It's also important to remember that when you're decolonizing land you're also working to help the colonized people that actually live on that land. And if we actually think about it and go back to centuries of research that has been conducted, not only by non-native scholars but also within tribal communities, you will see that these issues were a part of tribal identities long before Christianity ever took root in what is now called the United States or Canada.

Poarch Band of Creek Indians


I was speaking to someone earlier about what it has meant to be a Two-Spirit in this day and age. In an age where if we tell others that we are Two Spirits, they believe that we are poisoning others. When once upon a time we were medicine, we were considered healers and sharing our stories healed others and helped them grow- and so we went hiding. All of us hiding believing that we were poison. But I think that the true poison is hiding and I think that the more people who share their true spirit with others, the more healing will spread.

Tsalagihi Ayeli - Cherokee

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