History & Legal Studies
Colonization, gender, and sexuality are inherently linked. This is particularly true for the indigenous populations of North America. Before the settlement of places like the United States and Canada, Native tribes had people that existed in specific roles in their communities that they considered third and fourth gendered. After colonization, through the forced assimilation of Native people through processes like boarding schools, these roles disappeared. For a long time, Anthropologists referred to third and fourth gendered people in their scholarship as “berdache” which has racist roots stemming from early interactions with French trappers. In the 20th century, Native Americans began to join the mainstream LGBT groups, but did not feel fully represented in these mainstream organizations. In 1990, an indigenous group in Canada coined the term Two-Spirit. This is a pan-Indian term meant to describe all indigenous people from any Native tribe of North America that identify as non-gendered, LGBT, or queer. The creation of this term has spurred a new field of scholarship surrounding this non-western conception of gender and sexuality, and its place in the modern world. What this existing scholarship does not question, is how this two-spirit identity fits in with systems of colonization and decolonization. This is what my research seeks to investigate. Does someone identifying as two-spirit decolonize a part of themselves? Is the two-spirit a modern Native invention, and what is it doing for Native communities? To develop these ideas, I have been interviewing those who identify as Two-Spirit, reading personal memoirs of two-spirit activists, and studying the artwork of artists who choose to explore their own two-spirit identity through their work. Those who identify as two-spirit inherently break away from predetermined gender roles, and are helping create a modern Indigenous society.
Research Report, Final Report Form