Attitude - - Two Spirits -

I grew up in the bush in South Eastern Man­i­toba in the 1950s. We har­vested the for­est, had our gar­dens and lived off the land. We lived in cab­ins and didn’t have elec­tric­ity un­til I was 12. The near­est town was 10 miles away.

I re­mem­ber watch­ing how the adults be­haved and how my grandma would grab the blue­ber­ries and put her hand on me say­ing, “Re­mem­ber where they come from and leave some for the birds.”

In 1961, when I was 15, we had to move be­cause the for­est we were liv­ing in was turned into a pro­vin­cial park with all the cut­ting rights go­ing to big pulp and pa­per com­pa­nies. We moved to a small town where I started go­ing to high school. Be­fore that I never felt poor but then we were cut off from all that. I am the old­est of 12 kids so I started rais­ing my sib­lings at a young age as we couldn’t af­ford to send me to study af­ter school. There were not too many choices for women who didn’t want to get mar­ried so when I was 18 I joined a con­vent and be­came a Ro­man Catholic nun.

I had many ex­pe­ri­ences and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Church that I wouldn’t have had oth­er­wise. And it was a time of great change in the world: the chal­leng­ing of the pa­tri­archy by the women’s move­ment, so­cial jus­tice and the­olo­gies.

I was in­volved in so­cial ac­tion and was ar­rested many times but my own com­mu­nity wasn’t sup­port­ing me, as if I was in­vis­i­ble. My spirit would not last there. I stopped go­ing to church be­cause it made me too an­gry and I was chal­leng­ing the pa­tri­ar­chal het­ero­sex­ism stuff.

I worked in lit­er­acy and so­cial- ac­tion pro­grammes and started the Na­tive

Women’s Tran­si­tion Cen­tre and a shel­ter for youth on the street.

I never came out as a les­bian, I never felt the need but started the two- spirit pro­gramme at OutSaskatoon be­cause there was no place for us five years ago in the LGBT+ com­mu­nity.

I have been go­ing to two- spirit gath­er­ings since the 1990s. We talked about cre­at­ing a term to de­scribe in­dige­nous queer peo­ple not based on LGBT+ gen­der sex types and it was at one of the first gath­er­ings that Myra Laramee sug­gested the name two- spirit from a dream she had. It meant the queer in­dige­nous per­son had a spir­i­tual world view, so a lot of gay First Na­tions peo­ple don’t call them­selves two- spirit be­cause it is about spirit or the prac­tice of the tra­di­tional ways. We con­tinue to ex­ca­vate through the colo­nial trash, dig­ging fur­ther and fur­ther to find our place in the com­mu­nity, our roles, re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and medicines.

The def­i­ni­tion of what two- spirit means can dif­fer from com­mu­nity to com­mu­nity, na­tion to na­tion.

There is no one rule in our com­mu­nity for defin­ing peo­ple; it’s up to them to de­ter­mine. It is about each per­son’s gifts and pur­pose.

About 10 years ago, I started be­ing called el­der: I’m 71 now. I didn’t like be­ing an el­der, I still find it dif­fi­cult but the com­mu­nity de­cides when a per­son is cho­sen.

Some el­ders are tra­di­tional knowl­edge keep­ers, some are medicine peo­ple, some are spir­i­tual and cul­tural peo­ple who have been trained from when they were lit­tle to hold cer­e­monies.

In the two- spirit com­mu­nity they started call­ing me el­der be­cause they needed some­one like me to be their rock, their grandma, their aun­tie.

I am not wor­ried about us los­ing our cul­ture. In the past 30 years I have seen that we fast and we sweat and we pray for that knowl­edge to come back.

And it does, it’s in our DNA, it’s in the stars, it’s in the spirit world, it is not far away. We just have to ask for it.



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