These podcasts were recorded as part of my post-doctoral fellowship in Aboriginal Methodologies. I am a two-spirited bisexual Mi’kmaw woman who grew up in Nova Scotia. I believe that having access to supportive cultural teachings can keep two-spirited and LGBTQ2S+ Indigenous people healthy and happy.
One of the goals for our Two-Spirited Roundtable project was to collect and share stories about our history, culture, and identity. We did this first on March 28, 2014, through our online webinar with two-spirited elder Albert McLeod, Dr. Alex Wilson of the University of Saskatchewan, and Krysta Williams of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. We continue our aim now with these podcasts.
These recordings are by no means intended to communicate all there is to know about two-spirited identity. I hope they will spark conversations within our broader communities about our Indigenous sexual and gender identities, and what they mean to us.
A big wela'lioq!, kinana'skomitina'wa'w!, chi migwetch!, and thank-you! to my partners and advisors on this project: two-spirited Mi’kmaq-Acadian educator Louis Esme Cruz, two-spirited Cree-Metis elder Blu Waters, Metis artist Archie Cromwell, who did the art for this project, sound editor Mark Hasan, who polished and edited the recordings, my supervisor at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health, Dr. Janet Smylie, and my supervisor at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, Dr. Lori Ross.
Finally, my gratitude to the big hearted two-spirited people who took the time to speak with me and to share their thoughts and knowledge to make these podcasts happen.
Love & respect,
* The browser Google Chrome may have problems playing some of the podcasts. Should you experience this problem, download the podcast to your computer and then use your favourite media player to listen to it.
J. Andrew Baker
J. Andrew Baker is a writer, educator, community worker, counsellor, holistic health specialist, and activist from Simcoe County, Ontario. Andrew’s passions are community, the environment, language, culture, the arts, life-long learning, holistic health, spirituality, and LGBT initiatives. Andrew carries over 10 years experience in the community development, Aboriginal/Indigenous, LGBT, and holistic health fields. Andrew is an Anishnaabemowin (Ojibwe) Language and Aboriginal studies faculty member at Georgian College. He works full time as a program lead for employment and training initiatives at the Georgian Bay Native Friendship Centre in Midland ON.
Andrew discusses two-spirited identity, how Indigenous language carries teachings, Ojibwe traditions around sexuality and gender, and the impact of colonialism on these traditions. Recorded February 18, 2014.
“And I think that if you’re to come to understand any culture—be it colonial English culture, be it Ojibwe culture, be it Mohawk culture—those teaching are in the language, no matter what language it is. So when you come to carry even pieces even of those language and understand what those pieces are you gain those teachings in an in-depth way.”
Andrew discusses intergenerational trauma, loss of two-spirited culture, and Ojibwe language terms for two-spirited people. Recorded February 18, 2014.
“We need to revisit and know our histories. Often we don’t know where trauma’s coming from or why. We don’t know the history.”
Louis Esmé Cruz
Louis Esmé Cruz is a two-spirited, non-status Mi’kmaq-Acadian artist and educator from New Brunswick with a BFA from Emily Carr University.
Louis discusses two-spirited identity, early contact with settler colonialism, and the displacement of living outside our traditional territories. Recorded February 18, 2014.
“How do we remind each other that we are alive right now? That when things are really challenging we can still make good choices for ourselves and the people we love.”
Louis Esmé Cruz discusses two-spirited and trans communities, spirituality, authenticity, decolonizing gender expectations. Recorded February 18, 2014.
“I think some of it is just letting ourselves be who we are.”
Louis Esmé Cruz discusses stress, cultural support, harm reduction, activism, and the medicine wheel. Recorded February 18, 2014.
“Two-spirited people are everywhere, and native people are resisting everywhere, so it just makes sense that there’d be some crossover.”
Art Zoccole is Anishinawbe Ogokwe from Lac des mille Lacs First Nation in Ontario, currently living in Toronto. For the past two decades Art has been involved in activism on issues relating to Aboriginal people and HIV/AIDS. Art is currently the Executive Director of 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations. One of his latest projects is The Two-Spirit HIV/AIDS Wellness and Longevity Study, also called 2-SHAWLS.
Art Zoccole discusses the emergence of 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, the importance of Indigenous language, and the importance of Aboriginal health projects such as the 2 SHAWLS study. Recorded March 10, 2014.
“You know, pre-European contact, that in our communities there was no homophobia. I say that over and over again.”
Art Zoccole discusses the importance of mutual respect, Indigenous ceremony, harm reduction, and the joy and peace of cultural safety. Recorded March 10, 2014.
“Standing up and doing your part to be included as part of the community helps to address the discrimination, the homophobia.”
Jeffrey J. McNeil-Seymour
Jeffrey J. McNeil-Seymour recently completed his MSW specialization in Social Justice and Equity at Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. Jeffrey is currently working for Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto as a Gladue Caseworker, writing reports at the request of defence counsel, the Crown Attorney, or the judge on the life circumstances of an Aboriginal offender. Jeffrey also sits as a board member at 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations Toronto.
Jeffrey discusses doing research with Indigenous communities, the impact of residential schools and Christianization, and traditional community roles for two-spirited people. Recorded April 2, 2014.
“I feel like the two-spirited piece for me is fluidic movement between gender and sexuality, and at different points in my life I’ve been more masculine, or more feminine.”
Jeffrey discusses the place of two-spirited people within powwow dancing, the need for visibility, and fighting transphobia and homophobia in Indigenous communities. Recorded April 2, 2014.
“Here into the arena came a trans two-spirit person in women’s fancy dress regalia, and was dancing and accepted for how she presented and who she was, and was cheered on and celebrated for that.”
Alec Butler is an award winning filmmaker and playwright. His novella, “Rough Paradise,” was published by Quattro Books in May 2014. Alec’s play, “Black Friday,” was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Drama in 1991. Alec’s animated trilogy about growing up trans/2spirt/intersex, called “Misadventures of Pussy Boy,” has screened at film festivals around the world, most recently at the International Transgender Film Festival in Amsterdam where it won the Best Short/Audience favorite award. Alec’s short experimental doc about transitioning from butch to trans man, “Audrey’s Beard,” was screened at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival in 2013 and the Entzaubert DIY Queer Film Fest, Berlin, in 2012. Alec received the Toronto’s Vital Person Award for his work on behalf of the trans community in 2006. This past summer of 2014, Alec was an Artist-in-Residence at the Intergenerational LGBT Artists Residency on the Toronto Islands where Alec’s 2Spirit Elder Whitewolf performed a live installation about community grieving called “Mourning Lodge.”
Alec discusses coming into community, embracing his two-spirited, intersex, and trans identity, discovering his Mi’kmaq background, and representing two-spirit experience and identity in his art. Recorded April 2, 2014.
“I started working with Billy [Merasty] and Gloria [May Eshkibok], and the first rehearsal we had I took out a talking stone and started passing it around. And they were like, “How did you know about this?” And like, I didn’t really know about this. It’s kind of intuitive.”
Alec discusses practices that support two-spirited mental health, shares his experience growing up intersex, doing social justice work in community, and the power of art as an outlet. Recorded April 2, 2014.
“A very medical model which really feels alienating to a lot of people, especially a lot of two-spirited people, cut off from their culture doesn’t help. I’m always encouraging alternate forms of care, a more holistic approach to the body, mind, and spirit.”
Tobi Caribou is a two-spirited woman from Winnipeg, Manitoba who currently lives in Toronto, Ontario. Tobi is a frequent volunteer who is open to new adventures.
Tobi Caribou discusses Indigenous health care, acceptance and rejection, and finding chosen family at 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations. Recorded April 8, 2014.
“It was nice to be somewhere that I could identify with and to actually have a name that I could associate myself with.”
Jeremy Dutcher is a two-spirited Maliseet from Fredericton, New Brunswick. Jeremy is a left handed advocate, and holds a BA in Music and Social Anthropology from Dalhousie University. He is currently responsible for Development Coordination and Aboriginal Outreach at Canada's only national LGBT human rights organization.
Jeremy discusses cultural loss, reclaiming Indigenous language, connecting with his elders, struggling with isolation, and Indigenizing queer space. Recorded May 16, 2014.
“In the Maliseet language there is no he or she. It’s all gender neutral.”
“I think there is so much I have gained in my life from learning about this identity and discovering what that can mean.”
Jeremy discusses his work with Egale Canada and the Wabanaki Two-Spirit Alliance, the resilience of our communities, and reclaiming Indigenous words that describe who we are. Recorded May 16, 2014.
“You are not alone. There are people who love you and support you, even though they don’t know you. There’s a community.”
Now it’s your turn!
Please share your thoughts.
What do you take away from this with respect to two-spirited identity?
Is there something you’d like to share about two-spirited identity?