Two Spirits Stood At The Front Lines Of Standing Rock

Two Spirits Stood At The Front Lines Of Standing Rock

Posted By Paul G July 22nd, 2017 Last Updated on: July 22nd, 2017

Candi Brings Plenty (Lakota) was honored by Sacred Stone Camp elders and given permission to lead the LGBTIQA2S+ Native American camp in a Grand Entry march into the greater camp on October 13.  Only now, 500 years after Invasion, Two Spirit people are finally returning to places of honor and power in our communities. Coined in the 1990s, at the third an Intertribal LGBT Conference in Winnipeg, “Two Spirit” is the place-marker for First Nation and Native American LGBTIQA2S+ individuals. No longer can this important part of Indian Country be relegated to the rear. The move by the elders of Oceti Sakowin to include the Two Spirit Nation in the winter ceremonial camp signals their acceptance of what their ancestors practiced for millennia.

Coined in the 1990s, at the third an Intertribal LGBT Conference in Winnipeg, “Two Spirit” is the place-marker for First Nation and Native American LGBTIQA2S+ individuals. No longer can this important part of Indian Country be relegated to the rear. The move by the elders of Oceti Sakowin to include the Two Spirit Nation in the winter ceremonial camp signals their acceptance of what their ancestors practiced for millennia.Prior to Invasion, most tribes across Turtle Island recognized their LGBTIQA+ members as sacred and necessary to the holistic balance of their Nations. Granted positions of power and influence, many prominent Two Spirit leaders emerged over the decades, helping to lead their People through difficult and trying times. Don Padros Fages, the first Spanish explorer to arrive in the land that is now called California wrote in one of his journals, “I have submitted substantial evidence that those Indian men who, both here and farther inland, are observed in the dress,

Prior to Invasion, most tribes across Turtle Island recognized their LGBTIQA+ members as sacred and necessary to the holistic balance of their Nations. Granted positions of power and influence, many prominent Two Spirit leaders emerged over the decades, helping to lead their People through difficult and trying times. Don Padros Fages, the first Spanish explorer to arrive in the land that is now called California wrote in one of his journals, “I have submitted substantial evidence that those Indian men who, both here and farther inland, are observed in the dress,

Don Padros Fages, the first Spanish explorer to arrive in the land that is now called California wrote in one of his journals, “I have submitted substantial evidence that those Indian men who, both here and farther inland, are observed in the dress, clothing and character of women – there being two or three such in each village…. They are called joyas, and are held in great esteem.” Unfortunately, the sense of esteem was lost on most new arrivals to Turtle Island.

The advent of Christianity brought the destruction of the Two Spirit people and with them, their traditional knowledge. This first wave of violence in the ensuing genocide was indeed a strategic move by invading armies. It is no coincidence that Two Spirit people were often healers, tradition bearers, and decision makers, the key to the survival of their Nations. Our absence from the balance and rhythm of daily tribal life marked a particularly dark time in Turtle Island. The invitation from the Lakota winyan (women) is of major historical significance for Indigenous People worldwide.

Candi Brings Plenty, prominent Two Spirit activist and director of the Portland Two Spirit Society as well as executive director of the Equi Institute (Oregon’s first Trans and Queer focused health clinic) shares, “Our camp represents the five hundred and eighty tribes of the United States, First Nations of Canada, Alaskan Natives, Indigenous nations from the central and southern Americas and Indigenous Pacific Islanders. We hold numerous intersectionalities and will arrive (during the Grand Entry) with allies. There are over forty-seven Two Spirit Societies collectively in the US and abroad. We have our very own elders and honor the fact that there are exponential terms in our traditional Indigenous languages for identities we carry. We also acknowledge that there is spectrum of gender, and that there is not just a binary gender identity of only male and female…. And most of all, we embrace that we each have our own spirituality and culture from the tribes, bands, clans and nations we each represent.” Brings Plenty continues, “As a Lakota Sioux, I know that there very much is an unspoken acceptance and embrace for us Two Spirits, as we have been held in a sacred way during the pre-colonial era. It wasn’t until colonization and missionary terrors that created a derogative stigma to the Two Spirit walk of life.”This terror and stigma have been deeply damaging to the Two Spirit community. Research conducted in 2011

This terror and stigma have been deeply damaging to the Two Spirit community. Research conducted in 2011 by Mental Health North America and an advisory board for the State of California found that 73% of Two Spirit individuals reported being victims of verbal or mental abuse from within the greater Native American community. Our community faces a high rate of suicide and mental illnesses such as PTSD (combat and non), depression and anxiety: all hallmarks of a population that have survived genocide against all odds. Despite these facts, the Two Spirit Nation has visited the front lines on several occasions, to date. The invitation to join Sacred Stone Camp is symbolic of a return to traditional culture-something all of us can appreciate-Native or ally-and encourage in our own local communities across the West.



Photo Credit: Candi Brings Plenty. L to R: Candi Brings Plenti, Dallas Goldtooth and Scotti Clifford


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