Two Spirit

By Archie Gibbs, University of Southern Mississippi

The Two-spirited person is a native tradition that anthropologists have been able to date to some of the earliest discoveries of Native artifacts. According to www.mcgill.ca, the term Two-spirited was derived from interpretations of Native languages used to describe people who displayed both characteristics of male and female. It is simultaneously used by some contemporary gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, same-sex attracted and intersex Native Americans to describe themselves.In history, the roles of males and females are shared including clothing and performing work. The two spirited people are happy with their sense of life knowing that some people in their culture are different. Saying that, the two spirit culture embraces gender flexibilty and see it as a precious aspect of the human experience.

From the website www.encarta.msn.com, the two spirited person is one who has received the greatest gift from the creator in the Native American culture. This gift is having the privilege to have both male and female spirits in their bodies. The individual given this gift of two-spirits means that this individual had the ability to see the world from two perspectives at the same time. For example, a native american blessed with two spirits could see the idea of a war from more than one point of view. This person, as a leader in a native society, could see the perception of war as in gaining power, which is sought out to be a male instinct. On the other hand, that same person can use the conflict to bring out peace which is more common to a female’s aspect. Besides the individual’s spiritual abilities, their will to do work was still available in the high status of two-spirit people. According to http://www.wikipedia.org, even though a two-spirit male would have taken on the gender identity of a woman, he would still have the endurance and strength of a man. But in that society they feel that the gift of two spirit should be shared with all. Most commonly, the two spirited indiviuals in the society was popular leaders, mediators, teachers, artists, seers, and spirtual guides. They were treated with the upmost respect, and held very important spiritual and ceremonial responsibilities.

Nethertheless, these people weren’t subject to male or female dominant societies. In everyday life, the two-spirit male typically would wear women’s clothes and do women’s work. He would be accepted as “one of the girls.” He might take a husband from among the men of the tribe, or might have affairs with several, or both. Generally two-spirit males were not expected to have sexual relations with women. Female-bodied two-spirits usually had sexual relations or marriages with only females. According to www.wikipedia.org, in the Lakota tribe, two-spirits commonly married widowers; a male-bodied two-spirit could perform the function of parenting the children of her husband’s late wife without any risk of bearing new children to whom she might give priority. In the two-spirits relationships, the partners did not take on any special recognition. Although each mate mostly believes that after having sexual relations with a two-spirit, they would obtain magical abilities. They feel there are given obscene nicknames by the two-spirited person which they believed held “good luck,” or in the case of male partners, boosted their masculinity.

Some features of two-spirit life in Native cultures delineate how the first nations people integrated those individuals with uncommon gender identity into their native society. The first step on the path to a two-spirit life was taken during childhood. They call it “The Papago Ritual”. According to www.androphile.org The Papago ritual is symbolical of early initiation to having two spirits: If parents noticed that one of their sons was not interested in boyish play or manly work, they would set up a ceremony to determine which way the boy would be brought up. They would make an enclosure of brush and ruble, and place in the center both a man’s bow and a woman’s basket. The boy was told to go inside the circle of brush and to bring something out, and as he entered the brush would be set on fire. They watched what he took with him when he ran out, and if it was the basketry materials they got mad at themselves for being a bad parent.

Also according to www.androphile.org, there is a second ritual that the Natives sometimes use to depict Two Spirit, and its call “The Mohave Ritual”. The Mohave ritual is usually carried out when the child is between the ages of nine and twelve. It has a much different form, but keeps the central element of allowing the child’s nature to manifest itself. A singing circle is prepared, not known to the boy, involving the whole community as well as distant friends and relatives. On the day of the ceremony, everyone gathers around and the boy is led into the middle of the circle. If he remains there, the singer, hidden in the crowd, begins to sing the ritual songs and the boy, if he is destined to follow the two-spirit road, starts to dance in the fashion of a woman. The Mohave say “He cannot help it”. As stated on the same website, after the fourth song, the boy is declared to be a two-spirit person and is raised from then on in the correct manner. These rituals are as important to the Native culture as the voting of a president in the USA.

Nevertheless, the two spirits culture combines the best of both worlds. They live life in an original way that enriches and empowers the lives of all in their culture. The culture recognizes two-spirit people as being vital compliments of creativity, change, and innovation in their culture.

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