History of the Two-Spirit Native American People

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Homosexuality, Transgender Pages: 6 (2213 words) Published: April 28, 2013
History of the Two-Spirit Native American People

Accounts of homosexual and cross-gender Native American individuals from before colonization have been documented and discussed. The term given to those who take up this role in the tribe is Berdache, or Two-Spirit. Often the male would take on the role of the female, yet it is not certain that all Two-Spirit tribe members were homosexual. However with the arrival of Europeans and the following colonization, the role of the Two-Sprit was diminished, and nearly extinguished as the result of Western culture religious beliefs and societal attitudes towards homosexuality This paper will discuss the resurgence of the Two-Spirit as the Gay Rights Movement and the Native American rights movements move forward and societal attitudes become more accepting. A look at indigenous rights on the global scale will be discusses as well. ,

History of the Two-Spirit Native American People
It is believed that the first people to inhabit North America were Asian in origin. It is believed that they made the journey from Asia to Alaska by crossing the Bering Strait during the Ice Age (at least 10,000 years ago) (Cell Press, 2009). Over a period of time these people migrated further and further south. They adapted themselves to their environment, those living in the cold north became skilled hunters and fishermen, those living in the wooded areas built wooden houses and canoes while those in the hotter south grew corn and made houses from sun-dried bricks. There were hundreds of different tribal groups each adapting their lifestyle to the geographical and climate region they inhabited (Cell Press, 2009). Tsai and Alanis (2004), suggested that ffamily practices within the Native American culture were as diverse as among the different Asian groups' family practices and traditions. Yet, despite this enormous diversity, there seems to be common core values and beliefs that characterize traditional Native American culture across tribal groups and geographic regions. One such value, or acceptance of an institution, was that of the Bardache, a male Indian who assumed a female role. Before the late twentieth century, the term Bardache was widely used by anthropologists as a generic term to indicate "two-spirit" individuals; however, this term has become considered increasingly outdated and considered offensive. (Based on the French Bardache implying a male prostitute or catamite, the word originates in Arabic bardaj, meaning captive or captured (Jacobs, Thomas, Lange, 1997). Use of the Bardache term has widely been replaced with Two-Spirit, which itself gained widespread popularity in 1990 during the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference in Winnipeg. Two-Spirit is a term chosen to distinctly express Native/First Nations gender identity and gender variance, in addition to replacing the otherwise imposed terms of Bardache e and gay Trexler, R. (2002) defined Bardache, or Two-Spirits, as male tribe members who dressed in female clothing, assumed female occupations and restrictions, and pursued sexual relationships with both males and females. He stated that they were eligible for status in a prestige system reserved for females, they then were ineligible for the advantages of status and power enjoyed by men. On tribe in particular, the Illinois, neither honored nor despised Two-Spirits. The tribes’ people feared them because of the power they wielded as shamans and their acceptance as manitous. The Illinois reserved a special social position for the Two-Spirits, observed in ceremonial functions, which reflected the tribe's recognition of the Two-Spirits special relationship. Noticed that when young boys were seen frequently picking up the spade, the spindle, the axe, but making no use of the bow and arrows, as all the other small boys do, the Illinois raised them as females. Jacobs, Thomas, Lange (1997) further stated that cross...

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Cell Press (2009, January 21). First Americans Arrived As Two Separate Migrations, According To New Genetic Evidence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 22, 2013 from http://www.sciencedaily.com
Grahn, J., (1986).Strange Country This: Lesbianism and North American Indian Tribes. Journal of Homosexuality. May 1986: 43-57.
Howell, C., (1996) The Impact of Colonization on the Role of the Nontraditional Native American Woman, University of Wisconsin. Retrieved on March 23 from http://pages.cs.wisc.edu/~caitlin/papers/native.htm
Jacobs, S.; Thomas, W.; Lang, S. (1997). Two-spirit people: Native American gender identity, sexuality, and spirituality, page 4. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Retrieved on March 23, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-Spirit#cite_note-4
Trexler, R.,C. (2002) The Berdache and the Illinois Indian Tribe during the Last Half of the Seventeenth Century, Journal of Social History , Vol. 35, No. 3 (Spring, 2002), pp. 613-636. Retrieved on March 24, 2013 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3790693
Tsai, G.and Alanis,L. (2004) The Native American Culture: A Historical and Reflective Perspective, NASP Communiqué, Vol. 32, #8. Retrieved on March 25th from: http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/cq328native.aspx
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