Long before the current spate of legislation aimed at transgender people—and long before 1492—people who identified as neither male nor female, but both, flourished across hundreds of Native communities in the present-day United States. Called aakíí’skassi, miati, okitcitakwe, and other tribally specific names, these people held important roles both in ceremony and everyday life, before the violence wrought by Europeans threatened to wipe them out. In his new book, Reclaiming Two-Spirits, historian Gregory Smithers sifts through hundreds of years of colonial archives, art, archaeological evidence, and oral storytelling to reveal how these Indigenous communities resisted erasure and went on to reclaim their dual identities under the umbrella term “two-spirit.”
Go beyond the episode:
- Gregory Smithers’s Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal, and Sovereignty in Native America
- Read Smithers’s essay on the hidden history of transgender Texas
- Watch Sweetheart Dancers, Ben-Alex Dupris’s short documentary about a two-spirit couple trying to rewrite the “one man, one woman” rule for powwow couples dances
- Explore the speculative Indigenous fiction of Daniel Heath Justice
- Cree artist Kent Monkman paints his two-spirit alter-ego into Western European art history
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