When: Thursday, February 25, 2016 from 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Presenter/Moderater: Harlan Pruden
Panelists: Byron Chief-Moon, Quanah Napoleon, Brian Solomon, and Michelle Sylliboy
“Two-Spirit conversations exploring the history of the Two-Spirit traditions and a panel discussion of distinguished Two-Spirit performers sharing how their identity influences their art” (Full Circle, 2016)
The discussion started out with a presentation by Harlan Pruden on two-spirit people. Pruden discussed where the term comes from and colonial documentation of two-spirit people. He then went on to talk about the role two-spirit people have in Indigenous communities, as well as the different Indigenous names for “two-spirited”.
After a short break, there was then a panel discussion with four two-spirit performers on how their art is influenced by their two-spirit identity.
“Two-Spirited” is a relatively new term for me. I had first heard to term to refer to Indigenous trans-gendered people, but I have also heard non-Indigenous transgender people calling themselves two-spirited. It always felt little bit like some sort of appropriation was going on when I would hear a non-Indigenous person call themselves “two-spirited”, but being not being trans or Indigenous, I have never felt it was my place to have an opinion on it. My brother is a trans-man, I can remember asking him about the term. He said that he does not know too much about it, but he has definitely heard a lot of white people in the trans community referring to themselves as two-spirited.
I found this presentation and discussion to very helpful in understanding the term. Pruden was able to clarify that two-spirited does not just mean trans, but it is a role and identity that has been highly respected throughout many Indigenous communities. Therefore, for a non-Indigenous, trans person to call themselves “two-spirited” is not only incorrect, but disrespectful by failing to acknowledge this Indigenous identity that colonialism has tried so hard to destroy.
I also really enjoyed listening to the four different artists and what it means for them to be two-spirited as performers. I felt very honoured at how honest they were with what they discussed with us and their journeys as two-spirited artists.