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Indigiqueer Experiences discusses Two-Spirit identity

Members+of+the+Native+American+Cultural+Center+gather+in+the+NACC+office+Nov.+2.+The+Native+American+Cultural+Center+hosted+Queer+Connections+to+discuss+queer+identity+and+the+historic+and+cultural+relevance+of+queerness+in+Native+community+spaces.+
Collegian | Grace Goolsby
Members of the Native American Cultural Center gather in the NACC office Nov. 2. The Native American Cultural Center hosted Queer Connections to discuss queer identity and the historic and cultural relevance of queerness in Native community spaces.

The Native American Cultural Center hosted the Indigiqueer Experiences event Thursday, Nov. 2, as part of Queer Connections, a series of events held through Colorado State University’s Pride Resource Center.

This was the first year that the Pride Resource Center and the Native American Cultural Center have collaborated to bring an event like Indigiqueer Experiences to students. 

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“Indigiqueer Experiences is a space of community and dialogue around the realities of being Indigenous/Native American and LGBTQIA+,” said Soleil Gonzalez, program coordinator at the Pride Resource Center. “This event is meant to help build the intersection of both communities and create space to share knowledge.”

At the event, discussions focused on Two-Spirit identifying people and what it means to be Two-Spirit. 

“Two-Spirit people (are) male, female and sometimes individuals with intersex traits who (combine) activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as Two-Spirit people,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

Open to anyone, Indigiqueer Experiences provided a space for people to learn about the history of Two-Spirit people.

“Many Native peoples are very accepting of our Two-Spirit relatives and peoples,” said Rasa Humeyumptewa, student success coordinator at NACC. “It wasn’t until colonization occurred that being Two-Spirit was given a taboo nature or connotation to it.”

The negative impacts of colonialism on people who identify as Two-Spirit were also a large point of discussion.

“Collectively, we have to acknowledge how colonialism has impacted the ways in which we see gender and sexuality — more importantly, how it has been weaponized throughout history and still to this day,” Gonzalez said.

The event also briefly touched on the difference between “white queerness” in Western culture and being Two-Spirit in Native American cultures.

“When Native peoples have relatives that are Two-Spirit, there isn’t per se a ‘coming out’ like in Western culture,” Humeyumptewa said. “In Native cultures, there is just more of an automatic acceptance of our queer relatives, and it is just something we acknowledge without making an event around.”

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“The Roof,” a Disney+ short film about a Two-Spirit teen, was shown during the last 20 minutes of the event. Directed by Native people, “The Roof” has an all-Native cast and includes prominent Two-Spirit individuals from the Native community. 

“I think that being able to have a film that shows how we honor, respect and uplift our Two-Spirit people is a really cool thing to have in the media,” Humeyumptewa said. “It shows that even with all the colonization efforts that have happened to us as Native people, we are still practicing our cultures and traditions and reclaiming the ones that were taken away from us.”

Events like Indigiqueer Experiences at CSU create a safe space for Native students, many of whom are away from home for the first time. 

“Similar to other Student Diversity Programs and Services offices, it’s really important for us to show students that we are here to accept them and give them space to not only explore their identities but also a safe space that is open for everyone to learn in as well,” Humeyumptewa said.

For those who wish to learn more about queer history in Indigenous cultures, Humeyumptewa recommended taking ETST 342: Queer Indigenous Studies.

“It’s an in-depth class that teaches more on what being Two-Spirit looks like in Native communities, the history of Two-Spirit practices, the history of colonization in regard to Two-Spirit peoples as well as current Two-Spirit expression,” Humeyumptewa said.

Reach McKenna Van Voris at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @mckenna_vv.

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