Niizhojichaagwijig Niganawenimaanaanig Ezhichigewin
- Decolonizing gender roles & identities in our communities.
- Providing a safe and supportive space for our Two-Spirit community members.
- We seek to uplift, advocate, empower, and connect.
- We strive to honor the resilience of our Two-Spirit community members.
- We create an avenue to counter erasure, invisibility, and a lack of culturally-supportive services.
- Two-Spirit Healing Stories – These events take place over the course of 2-3 days. We provide a safe and culturally supportive space for our Story Sharers. Additionally, we have other activities such as sweetgrass braiding or rock painting as well as other culturally based supports including traditional stories and teachings. These events are confidential for the Story Sharers and community unless this is a public community event with the consent of the Story Sharers.
- Two-Spirit Talking Circles – A half-day or day-long event where Two-Spirit community members can be in a culturally supportive, safe, and uplifting space. Talking circles can also be combined with other culturally based support and activities such as a nature walk. These events are confidential for all participants.
- Two-Spirit Community Run – A run and walk event to encourage health, well-being, and community connection. Also, to raise awareness on the importance of supporting our Two-Spirit community members.
- Two-Spirit Traveling Closet – A clothing closet available at our Two-Spirit events for our Two-Spirit community. We emphasize support and empowerment via entrepreneurship, business, education, and creativity to be who you are in the world! The closet accepts donations as well as has clothing swaps at our events.
- Two-Spirit Gatherings & Socials – Events across Michigan and the Great Lakes. These gatherings provide an informal space for our Two-Spirit community to build community and network.
- Two-Spirit Task Force – The purpose of the Two-Spirit Task Force is to bring together community members for health, wellbeing, identity, and community building. The Two-Spirit Task Force has been recently launched to counter discrimination and homophobia experienced as a result of gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Additionally, there will be a focus on healing from intergenerational trauma and historical trauma from boarding schools, assimilation, culture loss, and land loss. Through this task force, we will strive to advocate, uplift, empower, and heal within our communities.
Our Two-Spirit program engages in decolonizing gender roles and identities within our Native American and First Nations communities. Our communities have been deeply impacted by harmful gender binaries from colonization, assimilation, and intergenerational trauma from boarding/residential schools. In addition to the burden of generational and historical trauma, Two-Spirits can face discrimination and other systemic barriers such as lack of health care or mental health care services in rural, remote, and urban communities. Because of this, the NJC works diligently to restore gender balance by honoring the entire gender spectrum that exists in our communities. We strive to create culturally sensitive, safe, and supportive spaces, for example by providing prayer ties at our events. Additionally, our work focuses on sovereignty and the cultural resurgence of Native gender roles and identities. With our events and initiatives, we work to re-establish the unique spiritual and political status in our communities through research and conversation in connection with the Two-Spirit community. We make this work happen through healing stories, talking circles, workshops, gatherings, and other forms of community engagement.
Two-Spirits have largely been ignored in colonial “LGBTQ+ movements” in the United States and Canada. We are still here and we have been resisting since colonization began. Colonial social justice and colonial political ideology too, have often erased and excluded Two-Spirit people. As a Two-Spirit-led organization, we emphasize and strive to center Two-Spirits in this program.
Gender binaries, homophobia, colonial social constructions around gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation didn’t exist in our communities prior to colonization. Many Native Nations across North America had more than two gender roles: third, fourth, fifth, or other sacred genders that existed within their community. Two-Spirit’s traditionally brought balance and healing into our communities through being community leaders, healers, mediators, name-givers, matchmakers, medicine people, peacemakers, adoptive parents, aunties, storytellers, artists, and more.
Two-Spirit Term Origin
In 1990 at the Third Annual Inter-tribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and Lesbian American Conference in Winnipeg the term Two-Spirit originated by Myra Laramee (Cree). It is a direct translation of the Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language) “Niizh Manidoowag,” meaning Two-Spirit’s. The term is most often used to describe or indicate someone whose body inhabits both a masculine and feminine spirit. As it is used today, the term Two-Spirit honors and celebrates reconnecting with these historical traditions.
Two-Spirit is an umbrella pan-Native American term that describes gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and/or spiritual identity. Some Two-Spirits may align with western LGBTQ+ identities and definitions while others may not. However, Two-Spirit is not a term for non-Native people to identify with. You can’t appropriate our culture because our identities as Two-Spirits on Turtle Island have always been. For each Two-Spirit based on their specific tribal tradition, there may be a unique name in the language that honors who they are. We are still decolonizing and learning so not everyone will know the words to describe how they identify.
Decolonization & Why 2SLGBTQ+
One easy way to decolonize and support our communities is to place Two-Spirit or 2S before LGBTQ+. This is often seen throughout Canada in our First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) communities, organizations, and organizations that are not FNMI. We are gaining momentum with the change of this acronym in the US. We encourage you to keep the momentum going and raise awareness within your circles, work, lives, and communities, and support our Native nations by including this change in terminology.
Definitions & Terminologies – Anishinaabemowin
Below are definitions and terminologies in Anishinaabemowin (Anishinaabe language). Please note that these are for our people and communities across the Anishinaabe Nation. Learn them to understand the vastness and inclusivity that has existed in our communities for a very long time but please don’t appropriate our culture. Chi miigwech to Meg Noodin and Kai Minosh Pyle for their assistance on these terminologies!
- Aanjikwe – Female who has changed.
- Aanjid – Non-binary person who has changed.
- Aanjinini – Male who has changed.
- Agokwa – Alternate term for Two Spirit – The term implies someone with an identity that has a broader range and may indicate they perform roles not traditionally assigned to their biological gender.
- Eyekwe – This term is used by elders in some areas to mean someone who was perceived as male at birth but who lives as a woman, i.e. a trans woman. Elders were asked if there was a version of this for the reverse (trans men) but none of them knew of one.
- Ininikaazo and ikwekaazo – The literal meaning of these terms implies a sense of temporary shift of identity which is important for some to clarify (i.e. members of the drag community).
- Niizhojichaagwijig – Ones with Two Spirits.
- Niizh manidoog – The literal meaning of this term is “two spirits” which would mean two spirits of any kind in Anishinaabemowin. However, this term is often used to be inclusive by those who use the Two-Spirit in English.
- Ogichidaakwe – Used for Two-Spirit who identifies as female and also used as a term for female leader or activist.
- Wiin / Wiinawaa – One or more people with no need to identify as male or female.
If you would like to learn more about our work or to host a project, fathering, workshop, healing stories, or talking circle in your community, please contact us! Please reach out if you are interested in working with us!