Northeast Two-Spirit Society Visits Drexel University


In "Native Americans use compass to distinguish sexuality" in The Triangle (Drexel's student newspaper), Cathy White provides highlights from a lecture at Drexel University, led by Harlan Pruden and Sheldon Raymore.

“What we’re trying to do is to reclaim and restore our [two-spirit] roles in the broader Native American community,” Pruden said. But context, he said, is important. “Because many traditional Native American communities had three genders, four genders, six different genders.”

White starts off by placing Two Spirit identities in some context,

Indigenous people don’t have corresponding terms for bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender. Instead, some Native American tribes have what is called a medicine wheel, which is similar to a compass in that it has four cardinal points. In the north are the heterosexual men; in the south are the heterosexual women. In the west are the male-bodied two-spirited and in the east are the female-bodied two-spirited people. People can choose partners out of any point other than their own.

The article touches on a variety of topics beyond Two Spirit identities, including the role and importance of Native dance and the suppression of Native religion,

“It’s hard to even talk about the way we dance without being political,” Pruden said. Indigenous dances were banned until 1978, with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Before that, dancing was considered an “Indian offense” and came with consequences. Because of this, dance has transformed through time.

Oppression came in different forms, too. Pruden explained how many people, including his own relatives, were forced into boarding schools.

“They would have the Indian-ness beaten out of them,” he said.

Native American leaders would also tell the two-spirited people to hide so as not to be prosecuted.

Read the full article on The Triangle: "Native Americans use compass to distinguish sexuality" by Cathy White

See a two hour video of the presentation on Vimeo: Two Spirit People: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality Now and Then or embedded for your convenience below.