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Two Spirit People (1991)


  

"Two Spirited People" is classic 20-minute film from 1991 by Michel Beauchemin, Lori Levy & Gretchen Vogel available on YouTube. It features Terry Tafoya (Taos Pueblo), Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo, Sioux), Randy Burns (Northern Paiute), Clyde Hall (Shoshonne, Bannock), Will Roscoe (historian), Janice Gould (Maiou).

The film also includes clips from the 1970 film, Little Big Man, with Dustin Hoffman, who encounters a hwame (Mohave Two Spirit term) named Little Horse.

Showing it's historical context, the film references "berdache" regularly as an umbrella term, while also clearly acknowledging the variety of tribal language and meaning. The term "Two Spirit" was coined in 1990, but was still a new term in 1991 as this film as produced.

The film makes a clear distinction from early on between sexual roles and gender roles, exploring the way gender roles inform the Two Spirit person's relationship with their community.

Paula Gunn Allen explores the mixture of acceptance in some places and rejection in others.

I know people who've been banished from the tribe for life and have been declared dead... It's pretty horrifying in a lot of respects because we are still going through all of the agonies of colonization. The remnants of a colonial mind that has been imposed on us.

Terry Tafoya's closing riff takes on authenticity in the context of societal pressure to conform, is helpful.

But if you are different, because you are ethnically different and physically different... then you can't follow the script. That you're constantly having to think and ad lib, trying to figure out what your place is and how you relate to things in a different way. It teaches you a completely different set of skills of thinking about things. I think that's the way it is in terms of being Two Spirited as well. To figure out not what's automatic, but what's most appropriate for you -- what feels best both in terms of your gender as well as your sexuality.

  

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