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Who can be Two Spirit?

To be Two Spirit is first and foremost to be Indigenous, connected to Native culture and rooted in our Indigenous histories. With the resurgence of traditional Indigenous teachings and cultural reclamation and preservation efforts, Two Spirit identities will also move with us into our futures. Being Two Spirit means placing oneself within an Indigenous worldview that is altogether different than the colonial European society that has grown up around us.

Excerpted from Two Spirit: My Journey Home
by Lynn Young (Lakota)

Two Spirit is a relatively modern term (since 1990) being used to unite peoples of various First Nations who are reclaiming our traditional place in the Circle. When non-Native people use the term Two Spirit to describe themselves, that raises the questions "What are they trying to reclaim?" and "What does it have to do with Native people?"

~ Janis Stacy (Dakota/Cherokee)

Anyone can feel like they embody male and female spirits and express these dual spirits/identities in a variety of ways that encompass both masculine and feminine social mores. Anyone can serve as a healer, an intermediary between seemingly opposing groups of people, and as a spiritual guide for their community.

However it is vitally important to recognize the historical and cultural roots of Two Spirit people as distinctly being Indigenous. The fact that Native American/First Nations people still exist in North America and that Two Spirit people have been able to continue the customs and practices of their ancestors, is a direct result of remarkable survival skills, cultural preservation, and contemporary legacy-living. These elements are not to be taken lightly, and the subsequent identity is not to be co-opted.

It is offensive and highly problematic when people who are not Indigenous or of Native-descent claim to be Two Spirit. If you are not Native and feel like the definition of Two Spirit applies to you, we encourage you to be an ally to Two Spirit people, and to Native people and causes in general. We also encourage you to research your own cultural history to locate similar roles that may have been played.

~ Holiday Simmons (Cherokee)

More Articles On This Topic

Two Spirit: My Journey Home

Our Pride: Honoring and Recognizing Our Two Spirit Past and Present

  • What Does Two Spirit Mean?
  • A History of Violence Under Settler Colonialism
  • Two Spirit People in LGBTQIA2S Culture
  • Two Spirit People in Contemporary Native Community
  • Two Spirit People Completing the Circle

A Letter to White People Using the Term Two Spirit

Note: The article really applies generally to all non-Native people, not just White people -- though it resources the white cultural decolonization specifically.

Indigenous Traditions
Getting Started
Two Spirit Stories
Global Voices
Finding Each Other
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Finding Each Other

NativeOUT is a national nonprofit volunteer education, multimedia, and news organization actively involved in the Two Spirit Movement.